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Exhibitions – Galleries – Studios – Street Art – Art in Public Places – Ōtautahi Christchurch and Canterbury

Va Oceans Between at Te Pito Huarewa-Southbase Gallery, Ōtautahi Christchurch



Fri 17 May 2019, 05:00 pm


Sun 21 Jul 2019, 08:00 pm


e Pito Huarewa/Southbase Gallery, Ōtautahi Christchurch
60 Cathedral Square


Exhibitions, Arts Culture, Carving, Weaving


Wheelchair access, Accessible toilets, Mobility parking



Listed By:

Christchurch City Libraries

Main event Image.

Va Oceans Between: A Reason for People to Get Together

Opening in Tūranga’s gallery space in May, Va Oceans Between presents previously unseen Polynesian artefacts from the Canterbury Museum and the response of Contemporary Pasifika Artist to these objects.  

Yet, there is more to Va Oceans Between.  Pasifika Librarian Nina Oberg Humphries observes that “Va” is a fundamental Pacific value that underlines everything:  ‘The relationships we have with each other, with the physical world and the spiritual world, connecting past, present and future.’  In Va Oceans Between this relationship is directly evident in the conversations between the artefacts and the work by the participating artists: Nina Oberg-Humphries (Cook Islands), Ralph Stowers (Samoan), Jon Jeet (Fijian), Stone Maka (Tongan), and in the inclusion of performance, the written word and oral histories from the local Pasifika community.

There are 10 different Island nations represented and a diversity of artefacts.  Samoa, the Cook Islands, Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Niue, Tokelau and Tonga, represented by 24 objects, ‘ranging from adornments worn by royalty to fish hooks – so completely varied.’

Oberg Humphries says that  the responses from the Pasifika community establish a crucial framework. ‘We have asked Vā Pasifika and Fika Writers Group to create content and information, responding just like the artists. This was a way we could give context to the Taonga our ancestors have made.’

‘One member has talked about family relationship and colonisation but actually her object was a Fijian eating fork – used for eating flesh.  A Niuean woman Malo, our old mama, has written hers completely in Niuean and it is about her parents using an octopus lure and growing up in Niue.  There is another member that chose the Hawaiian necklace, Lei Niho Palaoam, writing about its history as a royal object worn by the likes of Queen Liliʻuokalani  the last Hawaiian Monarch.’

How did Va Oceans Between arise ?  ‘It was the group, Vā Pasifika at Christchurch City Libraries that was asked to do the show and the Samoan language group, Fagasa, who worked with the Museum last year, doing a night-time viewing of part of the Samoan collection for Samoan Language week.  Richard Stanley, working for the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and a member of Fagasa were approached by the Museum to do something similar for 2019.  Having close connections with Fagasa, Vā Pasifika was asked to see if they could display Samoan objects in the gallery as part of Samoan Language week.’

‘So it was meant to be a Samoan show.  I was employed by the Library in June last year and had worked with the Museum before.  They brought me onto the project because I had a relationship with Dr Lisa McDonald, Associate Curator of Human History who looks after the Pacific Collection at the Museum.’

‘Because these objects had never been on show, I felt it was important that if we got the opportunity to see any of the Pacific collection, we show as much of it from all over the Pacific. I worked with Vā Pasifika and collectively we decided what would be in it.’

‘It became really important to have these objects on show. There was talk in the Library about the Pacific Arts festival done by Pacific Underground prior to 2010, and then it was, well; where are our artists?  So to add more depth, we asked local Pasifika artists to make works in response to the objects in the collection.’

I chose the artists because, to be honest, I didn’t really know many other experienced Contemporary Pasifika artists working in Christchurch.  It is a very small community. Since the Pacific Arts festival it has been disbanded.  Everyone is everywhere.  Va Oceans Between is a reason for people to get back together.  People like Ralph and Stone are real treasures to be shared.  We went to the Museum and they knew about the objects in Va Oceans Between, how they were made and used.’

 ‘Along with that we also have Tusiata Avia, (Samoan) a renowned poet, doing a writer’s residency.  Again, creating new work in reaction to the objects and we have a performance group, YNot, a Pacific Theatre company in Christchurch also creating a show for us.’

‘This is the first time that the general public can access Pacific arts in this way for a very long time.  It is about all things; about representation, creating moments for that community to feel welcome in these spaces and a sense of belonging, not just in libraries but also in our central city.  That is where the relationship always goes back to - links to Pacific Underground, because that is what they did for a very long time.’

‘Ten years of Pacific theatre, of shows, of music and festivals, and slowly but surely those people are coming out of the woodwork, wanting to have the same kind of experiences. So this is a conversation that is happening in our community constantly.  When is there going to be another Pacific Arts Festival?  Who is going to lead it?  In lots of ways inside the show is a taster of what we have in Christchurch to build the festival again.   Vā Pasifika has a much larger exhibition planned next year and Va Oceans Between is kind of a forerunner for it.’

Va Oceans Between, Te Pito Huarewa/Southbase Gallery

18 May – 21 July, 60 Cathedral Square, Central Christchurch


  1. Fan Hero, collection of the Canterbury Museum
  2. Sharing the aspirations of Va Oceans Between, Scape Public Art 2017 Season featured ‘Are Pasifika (House Pasifika), a community arts project that encouraged Pasifika communities to return to the central city. Participating in a series of workshops and exhibition at the Canterbury Museum they shared the knowledge and experience of their cultures and history, strengthening their sense of belonging in Ōtautahi-Christchurch.  Photograph: The Canterbury University Samoan Association culture group, participants in Nina Oberg Humphries, ’Are Pasifika. photograph: Jade Cavalcante, image courtesy of the artist, The Arts Centre of Christchurch, Canterbury Museum and SCAPE PUBLIC ART


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