Fabulous frocks! A bit of politics! Lots of tattoos + a flash of flesh!

5 05 2011

Suzanne Tamaki is a Wellington-based event producer and visual artist here in South Auckland for Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik – a stand-out event in the Pacific Arts Summit programme. We have a chat with Suzanne about the history of the Pacific Sisters collective and this weekend’s show…


Tell us about yourself and your background…

I currently have a full-time position at Te Papa in Wellington as an Events Producer. I have my own label, Native Sista, and have worked as a freelance fashion show coordinator since 1991, which is when Pacific Sisters was formed.

What was the beginnings of Pacific Sisters?

In ’91, me and Selina Forsyth set up a warehouse in Nelson Street (Central Auckland) and had our first show, Te Hau Wairua Wahine at the Powerstation, and Rosanna Raymond was our MC. Ani O’Neill was still at Elam School of Fine Arts and was a model in the show. The show was so great and the energy was amazing. We did a couple more shows, we got on really well and decided to set up a collective, which is when Pacific Sisters formed. We combined all our energy and knowledge to create platforms for Maori and Pacific artists, performers, musicians, designers and gorgeous people.


The warehouse we set up was our base; we used to throw warehouse parties to help pay the rent. Artists like Te Kupu, Lei’d Lee, Dubhead and Tutuevera Evans would perform for us, and we’d have a cash bar, they were really great nights, lots of fun. But then we spent the money on fabric instead of rent and got kicked out, so then we moved into Rosanna’s warehouse!

When did the collective formally start working as the Pacific Sisters?

We did a lot of shows starting in 1992, quite a few in South Auckland. We did a few City shows, warehouse parties, we did stuff for Workshop and Wella Fashion – there was no Style Pasifika back then. Rosanna established a relationship with Auckland City Council to do a big Pacific fashion event, along with Feeonaa Wall, and Style Pasifika was born.

It was held in Chase Plaza and it was ah-mayzing, just packed. People started to really pay attention to Pacific fashion… they realised that it was edgy and relevant and lots of people wanted to be a part of it. It came from a place that was local, but more honest than anything on the international market. We were trying to show that we didn’t have to wear American labels, we could create our own.

So, tell us about this weekend’s event!

It has been a really fun and awesome catch up, bringing all our new styles that we’re all making, but still blending together really well. That dynamic is still there, and the fun… we’ve all matured so much, and bring a lot of really great skills back into the collaboration. We’re looking forward to being back on our stomping ground and showing something stunning! We’re still here and we still kick ass!!

What’s special about presenting this show in South Auckland?

I think that Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku is gorgeous, it’s such a lovely venue to work in. We’re rapped to be there. We’ve done shows where the backstage was a toilet with no lights, so this is glamour! There’s good support around the event, everyone wants to help. There’s a really genuine excitement and enthusiasm from the Mangere crew.

And what can audiences look forward to?

Fabulous frocks! A bit of politics! Lots of tattoos… a flash of flesh… New Zealand sounds, lots of kaupapa and… a few scary moments!! So be prepared if you’re bringing your kids!

Vinaka vakalevu Suzanne and the Sisters! Can’t wait!!

What: Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik
Where: Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku
When: 7pm, Saturday 7 May
Tickets: $10 from Fresh Gallery Otara + Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku

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