Andy Leleisi'uao: Mangere Aroha

8 March - 4 May 2018 Bergman Gallery, Rarotonga

Opening Speakers:

Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand & Minister of Arts Culture & Heritage
Andy Leleisi’uao, Artist

Anthony Wright, Director Canterbury Museum

If you alphabetically consider all the first lines of Emily Dickinson's poems, the very last one asks, You've seen balloons set, haven't you? I recalled that question at Mangere's People Centre in Mangere when I previewed Andy Leleisi'uao's largest public painting.


Titled Mangere Aroha, it has to be one of the most extraordinary murals created for a Manukau City site since Ralph Hotere's own Godwit - Kuaka mural, made for the arrivals lounge of Auckland International Airport (Chartwell collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki). Mangere Aroha was rejected by its commissioners as being both too expressive and too visually powerful for its planned public location. Red and white flame-like vapours cover Andy's Mangere Aroha. Not the clouds we see in John Pule's work or the speech balloons of McCahon's early paintings but tough gaseous entities exuding ethers created from human relationships. Harpies and devils, angels and erotes (Greek Gods of Love) inhabit this painting's complex population. Here, there are no images of any one particular Pacific ethnicity but a confluence of such ethnicities. Janus-headed figures appear like silhouetted plant forms ranging across the near 16 metres of the mural.

The City of Manukau has quantified its own make-up as a mix of '165 different ethnic groups' while also having the largest Māori and Pacific population of any New Zealand city. This is the true migrant reality that Mangere Aroha seeks to affirm. Andy's prescient talent for seeing who we are, what we are like and what we do is a signature of his art. By revealing the ways that the effects of migration still exist within us, he symbolizes an essential characteristic of our culture.

Ron Brownson, Senior Curator, New Zealand & Pacific Art, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O Tamaki.