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On panic attacks in gallery bathrooms: Farewell to Papakura

I think I had a panic attack yesterday, I can’t be sure because I’ve never had one before. In my new role as an intern in a gallery that everybody knows I had this horrible moment. I felt like this huge waste of space in this intellectual bubble that was the gallery’s shared office, that of course is filled with very intellectual beings. My chest felt tight, I stood up walked to the bathroom and cried.

When public programming goes array it can happen in the most meaningful way. This happened at the recent film night for the exhibition ‘Urban Drift’ at Papakura Art Gallery. A total of three people came to the film night, which might seem like a huge failure, but they were great company. We watched the films, ate popcorn then had an engaging conversation, which wouldn’t of been able to happen with a group any bigger. When we were wrapping things up Henry the cleaner (who I have never met before in my time at Papakura) came in with his staff and a couple members of his family who had come out of boredom. We shared our juice and egg sandwiches, they shared their fish n chips (which was way more delicious!). We played a short film titled ‘Feilaulau’ for the young Tongan couple and Henry about two Tongan brothers who were school cleaners. As I witnessed their laughter and nods of serious agreement while watching the film. I decided I didn’t care if large groups didn’t come to see the films, this young couple was the real deal and this film was for them. It was just right.

Unlike this failure turned genuine interaction, that allowed something to happen that could never have occurred if the film night didn’t fail in the first place. Fear of not meeting expectations of the people around me is something I struggle with. This is a fear of a type of failure, but not failure itself because I of course understand projects fail.

To be honest I’m just really going to miss the humble gallery of my home town, Papakura. Although the community we cater for might not come from a fine arts background their engagement within the gallery is just as important to me if not more so than that of well known curators and art folk. I’m going to miss the locals telling me about how a photograph reminds them of their own personal histories. As well as the children that make me cards and tell me how much they love art. Papakura Art Gallery wasn’t all perfect but it was all good. The community of Papakura has taught me more about engaging audiences than any academic could and for that I am thankful.

Starting this new journey is really scary. But imagine a time when I can reflect on this internship and share the experiences that made it worthwhile.

Louisa Afoa

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1 Comment

  1. helen jansen says

    we miss you too Louisa and you have made the gallery part of what it is now and proud to be called the local art space of this place…your first step in your enlighting world

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