It was wonderful to spend my last evening in Nuku'alofa at the tenth birthday bash of the On the Spot Arts Collective. On the Spot celebrated their birthday by opening a cafe in a room of the villa they have restored and made a headquarters, launching a show of photographs and ngatu in the villa's exhibition space*, and receiving a cheque for fifteen thousand pa'anga from the Bank of the South Pacific.
A brief but unnerving visit from a truckload of sullen cops reminded us that not everyone in Tonga finds it easy to accept the freedom of expression that the kingdom's artists advocate. 'Tonga is living through a Weimar phase', Maikolo Horowitz of the 'Atenisi Institute said after the cops had come calling. 'We have democracy, but reaction is stirring.'
Later in the evening I had the privilege of talking with 'Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, the head of Tonga's Women Refuge service and a supporter of On the Spot. 'Ofa told me about the public curses that she and her children have received via Tonga radio from a Wesleyan minister upset by her support for gender equality. The next ten years of Tongan history are going to be fascinating. Faka'apa'apa to On the Spot, 'Ofa and other advocates of mo'ui and freedom.
I wrote for EyeContact about a major exhibition On the Spot held last year, and I'll be writing about their new show.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]