On The Rise – Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

JUANITA-LOUISA KARORA, NANCY ZHANG and RICHARD ROBINSON may champion different creative disciplines (fashion, photography and visual art) but they have some important THINGS IN COMMON – they’re fresh new voices in Tauranga’s art scene, they’re AWARD-WINNING ARTISTS and they’re all about to graduate with the Bachelor of Creative Industries from Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

WORDS BY LORETTA CRAWFORD PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD ROBINSON AND SCOTT BOARDMAN

We caught up with the trio on finding themselves creatively, and winning awards before they’ve even graduated.

JUANITA-LOUISA KARORA – VISUAL ART / AGE: 21 / AWARDS: THE MAYOR’S AWARD FOR EMERGING ARTIST

When Juanita-Louisa Karora signed up to tertiary study, she came in thinking she would be a fashion designer. As she progressed through her degree, the former Mount Maunganui College student found it was visual art that was her true passion.

“I switched majors partway through – I realised I wanted to use my creative skills in various areas and develop my practice as a moving image artist.”

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Juanita-Louisa’s exhibit ‘77x’ is a collection of photographs and slideshows that explores her Polynesian roots with an organic, feminine sensibility. The collection was stand-out and won her the Mayor’s Award for Emerging Artist at the 2016 Miles Art Awards.

“My focus right now is about the search for identity and the individual’s connection to the earth. But I want my practice to be expansive; I want to collaborate with artists who create interesting conversations in a range of mediums.”

Another of her passions is Tauranga and helping to revitalise the art in the area.

“Places like Auckland and Wellington have such established art scenes. I think we are getting there but there’s so much more we can do to establish this city as an arts hub.”

 

NANCY ZHANG – FASHION / AGE: 24 / AWARDS: THE ‘WHITE WILLOW COLLECTION’ AWARD, HONOKUI FASHION DESIGN / FACEBOOK.COM/LANXIN.ZHANG

Nancy Zhang has had to overcome barriers many of us couldn’t fathom – she came to New Zealand from China at the age of 14 without knowing a word of English.

“There were definitely some miscommunications at the beginning,” she recalls with a laugh. “But I had a great host family and I got there in the end.”

Having originally wanting to be a stylist, Nancy signed up to major in fashion.

“I figured it would help my career aspirations to know the mechanics of making garments. I never dreamed that I would actually end up being a designer myself.”

Thankfully for the world of fashion, Nancy did try her hand at design and was awarded the White Willow Collection Award for her FUNFUR collection at the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards in July.

The collection is chic and playful; a blend of fur and leather inspired by pop culture icons G-Dragon (a Korean pop singer) and Italian stylist Anna Dello Russo.

“As a designer you have to have your finger on the pulse, you have to be faster than everyone else. But you also have to stay true to yourself.”

RICHARD ROBINSON – PHOTOGRAPHY / AGE: 26 / AWARDS: THE ALF RENDELL SCHOLARSHIP / RICHARDROBINSONPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

Sometimes a chance encounter is all it takes to discover our passion. For Richard Robinson, it was picking up a camera just four years ago.

“I didn’t know anything about photography,” he recalls. “But when I started taking photos I knew I’d found my thing.”

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He enrolled in a one-year art certificate at the Polytechnic and followed it up with a Bachelor of Creative Industries where he has gone from strength to strength. Richard’s work is all about catching people in a candid, honest way rather than in staged settings. He specialises in events and evocative, intimate portraits of musicians and bands.

“Finding my niche has meant I know exactly who I am as a photographer. My degree has helped me in that discovery.”

And it seems the rest of the world agrees – he has been inundated with gigs like TedX Tauranga, the Little Big Markets and has been signed up to cover the Vegan Vibes festival and Christmas in the Park.

Crossing the graduation stage this December will be the culmination of three years’ hard work and self-discovery. But Richard will carry with him the best piece of advice he has learned to date:

“Learn the rules. Then break them.”

Interested in studying? BOPPOLY.AC.NZ