Featured image: Installing Tainui Begat (1988) by Brett Graham at Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga.
Rennie Atfield-Douglas chose artwork that would get people thinking to display at our new campus in South Auckland.
When Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga opened in February 2020 as a dedicated space for students based in South Auckland, I knew that I wanted to showcase some of the University of Auckland Art Collection.
I wanted artwork that had a connection to South Auckland and Tāmaki Makaurau, and that would resonate with the people using the campus. I specifically chose pieces, with the help of Art Collection Assistant, Lara Thomas, that would get people thinking.
Photo: Island Tantrum by Lily Laita on display at Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga.
The Tai Tonga campus is on two levels, so we created an experience for people as they walk through the building. As you enter the front doors, there is a journey that you can go on to explore the chosen pieces.
I wanted to challenge people and their thinking, so I chose pieces that others may find a little risqué. University is a place of talanoa and critique, so it was important to signify this in the artwork.
The work of our alumni features on the journey. Ashley Tofa, a graduate of the University of Auckland, was earlier this year shortlisted in the student category of the Sony World Photography Awards for her Master of Fine Arts portraits. We are lucky to have one of Ashley’s prints here at Tai Tonga.
My favorite pieces of the collection here at Tai Tonga include three images from renowned Samoan-Japanese artist Shigeyuki Kihara. Kihara’s pieces evoke strong feelings and connect to Samoan mythology. They are located upstairs in a little alcove and their presence adds depth and character to our upper floor. It gives people an opportunity to pause and think when they walk through this space.
Photo: Two of three images on display from the series Vavau – Tales from Ancient Samoa (2004) by Shigeyuki Kihara.
Eventually, the plan is to create a curated journey through Tai Tonga using the artworks. We hope that in the future we can gather some of the artists together to share more information about their artwork.
Next time that you are in Tai Tonga, take a moment to admire the artwork. I hope it brings as much enjoyment to you as it has to me.
Rennie Atfield-Douglas, Head of South Auckland Campus