Planning a mid-winter holiday somewhere in beautiful Moana Oceania? It’s always nice to support local communities and bring home a treasure from your time away to memorialise your adventure. But where do you start?
Here are some top tips from a range of experts, artists and gallerists working in the field of Pacific art.
What is the top piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to purchase an artwork or artefact whilst on holiday in the Pacific region?
Dr Billie Lythberg | Specialist in Maori and Pacific art
Where possible try to buy from the maker, or to meet them. Learn about the artwork itself, what it means to the people who made it and how they use it or display it.
Ben Burgman | Director of Bergman Gallery, Cook Islands
Buy from reputable galleries and artefact/craft companies. Unfortunately, cheap imported craft replicas and poorly produced prints do exist. I recommend Bergman Gallery, Moana Gems Pearl and Art Gallery, The Print Room at Beachcomber Pearl Market, Island Craft, Henry Tavioni Craft and Mike Tavioni Craft.
Deborah White | Director of Whitespace Gallery, Auckland
I like to think all artists working in the Pacific are informed by the experience of living here. So the same applies for purchasing any artwork. Buy something you love, something that warms your heart everyday you see it, long after the return home.
Nikki Mariner | Island-based Samoan artist and director of Manamea Art Studio
My advice to serious buyers and collectors interested in purchasing quality artwork or artefacts while on holiday in Oceania is to go beyond the flea markets for more original pieces, and look at venues where you may actually meet the artist.
Numangatini MacKenzie | New Zealand-based Cook Island artist
Try and find something made locally so try and find the maker. Have an idea what unique things are made from that island or village. Make sure it is made from natural materials.
What starting point would you advise to budget for?
Ben Burgman: Both Cook Islands craft and contemporary artwork can be purchased at all price points, from $50 for small carvings or art prints to many thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate carved works or original paintings.
Deborah White: High quality original artwork is incredibly affordable in New Zealand, by international standards, it is ridiculously underpriced. Works on paper can be as little as $500 and are easy to transport; ceramics even less.
Nikki Mariner : It is difficult to pinpoint a starting point to budget for art purchases as prices vary hugely between different island nations, different artists and different types of art. Paintings in our gallery usually start at $300SAT and go up to $4000SAT.
Numangatini MacKenzie: Fifty dollars will give you a range of options to buy small quality items.
What are your most treasured artworks or artefacts from the Pacific region?
Dr Billie Lythberg: My favourite artworks are those made for me by friends. A plaited necklace with two shark’s teeth is a reminder from the incredible Rosanna Raymond to sink my teeth into projects and kaupapa and to be bold and resilient. Shark teeth are symbols of protection throughout the Pacific, incorporated into adornments and regalia, and are also used to carve wood and to draw blood. My necklace fastens with a single cowry shell, its feminine shape a gentle reminder that the women in my life have got my back.
Deborah White: Lianne Edwards is a mid-career environmental artist of Irish- Tongan heritage, her work is collected and shown internationally. I have one of her ‘Sea Kraits’, a work made of swordfish bills, Tongan sennit lashing and plastic. It is aesthetically beautiful and a constant reminder of the vulnerability of our marine environment and the harm we are doing to sea life.
Katherine Atafu–Mayo | Aotearoa-based Afakasi Samoan artist
I would say my ula nifo (Samoan tooth necklace) is my most loved measina. I’ve worn it for every performance and activation since I was a young girl whether that be for Samoa Day at kindergarten or an activation at Toi o Tamaki Auckland Art Gallery with the Pacific Sisters. This measina is common throughout Samoa and you’ll find many wearing them for performances although they were once a symbol of status and wealth when made from whale teeth. These days there are many alternatives.
Numangatini MacKenzie: One of my most favourite artefacts is a mat I purchased in Fiji. I keep it in my car and proudly pull it out at the beach or the park or anywhere in between. It is getting worn down now so I’m excited to get another one in the future. I just returned from Hawaii and bought a small weapon at a Hawaiian owned store repping traditional craft from Kanaka Maoli. Its 20cm long and has a tiger shark tooth lashed to one end and coconut string loop half way through and sharpened point on the koa wood. It’s a working weapon, well-made and another of my most treasured items.
Auckland winter staycation?
If you’re staying in the winter wonderland that is Auckland this season, fear not! There are plenty of local galleries exhibiting a range of works from contemporary Pacific artists, our experts recommend:
Of Water: John Pusateri at Whitespace Gallery, Newton
WWJD (What Would Jim Do?): 2 – Group show at Vunilagi Vou, Otahuhu
Names held in our mouths: Group show at Te Uru Waitakere, Titirangi
Awakening: Joana Monolagi at Object Space, Ponsonby
Seeing Moana Oceania: Group show at Auckland Art Gallery, City.