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Ruta Mave: Art for art’s sake – give them some money for God’s sake

Monday 6 February 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion


Ruta Mave: Art for art’s sake – give them some money for God’s sake
Master carver Mike Tavioni next to the yet-to-be decorated vaka hull. 19042714

Art for art’s sake according to Oscar Wilde meant art need not express anything but itself. He put the value on artistry above anything else and regarded life as a kind of art form, to be lived beautifully, writes Ruta Mave.

Art does not have to serve purposes taken from politics, religion or economics.

Mike Tavioni, our resident carver artist and activist, has a connection with art, culture and knowledge which is as important to him as breathing is to life.

Tourists flock to his humble workshop and gallery sharing highlights of their trip, they say “number one are the people and number two the culture”. “But people are the product of the culture, therefore what they really mean is, the culture is the most important thing,” says Tavioni

Our life is a living canvas of art. From ei katu’s, rito hats and kikau brooms. Our children dance in school and at home, they weave baskets and hats. At the airport and every award ceremony, the garlands of flowers laid upon locals or visitors is endemic and expected. The flowers die, it is the epitome of art for art’s sake. Their making requires and expresses the love and time afforded to the person receiving it. This is our culture and those who snapshot our culture putting us on the world stage and attracting others to come and experience what we here take for granted should be funded.

Papa Mike is currently featured in a short documentary being screened around the world – Taonga An Artist Activist – co-produced by Hawaiian and Cook Islands’ Motone Productions. A local artist filmed by local artists. It has been screened at International Film Festivals in New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne and Kurdistan north of Iraq and was the winner in Paris and Brussels. The accolades continue with invitations to Geneve Awards for Film Director, Cinematography and Editor shortlist.

The Geneve awards is for filmmakers from around the world. The essence of the awards understands each film creates time that belongs to the country, circumstances and people. They believe movies transport us into another world allowing us to live amongst it and appreciate it with all our hearts. Motone is putting our culture into the eyes, minds and hearts of the world through pure passion and their own pockets.

Not every child will become a lawyer or a doctor. Teach your kids that it is okay to work with your hands and create cool stuff. A degree is admirable but being employable is essential, expression through the fine arts can achieve both. The struggling artist does not have to be a cliché’ It does not have to exist in order to be a better artist. Funding is available it is the attitude of priorities that comes into question.

In 2021, a round of Smart grants were handing out up to $100 000 to new initiatives. One in particular was an established radio station. Whatever their spin writers said to sway the panel of friends to win, it was noted a brand-new truck was purchased shortly after. Public opinion gave the nod to this being a fine example of our typical culture of rewarding mates and ignoring those who are creating real culture.

Papa Mike is currently completing a Te Mana O te Vaka project that is teaching the art of traditional vaka building, racing and fishing while lovingly creating a solid spectacle of art in form and function. His vaka project is to showcase Cook Islands culture and heritage and revitalise awareness of the importance of traditional life skills in a modern-day setting. Funding is provided by NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Sweden, University of South Pacific USP with the Pacific European Union Marine Partnership programme.

Who isn’t funding this work? Cook Islands Government – ministries of Culture, Tourism or Education.

What has our head of Culture been celebrating and where has that taken us as a nation? Another statistic of our drink driving culture is not a worthy tourist attraction. Meanwhile Tourism pays someone to live in mainland China – why? We can’t cater to 2 billion people and their culture does not travel and spend as we would like them to. Tourism would be better to pitch to countries who gladly pay money to explore our culture and arts.

In Ireland they subsidise artists to draw paint, write novels, poems and songs about and in Ireland. They advertise their country attracting people to go there to experience their unique take on life – their specific culture. Art attracts tourists to see the soul and breath of Ireland. We could do the same.

Before a child talks, they sing. Before they write they draw. As soon as they stand, they dance. Art is essential to human expression; it lifts the soul and warms the heart. People pay for that.

Art for art’s sake – give them some money for God’s sake.