Russian's compassionate eye floods unseen war zone with light and humanity

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Creation Rebels

Samoan artist trades in wood, paint and ink to break new ground, old rules



At one time, Lalovai Peseta was content to be a high school art teacher in American Samoa. Trained as a carver at Samoa’s Leulumoega Fou School of Fine Art, he is now a full-time professional artist moving between his home island of Savaii and the Australian east coast, combining carving, painting and tattooing.

This week he returns to Savaii to set up his own art studio - Manamea Art.

He’s turned tatau into a successful business but given the chance to spruik his talents at last month’s Maketi Ples trade show of Pacific art, he talked about tattooing as if it was some kind of privilege: ‘Some people just give me the opportunity to show my creativity on them.’

While attending the 2012 Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara as a representative of American Samoa, two revelations elevated his ambitions and took his art in new directions. The first was the standard of artworks he saw on display at the regional festival, and the second was a chance meeting with the woman who is now his wife.

And like his art, Lalovai and his wife Nikki are unconventional. Instead of rock and metal, they have each others’ initials inked on their wedding fingers.




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Russian's compassionate eye floods unseen war zone with light and humanity

On Christmas Eve last year, photographer Vlad Sokhin posted a Christmas message on his blog site to a young girl from Lae on Papua New Guinea's north coast. The message was accompanied by a photograph of the girl he had taken on one of his visits.

'I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I know that Santa Claus is not coming to visit you in your slum house and is not going to give you any present this time, as he didn’t give anything to you in past years. I know that if you had the opportunity to ask him for a gift, you would have asked that what happened to you could never have happened.'

The girl is six-years-old and a victim of kidnapping and gang rape. Her unspeakable ordeal and injuries would normally condemn her to shame and obscurity. But her appearance in Sokhin's lens, her face mostly shrouded by a curtain, empowers the viewer. Instead of shielding her from the shame, his camera honours her survival.

'Please be a strong girl and I promise that I will come to visit you soon!', the post ends.


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Cairns display suggests coastal art centres are flourishing

An exhibition just ended this week in Cairns gave a glimpse of where North Queensland's indigenous art movement is heading. Pathways3 at the UMI Arts Gallery showcased works from the Cairns region, but also hung the latest consignments from two community art centres - New Mapoon where Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples mix and Yarrabah, an east coast community near Cairns.

Here, Pathways3 curator Teho Ropeyarn takes Telinga Media on a virtual tour of selected works. 


Remote Cape York painters take the journey to global market

kambara dreaming mark-captionFor all the attractions of the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), its most anticipated is the unveiling of new works from the 15 community art centres around Far North Queensland. As isolated as many of them are, artists rely on advice, guidance and expertise from outside before displaying them during the city's artistic high season.

Arone Meeks is a Kuku Midigi man whose country is around Laura, Cape York, home of the famous Aboriginal dance festival. Prior to this year's CIAF event, he spent several months in two communities offering his expertise as a senior indigenous artist and teacher. In Yarrabah, just east of Cairns, he has relatives so his job was made easier. But at the tip of Cape York, centred on New Mapoon, he entered as an outsider.

"There's a certain amount of time and space and trust that you need to win over when you go into a community," he told Telinga Media during the art fair. "My main tactic is when I go into communities to teach, I'm not there to tell them what to paint. I'm bascially helping them expand on their stories, and show them new techniques and mediums."

During his time at the art centre at New Mapoon, he worked with artists from the five communities of the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) - Bamaga, New Mapoon, Injinoo, Umagico and Seisia.

He says the first week was very slow. The middle of the second week was a turning point. Meeks uses the imagery of birth to describe what happened.

"This egg exploded. And it was full of colour. And everyone became intoxicated with the paint; they understood the medium, they understood the technique; it all sort of came together."

An exhibition was planned for June so Meeks secured one more week to bring the works together. When he returned to the centre, the number of artists had doubled and the paintings were well on their way.

Eight of Arone's NPA artists were chosen to exhibit at the UMI Arts Gallery in Cairns, opening under the name 'Ngalpa Mura Tjara Tjera Apudthama' or Our Journey Together. It was the first time a showing of works by solely NPA artists had been staged in Cairns.

The artists went through a regular program at UMI Arts introducing them to all the tasks required to prepare for public exhibition.

UMI Arts both services the art centres with resident teachers such as Meeks and develops the artists' awareness of what happens to the artworks once they leave their hands. It also runs its own gallery.

"There's both the technical level of learning new ways of creating art," says Janet Parfenovics, executive officer at UMI Arts which operates under an all-indigenous board. "It's also about the older, more experienced artists reinforcing the importance of getting cultural permissions of what they tell through their art from their elders."

"There's lots of workshops run by mainstream artists (who) go into many of the arts centres in Far North Queensland and that's absolutely valid," she says. "But there's not those protocols that sit behind that."

Arone Meeks believes community artists like his students at New Mapoon still struggle to understand the public and commercial spaces into which their works are placed.

"They're trying to come to terms with what's happening with contemporary indigenous art," he explains. "They don't understand it. They don't understand what constitutes someone like Vernon Ah Kee or Samantha Hobson. And yet they like it, but they don't understand why."

"We talk about stuff like 'why there is a New Mapoon? What happened to the old Mapoon?' Things that are happening in their community...That's their sort of dictionary to refer to or subject matter for their artwork."

"If you listen carefully enough, you can pick out some of these key words and subjects, and help develop them with the artists into a painting."

A sophisticated grasp of the categories (contemporary, traditional) that allow art dealers, collectors and critics to talk to each other may not be so vital to the artists from New Mapoon. Of more consequence, believes UMI Arts's Janet Parfenovics, is how going public with their art strengthens their people back home.

"It brought a real pride from the rest of the community," she says about the first exhibition of NPA artists even shown in Cairns. "When the opening of their exhibition took place, it was community that came because they were there to celebrate the successes of the artists from within their community."


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Remote Cape York painters take the journey to global market

freshwater-meeks-captionThe crowds who thronged the shipping terminal at last month's Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) were treated to much of what the 15 community art centres across Far North Queensland had to offer.

But the high point of the arts calendar is only three days in the year. Before their exposure in August, artists a long way from Cairns were refining their skills in workshops run by a Cairns-based arts organisation - UMI Arts. Like the ones led by contemporary Aboriginal artist Arone Meeks at the New Mapoon and Yarrabah art centres earlier this year.

His time spent working with artists at New Mapoon at the tip of Cape York helped eight of them from the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) put on their own exhibition in Cairns. A number of them continued to have their works displayed during the CIAF.

But how did these artists make it from remote art centre to international art fair in the same year?

Arone Meeks spoke to Telinga Media about his visit to New Mapoon and his role as a teacher to the next wave of CIAF exhibiting artists.


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