Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Feeding the eyes - and the stomach

The Seleka Club's three emissaries to Niu Sila are preparing to catch a plane home tomorrow morning, after spending the last month in Wellington, where they enjoyed a residency at the local campus of Massey University, Auckland, where they cruised the central city's art galleries and drank their fill of wine at a series of exhibition openings, and Whitianga, where they managed, in the course of a couple of days, to insinuate their way into the local art scene.

Last week I posted some photographs of the Selekarians painting a couple of dinosaurs and an exploding volcano on the wall of my kids' bedroom, and reported that my wife and I had kept the toiling painters' spirits high by plying them with fried chicken and coke. An anonymous commenter responded by rebuking me for exploiting the Selekarians, and for exposing them to food that was both unhealthy and a product of colonialism.

I regret to report that, when I met them for lunch today in Papatoetoe, the Seleka boys insisted upon eating McDonalds. The golden arches are absent from Tonga, and Tevita and Taniela were determined to eat their fill of Big Macs while they could. I was reminded of a weekend I spent with Visesio Siasau, another important Tongan artist, back in 2014. Visesio was about to return to Tonga for a stay of six or so months, and he took me on an extended tour of Auckland's art galleries and its fast food joints. We took in K Rd's avant-garde Artspace, then ate KFC in Ponsonby, then headed out to Pah Homestead, the Victorian mansion stuffed with classic New Zealand art in Hillsborough, then repaired to a nearby branch of McDonalds. By the end of the weekend my eyes as well as my stomach were stuffed, and Visesio felt prepared for his time away from galleries and golden arches.

Last Sunday Radio New Zealand's Lynn Freeman broadcast an interview with Seleka founder Tevita Latu and with the club's advisor, the Franco-Tongan intellectual Virginie Dourlet. Freeman asked the Tevita and Virginie about the beginnings of their movement, about the opposition they have faced from culturally and politically conservative Tongans, and about the work they do with Nuku'alofa's young people. Listen here. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again. "Look how many brown friends I have and they even like my shit food that gives them diabetes". No real progress until you front up to your contradictions comrade.

7:42 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

You do sound a bit humourless, anon. Come up to nuku'alofa sometime for a kava and a roasted puaka.

10:12 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Selaka do seem to enjoy a variety of foods. We also took them out to an amazing and sophisticated Phillipino restaurant when they were here, which they relished. I think the hallmark of guys like Selaka is that they mash up the trashy with the refined and the aspirational. I've often thought of the parallels between Tongan life and the Rabelaisian in European literature. If their art demands a few buckets of KFC then so be it!

4:59 pm  

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