Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Arts

Mapping Creative Hustle



My name is Ema Tavola and I’ve been working on an off for the last five years as a freelance creative. Before that, I had worked in a full-time salaried role but I became frustrated that my creative vision and ethical position started to conflict with that path in life. I made the decision to begin marketing my creative skills as a sole trader, committing a huge amount of faith to the unknown potential of being a freelance curator, project manager and creative hustler!

I’ve been living in South Auckland for 17 years and this environment has shaped my worldview, my craft and my career. I love what I do, and I know that a creative life is definitely my calling. The path of the creative entrepreneur is incredibly fulfilling but there are some common challenges we can face when it comes to trying to generate a sustainable livelihood. I wanted to find out more about the community of creative entrepreneurs in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area – what drives us, what sustains us and what would help us thrive. 

Mapping Creative Hustle is a series of conversations with inspiring creative entrepreneurs who are making work, telling stories, generating revenue and representing the Southside in everything they do. These interviews offer readers insights into the thinking and struggles that underpin our local creative economy.   

This project represents a long-time collaborative relationship I’ve had with Māngere-based photographer, Vinesh Kumaran. He was not only interviewed as one of the most astute creative business minds I know but devised a plan to create a series of beautiful portraits capturing the essence of each creative entrepreneur. 
Mapping Creative Hustle has been produced with support from Māngere Ōtāhuhu Arts and would not have been possible without the contributions of the following people:  

Assistant/Intern: Ella Carling
Photography: Vinesh Kumaran
Photography assist: Gavin McGregor
Hair and Make-up: Annette Oliver
Interviewees: Melissa Cole, Justin Haiu, Vinesh Kumaran, Andy Leleisi’uao, Vea Mafile’o & Jeremiah Tauamiti, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai, Qiane Matata-Sipu, Faanati Mamea, Michel Mulipola, Faiumu Matthew Salapu.