Indigenous Modernisms Symposium: Histories of the Contemporary

You would be forgiven if you thought that I was some kind of conference junkie given the order of posts- from China in the Pacific in July to the recent Indigenous Modernisms: Histories of the Contemporary, both held at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. However I wasn’t the only one who was enticed by the caliber of speakers which boasted both local and international academics, artists, art historians and museum curators. Alongside others who flew in for the symposium was a large contingent of Auckland artists, curators and industry professional (no surprise there). This symposium turned into an opportunity for many of us to catch up before the festive season sets in and everyone goes their separate ways. All the post-symposium dinners and after parties also provided an amazing platform for us to hash out our thoughts on particular issues discussed during the symposium. Art+Food+Wine= Perfect Forums

Here is the run down of my trip:

Chop Suey Hui

Chop Suey Hui is a monthly forum supporting and promoting the Pasifika Maori Arts Spectrum and is organised by the Kava Club. Presenters are invited to deliver 5 minute rapid fire talks facilitated by a guest chair. The format is pretty relaxed and is geared towards inclusiveness.  Everyone brings a dish and of course B.Y.O wine. Chop Suey is a regular fixture so it’s really a win-win for all. Chop Suey Hui continues to increase in numbers every month. I suggest you arrive early to get a seat- it gets packed!

Indigenous Modernisms

“A two-day symposium bringing together an international group of scholars, curators and artists to address the question of the relationship between the histories of Indigenous modernisms in New Zealand, Australia, North America, Africa and the Pacific, and the artistic conditions of our own era.”

Initially, my motive for traveling to this symposium was the rare opportunity to hear and learn from renowned artists and scholars such as Richard Bell, Terry Smith, Nicholas Thomas, Ruth Phillips and Ian McLean. While their papers and discussions were thought provoking, a real highlight for me was the paper by Associate Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University) titled After Modernism: El Anatsui’s Metal Sculptures and Sankofa Ideology.

Another contributing factor for this trip was to support my sister Nina Tonga, an art historian and the Curator of Pacific Cultures at Te Papa Tongarewa (working with Senior Curator Sean Mallon). I attempt to be unbiased when I say that her paper Staring at Motorways: Urban Pacific Art – A Genealogy of Sorts was brilliant, because it truly was. She made our family proud by presenting and holding her own alongside some of the world’s best scholars, writers and curators; reaching new heights that our parents would have never dreamed of when they first migrated from Tonga. I’m so glad I was there to see it.

Fun times with awesome people