Welcome to the SALON – a place of Artful Conversation.

15 February 2016, 12:00AM

What is a Salon? It is a gallery or selected space, with invited guests in which to have an ‘Artful Conversation.’

A Salon is a meeting of likeminded individuals - artists, art lovers, writers, performers, and arts professionals who come together to connect, network, and indulge in meaningful focused conversation on a particular set of art works, poems, and literary works.

Salons stimulate conversation and act as a support group, a place of artistic critique and have over the centuries been a networking event, an experimental venue to showcase new ideas, and a place to learn and grow by leaps and bounds as an artist and professional.

A Salon ideally is a free-flowing talk about what is going on in the artists studio; an informal group that is organized with a presenter. It can be people of like profession, or a wide-ranging group of people with different practices and backgrounds.

On Sunday 7th February Samoan artist Yuki Kihara planned and curated a Salon at the MADD Gallery at Leifiifi.  Invitations went out weeks in advance so invited guest had plenty of time to schedule this into their Sunday plans.

Yuki likewise approached two additional artists to exhibit their work alongside her own photographic based studies that had not been shown in Samoa before. The invited artists works had linkages with Yuki’s artworks in terms of substance and media. The fit had to be correct, and Yuki had a very thorough notion of the look of her Salon and the programme. 

We arrived at the MADD Gallery and the heavens had opened. But friends and acquaintances gradually entered the space and at 6:30 pm Yuki asked Sefa Enari to open the Salon with some introductory remarks. The Salon features Yukis’ photographs shot in the aftermath of Cyclone Evan in 2012 in Upolu Island as part of a series entitled ‘Where do we come from? What are we? This was the first time these photographs were exhibited in Samoa. 

Yuki talked of the motivation for the works, the picture of ‘Samoan Half Caste’ showing a Samoan woman circa 1890’s dressed in Victorian Mourning dress, in her hand she had a fan and in her hair a Samoan hair comb. The colonial attire and expectations placed on the Samoan woman could not be missed, she was holding her fan in a ‘flirty manner and this indicated that she was moving out of mourning.’ 

In ‘Where do we come from where are we going? Yuki creates a persona of ‘Salome’ and places herself in carefully constructed settings. Yuki becomes Salome the biblical figure as she gazes still and speechless into the ocean of Lalomanu after the Tsunami; as she stands on the muddy ruins of the Lelata village after Cyclone Evans and the terrible flooding of 2012.

The settings are mystical, disturbing, and memorable. Salome in the forest, Salome in the ruins of a school, Salome in the empty shell of the Muilvai Cathedral, Salome at the swimming pool at the Faleata Sports Complex. Salome quietly observes destruction, despair, loss of life, and change with modernisation. Her gaze is still and silent as she surveys her changed and unfamiliar environment. 

The second artist to talk about their works was myself, looking at 2 large works for my exhibition Fetai’ai i Gafa, we shall meet in our children. The images like the works by Yuki were photographic based and they also contained real objects in memory boxes as they related to a long study based on lineage family or gafa.

The large photographic works show central images of two matriarchal figures; my great grandmother dressed in elegant Victorian clothes typical of a well established New Zealand lady; and my husbands grandmother in her teenage years dressed in a mosooi ula, sharks tooth necklace and a tuiga.

These women are from very different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. Of interest to me creating this large body of works were ideas relating to identity and belonging, memory and attachment, lineage and family histories as expressed in photographs, objects, letters, and interviews. While the works tell of intimate family histories they also develop a sense of belonging for the descendants of these two matriarchal figures, for my husband, myself, and my three sons and our relatives. 

Momoe Von Reiche as the third artist to give a talk on her works exhibited at the Salon. Momoe is one of the leading artists in Samoa and she led the way for many younger contemporary artists to develop their creativity. Momoe works in many media, painting, printmedia, sculpture, and is also a poet and author. 

The images selected for the Salon were sensitively painted black and white lyrical female forms. Momoe spoke of the pleasure holding the salon at the MADD Gallery was for the art community and hope that there would be more in the future. 

Organiser, artist and curator for the Salon Yuki Kihara had this to say after the Salon. “Thanks to everyone who came to support the Salon this afternoon despite the rain! I didn’t have time to take pics but it was a great turn out with people arriving every half hour.

Thanks also for Sefa Enari for kindly introducing me before the official proceedings with the artist talk alongside local artists Vanya Taule’alo and Momoe von Reiche.

I’ve had lots of people being inquisitive about the works in the exhibition which generated a lot of discussions, and I’ve been asked whether there are going to be any more Salons in the future, so stay tuned ...!


Dr. Vanya Taule’alo writes & edits the Observer Art Page for the Samoa Arts Council (SAC). Guided by SAC’s vision “to envisage a future where the Arts Sector is fully developed for the benefit of Samoa”, the page promotes all forms of art and promotes the arts in the Samoan community. For more information on SAC see samoaartscouncil.com and Samoa Arts

15 February 2016, 12:00AM

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