Manamea Art Studio: Art, love and passion

By Samantha Goerling ,

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Lalovai Peseta and Nikki Mariner have used art to be together

Lalovai Peseta and Nikki Mariner have used art to be together

Brought together by art, Lalovai Peseta and Nikki Mariner’s baby, Manamea Art Studio, has continued to grow. 

Manamea Art was conceived in late 2012 as a combination of their artistic skills and a means through which the two could live and work together. 

Nikki Mariner says it was this foundation of love, which brought Manamea Art into being.

“We started this Art Studio because we needed a way to live together, be together and support ourselves,” she said.

Even the name ‘Manamea’ personifies the underpinning philosophy of the studio’s formation.

Used to name a lover or someone you treasure, Peseta would call Mariner “Manamea”. 

The two first met and fell in love back in 2012 when their paths crossed at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands. 

Mariner was there with students from the Australian National University and Peseta was with the American Samoan delegation of Artists. 

Mariner was previously an entrepreneur and businesswoman. She has lent her invaluable marketing and business skills, which she employs at Manamea Art Studio.

Art, although previously not her profession, was always on her mind.

“I always had a passion for art and did some painting myself as well as devouring books and documentaries on all art forms but mostly literary and visual.” 

Lalovai Peseta studied at the Leulumoega Fou School of Fine Arts and after gaining his Diploma worked as an art teacher for many years. 

A confiscated tattoo gun and his own leg were both part of his first tattooing experience.

Exchanging tattoos for food or small items, he gained experience on his willing students and became a self-taught tattoo artist. 

Since then Peseta’s tattoo art has gained international recognition, much like his paintings and carvings. 

Initially Manamea Art had no permanent base.

This was until last year when the duo established the studio. 

Peseta was based in Savai’i. However, international postage costs from Savai’i were much great compared to Upolu. With exports composing a large portion of their business, they decided to set up a studio in Vaitele-Fou. 

They specialise in carving, tattooing and painting and Mariner highlighted how art can be applied to almost anything.

“Skin, canvas, wood, anything is a medium to put art on,” she said. 

Requests include keys, wooden signs like the one marking ‘Palusami’ and recently trophies. 

“There was the All Blacks and Manu Samoa Trophy last year which has started this trophy thing.”

Often traditional Samoan patterns will be used to inspire the contemporary art, particularly in the tattoos, which are produced at Manamea Art Studio. 

Absolutely everything is a custom design piece of art. Every carving is personalised and not a single tattoo is from an existing design. 

“We don’t ever repeat a design. We’re an art studio not a shop so everything has to be personalised,” said Mariner.

Of the steady stream of people booking in for unique tattoos, many have lived in Samoa and are about to return to their homeland. Mariner explained how each of these tattoos are personalised. 

“They sit and they tell us why they want it, what their experience has been like here and the way we see it that’s life and love being turned into art on their skin.”

Demand for tattoos has even enabled the pair to do a tattoo tour of Australia. The popularity and success of Manamea Art Studio has also seen the team expand to take on two more artists. 

“We had too many orders, we couldn’t take them, we couldn’t do them ourselves unless we never slept,” said Mariner.

Pele Loi, a “damn incredible carver” as Mariner described him was previously an art student of Peseta’s. He excelled greatly and showed huge potential in his art education at school. So when the workload at Manamea became too much, Loi was the one who sprung to mind.

“Last year, 2015 we needed more help so we hunted him down. We said ‘come, come join the dream.’ He just dropped everything, he finished up that week, his nice steady wage with his super and joined us. He gave us everything, he gave us his best. For now he is part of the family,” Mariner said.

Loi was just the first addition with Kolio Pita Siaosi joining the team two weeks ago.

“He’s just an incredible talent and he just turned twenty-one yesterday. So we are sponsoring him through his art school education now. He will come and work for us after school,” explained Mariner.  

The growth while exciting has also been a fine line to walk as Mariner said, they “never want to lose the essence behind why we started.” 

To have a piece of art personalised for you, drop by Manamea Art Studio at 754 Mamala Street, Vaitele Fou. Find them on Facebook or visit manameaart.com for more info. Contact them on 7260541 or email manamea.art@gmail.com.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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