ATTACK THE BLOCK | The Value of Shared Space

Video: Tanu Gago

title-1.pngtitle 2title 3

On Saturday the 14th of April FAFSWAG Arts Collective had the privilege of presenting Attack The Block, a free artists panel and workshop series developed in partnership with the Pantograph Punch. Produced in collaboration with Rosabel Tan, Lana Lopesi, Tanu Gago and FAFSWAG Arts Collective. This was hosted at Q Theatre in Auckland City and was supported with sponsorship from Eighthirty Coffee Roasters, Blue Rose Cafe, Karma Cola, The Pacific Island Business Trust and Auckland City Council.

Initially proposed by Pantograph Punch in 2017, this project was originally shaped as a conversation piece between interdisciplinary artists and FAFSWAG cofounders Tanu Gago and Pati Solomona Tyrell. Intended as a complimentary public programme for the staging of Fa’aafa at Basement Theatre during FAFSWAG’S 2017 company in residence, the event was redesigned and delivered in 2018.

Outside of the 2016 artists talk at Pah Homestead for the exhibition ‘Fa’aafa and The Sound of the Ocean’ facilitated by Pacific curator Ema Tavola, Tyrell and Gago have never publicly shared a forum to speak on the formation and founding of their arts brand and collective – FAFSWAG. This opportunity presented a unique chance to facilitate a public discussion with Pantograph Punch and FAFSWAG. It seems remarkable that in the 6 years of FAFSWAG’S collective practice Tyrell and Gago haven’t shared a public forum to speak about their work.

In thinking of the intentions behind our formation, the scope of this project quickly began to scaled upwards. Issues of agency and representation have always been an immediate concern for artists operating from a place of limited visibility. So it made perfect sense to us to try and facilitate a forum for FAFSWAGS members to speak on their own experiences within group. Power sharing remains one of those things we’re accustomed to so activating this part of our collective practice opened the potential for this event to have further reaching value, for our audience and for those seeking to gain knowledge through the experiences of others.

With the premise of radical sharing as the motivational impetus behind this event these discussions required us as artist to speak on issues within and around our communities that are not part of the staple narratives that typically frame our realities as Queer Indigenous artist. This task for us is such a rigorous and ongoing exercise  with wider implications on our everyday lives. Having to perform this type of responsive discourse is exhaustive and so we’re always talking about how we can ‘attack’ this work and build more resilient shoulders for these kinds of Talanoa (discussions). This is where the title for the series comes from and can be seen in the types of discussions we wanted to have and the workshops we wanted to host.

Artist and Curator Ema Tavola was invited to chair a series of panel discussions as part of a day long event and also work with the FAFSWAG arts collective to hold space for their intended audience. The talks allowed artists from the collective to address a number of discussion points and also share some of the experiences that have informed their world views, advocacy and art practice. These panels were recorded as a resource to be shared with our audience beyond the confines of the event and can be listened to below.


 Panel 1: Representation and Agency in Collective Practice

Falencie Filipo, Moe Laga, Akashi Fisi’inaua, Sione Monu, Tanu Gago
Chaired by Ema Tavola

The glossy veneer of FAFSWAG’s branding is fully informed by a community development kaupapa, often made invisible by the commercial standards of our work. It’s important to us to disavow any assumptions that happen as a result of this, and to unpack these ideas in the real world.

This panel addresses the politics of representation within and outside of the collective. What does agency look like for artists sharing resources, opportunities and space? What kinds of distortion filters develop outside of the artist’s control? What is the kaupapa of our brand, and how is this articulated to our audience through the various mediums and genres we occupy?

This conversation is about demystifying the FAFSWAG practice and offering practical insights that offer audiences some clarity about our guiding values and principles as they relate to collective practice.

Image: Raymond Sagapolutele


Panel 2: The Role of Community in Collective Practice

Elyssia Wilson-Heti, Manu Vae’a, Tanu Gago, Jermaine Dean
Chaired by Ema Tavola

In recent years, FAFSWAG events have been predominantly framed around a discourse about ‘safe space’. In acknowledging the existence of safe space, there is a dual acknowledgement of unsafe space. As Queer artists of colour, the prevalence of this reality and its subsequent impact on the way people are allowed to occupy space has meant that the role of community engagement within the arts carries with it responsibilities outside of simply presenting an audience with work.

But who really operates in this way outside of those who know first-hand what it’s like to find yourself in an unsafe space? How are we building the resilience of our communities to command and demand space that holds at its core the ideological values held and practiced within our own homes, cultural spaces and social groups? What is the role of community in collective practice and what does this look like in real-world terms?

Image: Raymond Sagapolutele


Image: Julie Zhu 


WORKSHOP SERIES 1 |Talking Heads: A photography workshop 

Jermain Dean + Sione Monu + Pati Solomona Tyrell

Photography is a large part of FAFSWAG as it’s our way to tell our stories. As part of the TALKING HEADS workshop series Jermaine Dean and Sione Monu placed participants into two groups, one responsible for setting up the lighting equipment and the other to design a scenario using available set props. Each of the participants were given a provocation to write out their stories in a single quote and to use their bodies to tell a story within an image. From there each person posed for a photoshoot. These collaborative images are the result of this exercise and can be viewed below.

Images: Jermaine Dean

Images: Julie Zhu 

WORKSHOP SERIES 2 | Future Pathways: Business solutions for creative practitioners

Tim Swann + Ilalio Loau + Tanu Gago

Business strategist and virtual CEO for Hatch Tim Swann facilitated a workshop discussion about potential pathways for diversifying your creative practice. Here is a list of resources for artist seeking some business solutions for their creative practice. Along with some up an coming events built for creative seeking to pursue new development space including tech and innovation and social enterprise. Lastly there is a list of resources shared from our participants of the workshop.


“It’s exciting to be able to support the excellence that already exists within the Pacific arts community and help translate that into dollar bills. Leaving the islands was an exercise of courage and curiosity, and business can be approached in the same way. Artists need to be in charge of all of their practice, from the lighting in a shoot, to the phrasing of a line of poetry, to who is making bank of their creative IP. You don’t have to be experts in everything but we’re just keen to provide the space for those who want to start asking those questions.”






Thank you to Pantograph Punch for creating this opportunity and helping us to drive this project and make it all happen. Thank you Q Theatre for hosting the gang and offering us the entire building to host our guests. Thank you to Auckland Council for the financial support to see projects like this come to fruition. Thank you to Pacific Island Business Trust for partnering with FAFSWAG to offer resources for our community of entrepreneurs and aspiring artist. Thank you to Blue Rose Cafe for catering and nourishing our guests. Lastly thank you to all the following companies for your contributions to the day, Eighthirty Coffee Roasters, and Karma Cola, ya’ll are awesome.

Special thanks to Rosabel Tan, Lana Lopesi, Ema Tavola, Julie Zhu, Suren Unka, FAFSWAG Artist.

Images: Julie Zhu


Image: Jermaine Dean

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s