Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Mana wāhine create space for Pasifika and Māori artists to sell their work

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Breanna Tugaga-Rogers | Te Rito Journalism Cadet

Moana Fresh is a flourishing community space and storefront in the heart of Avondale, West Auckland. Their team is made up entirely of mana wāhine who all have roots in the Pacific and are dedicated to supporting Māori and Pasifika artists, creatives and authors by stocking and selling their work.

Every team member has a background in art, so they understand how hard it is for Moana makers to keep a sustainable, paying practice beyond art school. One of the Moana Fresh store aims is to help bridge that gap, creating a direct link connecting the artist to the community and buyers.

Founded by Ahilapalapa Rands and Vaimaila Urale in 2019, the pair have known each other for over 15 years, having studied visual arts together at AUT.

Ahilapalapa Rands and Vaimaila Urale are the two creatives behind Moana Fresh who have been working together for over 12 years. Photo: Instagram @moanafresh

Moana Fresh started out on “the mean streets of Avondale”, as Urale says, setting up a trestle table on the sidewalk without council permission, they hosted a pop-up stand inviting all their artist friends, hoping to make some money off of their side hustle.

Through this, they discovered that there are different communities out there who are hungry for artwork created by indigenous artists.

“I really underestimated that there was this other community, this beautiful brown community who are our staple customers. I would say judging by our analytics, over 70% of our buyers are Māori and Pasifika and women which is really amazing,” Urale says.

Claudia Jowitt, the store’s co-manager who onboards new artists to stock, says that in Moana communities, art is so intertwined with everything. In her experience, mainstream art spaces tend to lack that cultural inclusion.

“I come from a background of working in commercial galleries, in spaces that can come off as quite exclusive or not as welcoming and that is something I think is very different here, and the fact that it’s run by Pasifika, Māori people is that what we can provide is welcoming and the sense that art can be for anybody and it isn’t this elitist pursuit,” Jowitt says.


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Their vibrant storefront stands out amongst the West Auckland township, showcasing artworks, jewellery, clothing and ceramics, ranging from as little as eight bucks to hundreds of dollars.

Stocking intergenerational artists are of the utmost importance to the Moana Fresh team. Their oldest maker is 84 while their youngest is 20-year-old Shiloh Sagapolu, aka SS.Murch. She went from selling her designs at the local night markets to now accessing a whole new customer base at Moana Fresh. She hopes to one day take her art worldwide.

With a business mentality deeply embedded in a ‘for us, by us’ kaupapa, AJ Fata, Moana Fresh’s videographer and retail worker sums it up best, “I think it speaks to the name Moana
Fresh, it’s like the sea, this ocean, a collective connectedness.”

Moana fresh kaupapa has always been grounded in raising the representation of Pacific artists in public and contemporary arts spaces. Photo: Instagram @moanafresh

They also provide their physical space for artists to make, wanting to give back to the community in any way they can by reinvesting back into it, growing sideways instead of upwards so that “everybody gets to benefit and share in that wealth.”

“The more spaces there are like this, the more opportunities there are for Māori and Pacific makers and the more possibility there is that people can continue to make and grow their practices. The more diversity we have in the art scene, the better,” Jowitt says.

Moana Fresh provides a wide range of gift options perfect for Christmas shopping. From Pasifika clothing items for children, adults and even your dog, to one-of-a-kind statement earrings, you can purchase some beautiful items as well as support local Māori and Pasifika artists.



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