Artists take on politics

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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SO MUCH IS HAPPENING WITH POLITICS IN SAMOA: Nikki Mariner-Peseta of the Manamea Art Studio.

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING WITH POLITICS IN SAMOA: Nikki Mariner-Peseta of the Manamea Art Studio. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

It’s time for local artists to have their say about Samoa’s political climate.

This is the driving inspiration behind Manamea Art Studio’s exhibition “The New Samoa – Samoa Fou”, which opens to the public next week.

“So much is happening right now in Samoa with Samoan politics and social issues are in such flux,” said co-owner and artist of Manamea, Nikki Mariner-Peseta.  

“I thought there are a lot of people not living in Samoa having their say about Samoa. There is so much change happening, it’s time for artists to have their say. Every time there’s political movement around the world and throughout history, artists have been able to add a dimension into the conversation.”

Five studio artists will be featured in the show and all artwork will comment on cultural and political issues that are currently affecting Samoa in 2018. 

Some of the artwork is in progress and out in the open studio available for the public to view but a bulk of the art work that artists, Lalovai and Nikki Peseta, are working on have been kept behind closed doors.

Nikki allowed the Samoa Observer into the “off-limits” room to have a sneak peak of what they are working on.

One painting in particular is guaranteed to attract some interest depicting a portrait of Samoa’s highest elected government official against a backdrop of conflicting ideologies.

“I’m really excited about this because it’s meaty and serious. This is going to be controversial.”

The politics of sex, freedom of speech, sexual violence, gender roles, Feagaiga, romanticism versus reality and cyber bullying are just some of the themes that will come through in the “Samoa Fou” exhibition.

Mariner-Peseta has been working on several paintings herself but some themes that are close to her heart center around the international movement “#MeToo”, which is against sexual harassment and assault of women. She will also acknowledge our Samoan male champions, which she feels does not get enough attention.

 “I’m doing a painting about Samoan women saying ‘#Metoo’. The ‘#Metoo’ movement is not strong here. Loyalty to family, your father and your brother is more important than solidarity between women. I think it’s quite scary to be standing against a bunch of Samoan women standing together. That’s frightening because they are strong, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. If Samoan women backed each other up, how scary would that be? Your grandmother, your mother and aunty, the Faletua, coming together to say sexual harassment and violence is wrong.”

“I’m also working on a painting about acknowledging the good men such as brothers, and partners and men who work hard for their kids, who try to educate themselves and are open minded than their fathers and grandfathers. They know how to balance Samoan culture with modernity. All you hear about Samoan men is negative things and I think that’s no good.” 

“What about the soft side of our big strong Samoan men? They are so strong and powerful, no one has got their physiques or bodies, but their bodies are doing beautiful things for their families.”

The New Samoa: Samoa Fou exhibition opening will also mark the big reveal of the new Manamea Space in Vaigaga. 

Initially, the owners had wanted to keep the studio under wraps until the grand opening, but the new premises has boosted their clientele numbers so much that the thoroughfare became a part of the studio’s journey of evolvement.

The studio now has three full time artists and an office administrator, who Nikki describes as an anchor with a very important job.

“I wouldn’t call Ena just a receptionist because her job is everything that doesn’t involve art.  All artists work unconventional hours between 8am and 2am and Ena’s job description is very specific, I said to Ena ‘your job is to stay sane. Look normal, act normal be sane be the anchor, be the face because we all look dirty and tired,” she laughs.

The New Samoa: Samoa Fou exhibition will take place on May 24 – June 9, 2018. The opening reception will be on Thursday, May 29 from 4pm and meet the artists will take place on Saturday May 26 at 5pm.

 There will be scheduled times for “artists talk” where each artist will present a seminar on their work.  All are welcome, free entry.

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