Talanoa: Cerisse Palalagi

“I view my works as an acknowledgment of urban gentrification, community arts and my lived experience as a Niuean/Maori Pacifican within the Hip Hop culture of Aotearoa.” ~ Cerisse Palalagi

South Auckland artist Cerisse Palalagi is of Niuean and Maori (Te Arawa and Ngai Te Rangi) descent.

“Her work reflects her mixed heritage; she is Te Arawa and Ngai Te Rangi through her Mother and from Tuapa village, Niue through her father. The strong visual vernacular of both cultures is merged in her delicate and multi-layered prints.” ~ via okaioceanikart  gallery

Cerisse has been selected to participant in the Emerging Indigenous Voices: A New Generation of Artists Programme. The first art residency was at the San Francisco State University in July.

I talanoa with Cerisse about what made her become an artist, the challenges she’s faced, her recent residency in San Francisco and her new found love for social networking sites like Twitter and Tumblr.

Walk it Owt | Cerisse Palalagi | 2010 | 1830x1500mm, ink + marker pen on paper. Exhibited at Native Coconut, 18 June – 12 July, 2010 at Fresh Gallery Otara. Photograph by Ema Tavola. This work reflects the tensions of space, being both Maori and Pacific / Maori in Pacific contexts and Pacific in Maori contexts, cultural duality and acceptance. “This is like my ideal personal flag representing my mixed nationalities of Niuean & Maori culture.” ~ Cerisse Palalagi

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became an artist
It started back in high school. I had a really supportive printmaking teacher called Amanda Bade. She recognised that I had ‘something’ lol, and she entered one of my prints into an exhibition for secondary schools, and I won. The award was a scholarship to attend ASA art school. However this wasn’t meant to be, as she made me fill out an application form to the Elam School of Fine arts at the University of Auckland.

She asked me what I wanted to do after high school, I told her that I was going to find a job like everyone else haha.

I got accepted into Elam and that was it from there, self made artist ever since. Shout out to Ms. Bade!

What challenges have you faced, and what advice would you have for aspiring Pacific?
The challenge I’ve found is that the creative path is definitely not the easiest path to take e.g. money wise.

You really have to be on top of your game and constantly push yourself to do shows, make work, and get involved in the arts community. Networking is the key.

Know who your peers are and what projects are going on, you cannot afford to let opportunities to pass you by as life is just too damn short.

My advice to other up and coming artists or anyone interested in taking up the creative path is to document your work well. Keep hi res. & low res. Copies of of your work.

If you’re looking at being represented by a gallery do your homework and have a good look around, research your potentials. & most importantly, learn the business side of the game; this is essential if you are keen to get that money 🙂

Also, try alternative methods of getting your art out there, e.g. publish your work on a blog, Facebook, and website. Flood the web with your presence I say.

Can you give us a little insight into your creative – how do you first approach a new project? What favourite materials and tools do you use?
Favourite materials: My Arts background is grounded in printmaking, primarily silkscreen print and linocuts.

In my current project, my new favourite medium to work with is my iPhone. I use the Twitter and Instagram apps. to create works. I find tweets that are relevant to themes I am exploring eg. Fobs, I will then put that word into the twitter search and then I read through the tweets that come up with the word fobs in the tweet.

I then make a screen shot of the tweet with my phone and then upload it into the Instagram app, from here I have the option of posting it to my Tumblr blog http://ghettonerd.tumblr.com/ and Twitter.

Now following @urbanviti lol throw the jandal Dulcieee :D  (Taken with instagram)Screen shot and image of  “Now following @urbanviti lol throw the jandal Dulcieee :D” via Cerisse Palalagi’s Tumblr: Ghettonerd

I enjoy working in this way as I can do it at home in my kitchen, lounge or anywhere with wifi. All in the palm of my hand, and it can instantly be seen by hundreds of people within a matter of minutes.

My audience consists of my followers on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Pretty cool if I say so myself lol.

In my current work I’m exploring poly slang & how we (Islanders & Maoris) mix English with Sa/Tongan/Maori /Niuean e.t.c… to form a new lingo, kind of like a hybrid language 🙂

Twitter is my research field and I’ve planted my eyes smack dab in the centre of it, #Loves!

There are Polynesians and Maoris on there from all the around the world, and its awesome to share our stories about life, childhood memories, and a vast range of other juicy topics. It really is endless and I feel like my twitter fam is truly my extended family, nothing but love up in there.

#Uknowursavagewen yor nana schools you on the dance floor via Cerisse Palalagi’s Tumblr: Ghettonerd

Do other art forms or artists in different disciplines inspire or have influenced you and how?
Janet Lilo: Definitely sparked my initial foray into the realm of internet/ digital based works. Her show Top 16 was so awesome I honestly never saw anything like it before.

