Current Exhibition

4 HIRE. Jimmy Ma'ia'i

Hātarei 22 Hune -
Hātarei 3 Ākuhata

Saturday 22 June -
Saturday 3 August

2024

Research image courtesy of the artist

Research image courtesy of the artist

The neighbourhood of Avondale in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is known for being a hub for Pacific peoples and cultures. Jimmy Ma’ia’i lives in the area, and its unique sights, sounds and public life merge as references in his artworks.

Ma’ia’i is interested in Avondale’s inherent contrasts; such as the mix of residential and community spaces with light industry, and its long-standing, working class Pacific presence with a new, creeping gentrification – a trend which is making the neighbourhood’s housing unaffordable for many Pacific people.

Hi-vis as a material is designed to stand out. It functions as a form of protection for workers in hazardous workplaces, dangerous because of risks such as heavy machinery, low-light and moving vehicles. These workers, despite being critical to Aotearoa’s economy, are often described by the state as ‘low-skilled’ and low wages are pervasive. Ma’ia’i’s use of reflective, hi-vis orange and silver is a vibrant signal of how Pacific peoples are over-represented as workers in these industries, and that their labour is often undervalued.

Fa’i or banana palms grow prolifically around Avondale, and Ma’ia’i has noticed groves of them being cleared for new residential developments in the area. The trees are also a distinctive presence that persists in areas of the city that formerly had large Pacific communities which have had to leave due to earlier gentrification, such as Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. Ma’ia’i’s hi-vis and reflective tape work 9 to 5 is based on a siapo mamanu from Auckland Museum; siapo mamanu being a style of tapa where the designs are applied in a freehand manner. Lama pigment and ‘o’a sap, with a similar effect to Ma’ia’i’s reflective materials, is layered over the siapo mamanu to achieve a shiny lustre.

Ma’ia’i utilises found objects, synthetic materials and plant motifs that are familiar to his surroundings in Avondale, a place that is a home for many of a Pacific diaspora that is Aotearoa-born, yet references to fa’i and tapa acknowledge lineages to artmaking and traditional cultural practices of the South Pacific. These found objects and synthetic materials also operate as a pointed reference to problems experienced by working class Pacific people in their day to day life. They outline deliberate and rife wage depression amongst industries that employ many Pacific people, and rising costs of housing that is gradually displacing them from neighbourhoods like Avondale house by house, street by street.

Jimmy Ma'ia'i

Jimmy Ma’ia’i is an installation artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland whose practice utilises found objects and materials, and the readymade. Of Sāmoan and Scottish descent, Ma’ia’i draws upon mixed-heritage experiences, cultural dislocation and the impact of colonisation in his artworks. Recent exhibitions include Spring Time is Heart-break: Contemporary Art in Aotearoa, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū (2023-24) and Ocean of Whispers, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space (2022-23).