Samoan photographer wins ‘changing lives’ artist residency in Apia

2004 keyboard player Sitione Aumua at a Sunday morning service in the Salelesi Methodist church. Image: Evotia Tamua

By Helen Isbister

Auckland-based Samoan photographer Evotia Tamua will use an artist residency at the National University of Samoa to complete a 20-year photography project documenting the changing lives of people in Salelesi village.

Creative New Zealand, in partnership with the National University of Samoa, offers an annual three-month artist residency in Apia. Established in 2006, the residency celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Evotia Tamua 2016 final lo-res 300wide
Evotia Tamua … documenting the Samoan way of life. Image: Evan Donnelly

Describing herself as related to almost everyone in Salelesi, on Upolu Island, Evotia will continue her photography culminating in a solo exhibition at MADD Gallery in Samoa this year and in Auckland in 2017.

“I started this project in 1994 when I began my career as a professional photographer. Travelling to Samoa almost yearly I have photographed how the village has adapted to social, political and environmental change,” says Evotia.

“The village has gone from box type TVs or no TVs to large flat screens in open fale. People have migrated from the village, been banished from the village, married into the village, died in the village or are now growing old there.”

Arts Council member Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said: “This is a fascinating project which I am sure will generate great interest in Samoa and New Zealand.  I am looking forward to seeing this wonderful collection of images by such a gifted photographer in one space.”

Evotia Tamua specialises in documenting the Pacific way of life in the islands and in Auckland. She has exhibited her work in New Zealand, Samoa, Australia and England.  Her photography has appeared in Pacific New Zealand and Samoa: Pacific Pride.

Gap in market
In 2007, seeing a gap in the market for Pacific book publishing, she helped found Little Island Press.

In 2008, she published Pacific Auckland, which documents the lives of Pacific Islanders in Auckland, and Polynesian Festival which has a selection of 15 years of photographs from the ASB Polyfest.

Evotia has also worked on projects with visual artist Fatu Feu’u and multi-disciplinary artist Yuki Kihara.

Evotia works as a commercial photographer and has also worked as a tutor and newspaper photographer.

The residency offers New Zealand Pasifika artists the opportunity to develop their potential, skills and practice and is open to established mid-career and senior Pasifika artists who are resident in New Zealand.

Previous recipients include visual artist Siliga Setoga, multidisciplinary artist Shigeyuki Kihara, choreographer/director Lemi Ponifasio, actor/director Nathaniel Lees, the late curator Jim Vivieaere, playwright Fiona Collins, installation artist Tiffany Singh, and the VaHine Collective (Lonnie Hutchinson, Lily Laita and Niki Hastings-McFall).

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