Meeting Elisabeth Kumaran, a Manurewa-based visual artist


Recently I've started going to weekly yoga classes at Nathan Homestead — a venue not far from my house, which is well-known for its support for arts and culture. One day before my yoga class started I noticed a new exhibition had opened in the room next door. I popped in to take a look and was very impressed with the works of the ManaRewa Collective in their This Is Love exhibition. I spoke with one of the artists, Elisabeth Kumaran, about her installation and her interest in art.

How would you describe your art work? What sort of work do you predominantly create?

My art work Manurewa Rocks is made of small pebble-sized rocks with the individual letters of the English alphabet painted on. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the work by sitting on the fala (flax mat) and spelling out words of what they love about the Manurewa community.

My work tends to take form of 3D or sculptural pieces, or installation-type works. I love the medium of words and text and playing with words. I use English and/or Samoan words in my works. 

How did you become interested in the creative world? How long have you been creating?

God has gifted me with the art of creativity and it's something I have always enjoyed doing since I was small. I took painting and printmaking in high school and continued by studying the Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at the University of Auckland, which was offered at the Manukau Institute of Technology. I graduated in 2006 and have since exhibited work in galleries and shows in Auckland, Wellington, and Fiji.

Your work is currently featured in the This Is Love exhibition as part of the ManaRewa Collective. How did you get involved with this group and can you describe the latest exhibition a bit?

ManaRewa Collective was formed in 2015, when myself and two other local artists (photographers) met at Nathan Homestead and the conversation grew into, “Hey, we should start up a group network for all local Manurewa visual artists.” Through our networks we got the group together. Our first exhibitions were Home; Aiga/Family; and the latest one is This Is Love

Manurewa receives a lot of bad publicity and we wanted to bring out the positives of the community through our collective. This Is Love is an expression of what each artist loves about Manurewa. Alongside the exhibition opening, we had a children's workshop where we provided rocks and markers and children (and adults) could draw on the rocks and take them home with them.

Are you working on any projects at the moment? Can you describe them?

I like to put together workshops as I get to meet people in different communities and being able to share my knowledge and experience with others is really rewarding. I have hosted a t-shirt printing workshop previously. Through ManaRewa, we have hosted workshops such as Make your own memory jar, Design your own flag, and Decorate your own photo frames. I plan to do more community-engaged events around Auckland.

Do you have a big goal in mind of where you'd like to see your work showcased?

I would like to exhibit more in galleries as well as pop-up spaces. The bigger goal would be to show my work in Samoa.

For people wanting to see more of your work, or learn more about what you do, where should they go?

I am putting together my artist Facebook page - so watch this space!

Lara WyattRad People