I knew I wanted to go down a similar path once I saw that show at different venues as well. Shes super talented and very very humble, also insanely funny without even trying lol.

Those works were about youth of Aotearoa yet she crossed boundaries and it had a global reach and appeal, that’s the aspect I really try to involve and place in my work. Local yet Global #Loves!

The Internet has seemingly made it more easy for artists, writers and musicians to share their work with the world. Do you think the Internet has created possibilities for Pacific artists?
An infinite amount of possibilities and I don’t even know where to begin.

Networking, connecting with other artists overseas, the list really is endless.

Congrats on the residency in San Francisco. Tell us a little about the residency and what you got up to?
Thirteen artists were selected for the The Emerging Indigenous Voices: A New Generation of Artists residency, which is a three-tier project based on the campus of San Francisco State University (SFSU).

The selection was based upon the criteria that our work is  influenced by  hip-hop subculture, urban and political art such as printmaking, graffiti, media and mural painting.

Artists represented the following tribes/nations/race/elasticities:
American Indians (Ojibwe; Navajo; Colville; Seneca), First Nations (Métis), Native Hawaiians, Tongan, Maori , Niuean, Chicano and Puerto Rican.

Tier 1: Two week Artists’ Gathering in San Francisco – summer 2011: Our first days few days together were spent at the Cesar Chavez institute, where we had a workshops and panel discussions.We were also shown how to work with museum collections, as well as attend workshops on professional development & indigenous knowledge & the arts.  during the remainder of the 2-week gathering, we spent time in the studio and in The mission on 24th street, working alongside our peers creating a mural. Our  experience ended  with an open studio event and reception inviting funders and others from the San Francisco art community.

Tier 2: Interim mentoring & capacity building: This tier includes online learning, through webinars covering topics on professional development and other topics related to art and culture.

Tier 3: Artist-in-residency – Summer 2012: On the Island of Maui, this will include a week-long cultural immersion segment with the help of our Maui partners, followed by intense open studio with the focus on printmaking, stencil and mural painting, along with media art and other art mediums. This tier design is based on our original project plan.

This video was made by the homie Kewana Duncan  about the prints we made at the San Fransisco State University.

And this one is about our first trip to The Mission J.

Once the residency had finished, I travelled across the Bay to Oakland with my bro’s  Jeremy Arviso, Cory Taum & Kewana Duncan. In our short time there (3 days) Kewana and I stayed with an amazing couple, Melanie Cervantes & Jesus Barraza, both practicing artists & the bomb printmakers.

The four of us were able to help create a mural with some of the Art tutors from the Eastside Arts Alliance on International Boulevard, in Oakland,

Much thanks to Jesus Barraza and Leslie Lopez and the Eastside Arts Alliance that organised this all within the space of a day.

Also, Jesus printed up a series of prints that Cory, Kewana & myself had designed. My print was titled ‘Rise Up’. I wished we were able to stay just one more day.

Rise Up |Cerisse Palalagi | 2011. Cerisse with Jesus Barraza. Photograph by Melanie Cervantes

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
To produce a series of political posters with East Oakland artist Faviana Rodriguez.

Also do a Mural project with Vaimoana Niumeitolu (TONGA via NYC), Retna(LA), Prime808 (HI), Estria (SF),  Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (HI) & Finer (NZ) .

What are you currently working on and your future goals?
I am currently writing up a draft copy of my exegesis which is the core of my post graduate degree.  Its pretty intense, but I’m beginning to understand that the more I write about my project, the more informed I am about my own arts practice and the importance of telling your story.

I have many future goals.. So I will just give you a list of things in no particular order:

Write up a business plan, Learn how to DJ, Create my own line of jewellery, Be invited on Artist residencies (at least once a year), Learn the art of  tattooing, Create my own website, Paint murals in Aotearoa &  around the world.

Vinaka Cee! Hope to meet up with you in October instead of just on Twitter and Tumblr 🙂

Interview conducted via email June – August , 2011. Images courtesy of Cerisse Palalagi.

Cerisse Palalagi on the kokonut wireless:

Tumblr: http://ghettonerd.tumblr.com/

Twitter: @CER1SSE

Instagr.am:  http://web.stagram.com/n/cer1sse/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/ceez.up

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/ghettonerd

Memolane: http://memolane.com/cer1sse

Further Reading:

Emerging Indigenous Voices: A New Generation of Artists Programme

Interview with Spasifik magazine: Emerging With A Niuean Influence (June, 2011)

Interview with Grapevine Ink: Cerisse Palalagi Fresh Pattern x Print Community Revival (May, 2010)

Cerisse Palalagi: Motunei 2010 Exhibition at City Gallery Wellington in New Zealand

Cerisse Palalagi artist profile on okaioceanikart  gallery website


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