Manamea Studio: Passion and art

By Aruna Lolani ,

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Manamea Studio: Passion and art

The Manamea Art Studio is looking to host more exhibitions following the success of their inaugural one at Vaitele last weekend.

With the first one being an introduction with the theme “Who Am I”, Nikki Mariner, an artist and founder of Manamea Art Studio, said they were delighted to welcome visitors to their Studio.

Nikki Mariner and her husband Lalovai Peseta, also an artist and the other founder of Manamea Art, have helpers in Pele Loi and William Mauola. Together, they made the Manamea Art Studio come to life last week.

“In January when we were in Auckland visiting families, Lalovai and I sat down with a pen and paper, it’s weird to have a business meeting with your husband right?” Nikki said.

“It’s not normal but we said, let’s have a business meeting and not talk about anything else but just what our plan is. So we made an eighteen-month strategy in my notebook and this was on it; to do an exhibition so that our artists who work for us have a chance to shine as individual artists, not just the commissioned work that they do. 

“Then we started painting. So our schedule on our commissioned work was from 10am to 7pm or 8pm and painted in three to four nights a week and at 2am, we always try to stop.

“We’ve never had that many plans because the first plan is to survive and we’re doing that. So we just got to follow our hearts really because Art is a place where you can be free. You can take your dreams that are inside your head and make it something that you can touch and see.”

Nikki said that they have been doing all their artwork at home.

“This is where we eat, sleep, draw, laugh, and cry. This is the space. It’s humble, it’s not much, forgive us but we put all our energy and efforts into the artwork

“We didn’t really want to ask anyone for a venue, we wanted to have creative control of it so the only way was here at home.”

The couple work well together.

 “Lalovai and I are very different but put us together, we sort of cover everything.” And it is with their differences that they were able to succeed in achieving the first step of their Manamea dream.

“We go to a lot of exhibitions overseas and here. You know Lalovai and I; we get frustrated, sometimes we think that art is not accessible to everyday people; they feel intimidated. 

“For example if you go to some Art exhibition in Samoa, maybe you see only three or four Samoans but the rest are experts or something like that and I think, why?

“Art is everywhere in Samoa and we were thinking, that we want to do an exhibition that really can touch everybody. The paintings are for sale but it’s not about selling them, it’s about making art accessible to everyone.”

Like any success, Nikki and Lalovai’s success did not come without challenges.

According to Nikki, they had to work twice as hard to make the impossible, possible.

Manamea Art Studio artists: Pele Loi, William Mauola, Nikki Mariner and Lalovai Peseta. Photo / Misiona Simo
Manamea Art Studio artists: Pele Loi, William Mauola, Nikki Mariner and Lalovai Peseta. Photo / Misiona Simo

“If the power cuts in the middle of the night; that made it very hard to work.”

Not only that, but the lack of resources they started with made the task even tougher.

“You know sometimes I look at exhibitions and art made overseas and they say, this is an Islander Exhibition, a Samoan Exhibition, but they’re making art in a beautiful air conditioned fancy studio.

“They have printers, computers, fast internet; these kinds of things so the challenges we still have are resources like that.

“Usually when we have exhibitions overseas, there are teams of professionals behind you. 

“All you have to do is make your art and turn up with your art.

“For us this time, we have to plan the marketing, catering, that kind of thing. But we’re not trying to be anything we’re not; people can see exactly what it is so it’s only about the Art.”

Now they have made it through the first stage, Nikki is looking forward to emphasising the reality of Samoan women in her artwork.

“You don’t see many female Samoan artists here, painting about women. I can’t see any. I don’t claim to speak for all Samoan women but I’m painting my own experience anyways. 

“A lot of people do art for Samoan women but they put them on the beach in a coconut bra, showing all their malu, doing some exotic dance, I mean where in Samoa do you see that, that’s not real. That’s a postcard for tourists but what about the real experience? 

“What about every Sunday where we all wear white elei on, I love painting elei, I like painting white puletasi because it means a lot to Samoan women, putting your hair up or down means something to Samoan women. 

“And also painting women in all different shapes, I like painting women’s feelings, the conflicts they have in their lives between cultures. Those are the kind of things I’m really passionate about, not the sand and the trees.”

Lalovai Peseta added: “I didn’t really think of Art as a thing to do while growing up but I always draw and got in trouble from the teachers, I even did something crazy that banned my family from my village in Savai’i because I drew some crazy stuff on the walls of the school building. 

“It wasn’t my aim in the future to become an artist I didn’t make it to U.P.Y. like every parents dream here in Samoa for their kids. 

“But once I entered Art school, that’s when I started to build myself as an artist but then I became a teacher. For me, that was just a job that put food on the table for my kids but then I met my Manamea and she made me believe in myself and believe who I really am and what I could do. 

“One of my paintings which is called Blue No more, it’s about my relationship with Nikki. Nikki is my inspiration. So now Art is not only my work but my life.”

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