Kelsi Tulafono

Kelsi Tulafono

Artist
Master of Visual Arts
Bachelor of Art and Design (Honours)
Bachelor of Visual Arts

Tokelauan, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kuri, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei

Studying visual arts was the best decision she made, says AUT art and design alumna Kelsi Tulafono.

“In high school, I was always the one with the digital camera, documenting us hanging out on the court, all our shared lunches and our school events. I was interested in documenting moments of time, and being able to look back on them whenever I wanted. I went into university thinking my focus was photography, and then found my moving image based practice.”

Kelsi says the visual arts lecturers helped push her out of her comfort zone and develop who she is as an artist.

“During my first interview to get into AUT the lecturers broke down the visual arts programme for me. I liked the idea of trying different disciplines in the first year before choosing what you major in. In saying that, just because you chose one discipline doesn’t mean you have to stick to that particular one. You can mix sculpture with painting if that’s the best way to explore your art ideas.”

A space to create and make art
Kelsi loved being able to make art about her family, for her family.

“My art practice focuses on our family stories, land, experiences and our Tokelauan heritage. AUT had all the resources I needed to document, edit and display these stories. I’m most proud of the development of my art knowledge and art practice throughout university.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to share some of these stories in different galleries, including Artspace Aotearoa, the Sanderson Art Gallery and the Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku. I’m also proud that the visual arts staff nominated me for a Glaister Ennor Postgraduate Award in 2017.”

She enjoyed working in a studio environment throughout her studies.

“Having a space where you can create, study, eat or even just hang out with your peers is awesome. When I was completing my master’s degree, we spent a lot of late nights writing our exegesis with snacks and the music blasting. The academic staff will help you every step of the way, only a text or email away if you ever need them.”

Advice for other students
Kelsi’s advice to other students is simple – art is whatever you make it.

“Don’t doubt the small ideas you may think aren’t important; they could be the game changer to your art practice.”

She would also advise students to make the most of opportunities to meet other people, and to apply for scholarships.

“The biggest challenge going into university is not knowing everyone. A word of advice: Go to orientation day and go to student gatherings – this is how you meet new people and make friends for life. It’s also a way to get to know who you’ll be working with for the next few years.

“I would also advise applying for scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships out there, especially if you’re Māori or Pacific. Art making can be expensive, so use all the resources you can find,” says Kelsi who received a Henry Wilson Pasifika Scholarship (Art and Design), which covered the tuition fees for her master’s degree.