Torika Bolatagici’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Melbourne-based Pacific artist Torika Bolatagici shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Coming to Barbados with three main goals in mind – to understand the local arts ecology, meet contemporary Barbadian artists and make new work – Torika has spent the first week acclimatizing to both the physical and intangible environment of the country, drawing connections between the region and the Pacific islands and delving into the Colleen Lewis Reading Room to continue her research on contemporary Caribbean art. Read more below:

I am still processing my first week in Barbados. The past 7 days have been a chaotic and exciting mix of books, sweat, introductions, discoveries and breastfeeds in air-conditioned hire cars. Like previous resident Halcyon Macleod, the journey from Australia was a long series of delays and missed connections, and we also lost our portacot. But 7-days in and we’re starting to find our flow here. This week I swam in the Caribbean Sea and dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. I have explored the east coast to Bath Beach and the west coast as far as St. Peter, and I learned a new word – plantocracy.

So, I arrived at Fresh Milk with three main goals; to understand the arts ecology here; meet contemporary Barbadian artists and make new work.

On my first day in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, Annalee gave me a tour of the collection. It was so wonderful to finally be able to read publications I have only seen from afar including the early issues of ARC Magazine, Pictures from Paradise and See Me Here. ARC magazine was the main influence when I initiated the publication Mana Motu for the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival in Australia. I have admired the work of Fresh Milk from a distance for some time and am eager to know more about how the space has developed and to find out more about arts education here.

I have a thing for Reading Rooms and art libraries. In 2011 I spent a couple of weeks at the Stuart Hall library at the Institute of International Visual Arts. As a result of that experience, I created the pop-up Community Reading Room in Melbourne, using my own collection. When I found out (via ARC) about the Colleen Lewis Reading Room Residency, I knew immediately that it was a space I wanted to engage with.

I have spent my first week getting acquainted with the collection in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, in an effort to understand the development of the local arts ecology. The collection is incredible, and during my 4 week residency, I will just be able to scratch the surface.

Some of the main texts I have been looking at this week are:

  • Art in Barbados: What Kind of Mirror Image?
  • Caribbean Distpatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream
  • Caribbean: Crossroads of the World
  • Curating in the Caribbean
  • Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of “Over the Hill”: Nassau in the Independence Era
  • How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness
  • Paulo Nazareth
  • Pictures from Paradise
  • See Me Here

I came to Barbados with a desire to identify points of connection, overlap and departure between the island cultures of Barbados and Fiji. There was an instant feeling of familiarity stepping into the thick humidity of Grantley Adams International airport last Saturday, and although I travel frequently to Fiji, I think it has taken me a week to acclimatize to Barbadian heat. Annalee and Katherine, have made me (and my family) feel so welcome at Fresh Milk and I look forward to chatting with them about their respective practices.  Another highlight has been meeting local artist Anisah Wood, whose work I find compelling.

Anisah and I spent Day 2 getting to know each other and our conversation covered matters of indigeneity and belonging; deculturation, transculturation  and assimilation; migration; climate change; national identity; local politics; Indonesia and West Papua ; The Dominican Republic and Haiti; foreign investment and student loans. I’m learning so much from Anisah, including how to play the game warri as a part of her Quid Pro Quo residency outreach and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next 3 sessions unfold. I’ll be leading a session in the final week of my residency.

And so I am discovering that there are some obvious similarities between Fiji and Barbados. Colonial history. Indentured labour. A sugar industry. Tourism. Rum. Protex. Mahogany. Coconut water. Expats. Poverty. At the moment I am reading more about the military history of Barbados. One thing that frames my experience of Fiji, is the overt presence of militarism. My practice-based PhD explored the spaces in which the dialectics of race, embodiment, masculinity, globalisation, militarism, colonialism and agency meet, diverge and collide in a Fijian context. So I am intrigued by the size and invisibility of the Barbados Defence Force… this is an area I want to explore further in the coming weeks…



This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Fresh Milk welcomes Torika Bolatagici

Fresh Milk is very excited to welcome Australia-based, Pacific artist Torika Bolatagici to the platform. She will be in residence with us from June 6 – July 1, 2016.

Protect Me, Digital print on flex, 2010

Protect Me, Digital print on flex, 2010

Torika’s  interdisciplinary practice investigates the relationships between visual culture, human ecologies and contemporary Pacific identities. During her time in Barbados, Torika will be undertaking a research-based residency, largely involving engagement with local artists and conducting research in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room (CLRR). She is particularly interested in identifying opportunities to connect Caribbean and Pacific artists whose work might  intersect along lines of reflection on culture, identity, place and space within a postcolonial framework.

In 2013, Torika established an initiative called the Community Reading Room; a pop-up destination for research, community discussion and engagement around international visual arts and culture, with a particular focus on contemporary art and theory from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. Many of the texts deal with postcolonial art, literature and philosophy, visual culture, migration, citizenship and cultural identity. As well as spending time researching the collection in the CLRR, she will be investigating points of synergy and opportunities for collaboration and exchange between the two spaces.

Torika will give a public presentation at Fresh Milk about the work of Contemporary Pacific artists from Australia and New Zealand, as well as her own practice. Stay tuned for more details about the date & time for this event!



About Torika Bolatagici:

Torika Bolatagici was born in Tasmania and spent the early years of her life living between Hobart, Sydney and her father’s village – Suvavou, Fiji.

Torika works across a range of media, including photography, video and mixed media site-specific installation.  Her interdisciplinary practice investigates the relationship between visual culture, human ecology, postcolonial counter narrative and visual historiography of the Black Pacific. She is interested in exploring the tensions and intersections between gender, embodied knowledge, commodification, migration and globalization.

Torika’s work has been exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Yogyakarta and throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand and Australia. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at local and international conferences and symposia about the representation of mixed-race identity; Pacific arts practice in Australia and Fiji; representations of teachers and teaching in cinema; and gender and militarism in the Pacific.

In her role as Symposium coordinator for the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival in 2013 and 2014, Torika curated multiple panels to extend the discourse around contemporary Pacific arts practice in Australia and invited speakers to reflect on themes such as art and activism, museums, collecting and curating, cultural appropriation and contemporary practice. She also produced the symposium publication Mana Motu.

As well as 11 years experience teaching at tertiary level, Torika also has experience facilitating youth arts workshops for the local Pacific community, most recently the Pacific Photobook Project in Melbourne and Sydney.

Torika also presents the Community Reading Room – a pop-up destination for research, community discussion and engagement around international visual arts and culture, with a particular focus on contemporary art and theory from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. The Community Reading Room has appeared at Colour Box Studio (2013) and the Footscray Community Arts Centre (2014).

Torika is a photography lecturer in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Melbourne where she teaches contemporary theory and practice. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the School of Art and Design, University of New South Wales.



This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.