Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Artist Fa’amele Etuala: “It’s so important for me to do work that I love.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Contemporary artist Fa’amele Etuale is urging Pasifika creatives to follow their dreams no matter their circumstances. One of the many artists to lend their talent to the whale trail sculptures around Auckland, her exhibition “Remember Me” has recently shown at the Fresh Gallery in Otara.

Hanalei Foliaki | Reporter/Director

For over 20 years, Fa’amele Etuale has been creating works of art for her people and community.

“Ever since I was a child, art has been something that never left me,” Fa’amele says. 

“It has been something that I have used as a tool to cope with a lot of hard times and it’s through the work that I do that I share my stories.” 

When her father passed away in 2013, Fa’amele decided to take her art in a different direction and enrolled in MIT’s Visual Arts institute in Manukau.

“I enrolled to do a jewellery course. I learnt a lot from creating jewellery in the sense that I was taking my paintings now and [lifting] my ideas from a picture to a 3D object,” she says. 

But, it hasn’t always been an easy journey for her.

“I can say that [out of all] the work that I do, my best work comes from very dark places and the art that I create is the light in everything that I do,” she says.

Even though her first passion was to create, art hadn’t always been a priority in her life.

“I’m a full-time worker [from] Thursday [to] Sunday and I’m an artist [from] Monday [to] Wednesday,” she says

“I have never ever looked at art as a way of recognition; I do art because it’s my life work. When I leave this earth, my work will still be here so it’s so important for me to do work that I love.” 

Now with ‘Remember Me’, an exhibition of her own, it’s her dream to make a difference in the suburbs that matter to her most.

“I’m so happy that Fresh Gallery exists because it’s allowed me to exhibit my work and where I stay. All this work here was made when I lived in Otara, it’s a place where I’m supposed to be,” she says

Remember me was an exhibition that wasn’t planned; I was looking at an old baby photo of myself and the title just came to me. This whole room is a tribute to my life and my story.

“It’s so important to me because it really honours my parents that have passed away. My dad was an artist, he was a guitarist, he used to perform up here in Otara; he was a man of many talents. He put everything on the back-burner to raise his kids and this exhibition is a tribute to him because I’m going to make sure that I live out every dream that I have,” she says 

Determined to stay true to her legacy, Fa’amele is keen to encourage the generations to come.

“To all Pasifika creatives, to all working mums, to anyone out there that has that dream of doing something, what have you got to lose?” she says

“I’ve had a lot of let downs, but I’ve never let anyone tell me that I can’t do this. I’ve kept going. 

“If I don’t get the prize, that’s okay, no one recognise’s me? That’s okay, because this is God’s plan for my life.”

You Might Be Interested In