With a vague connection to my historic Dunedin research, and through the good graces of the @AirpointsFairy , a few weeks back I found myself at the last rugby test match to be played at Carisbrook in Dunedin. I have to say I am NOT a huge sports fan and have only ever been to Carisbrook once before – a cricket test match in the 1980’s. As for rugby, I used to hold season tickets to Athletic Park and happened to be at the last test match played there too (Its been suggested I am death to international rugby grounds).
Poor photo but I think it captures the spirit of the event – and the stuff you don’t see on TV
Anyway – while I was sitting in the stand feeling like a fish out of water (and while making interesting observations about crowd dynamics*), I tried to make a few arts connections to the ground. There seemed to be quite a few literary ones – Brian Turner wrote about it as just one example. I got to thinking about sports people and art. Stereotypically there is not usually a lot of cross-over, which is why my lazy “go to guy” for rugby/art connections is Anton Oliver. I figured there must be more and after a bit of hunting around I came up with this poignant little interview with Kees Meeuws who started a Fine Arts degree at Elam. And then someone suggested Neemia Tialata to me. (Is the art connection a front row thing I began to wonder**?)
Anyway – through the magic of the internet the man himself consented to do a little email question and answer session with me as follows:
A&ML: I read that you had an interest in creative subjects when going through school and were working on a Diploma in Visual arts. Did you manage to complete your diploma alongside your sporting commitments?
NT: Yes I love being creative. I still have a year to do on my diploma, I had to pull out on my last year because it’s quite demanding with rugby being full-on but I will go back and finish it one day.
A&ML: I’ve seen some of your graphic design work including T-shirts created to raise funds following the tsunami in Samoa and your tattoo designs [also clothing]. Does your role as a professional sportsman leave much time for creative work these days?
NT: Yes, now days I spend most of my time designing and creating on my laptop which comes quite handy being on the road a lot with rugby and it’s a great way to get my head away from rugby every now and then.
A&ML: Have the constraints of your ‘day job’ turned you into more of an arts viewer than a creator and enabled you to see more art around New Zealand and internationally, for example your visit to see da Vinci’s Last Supper in Italy last year?
NT: Yeah I guess so. I’ve been very fortunate to travel around the world seeing lots of different art/architect/landscape etc places like Italy,France,London and many more where it all originated from. Has made me appreciate Art a lot more.
A&ML: Do you feel that art provides a balance to the physicality of professional rugby?
NT: I think anything you love and enjoy outside of your profession brings balance to what ever you do. It sure does help me stay focus and motivated with rugby when I’m fresh mentally and physically.
A&ML: A clichéd question, but what art inspirers and/or influences you? Any specific styles or particular artists?
NT: I do like and support all New Zealand artists, the likes of Michael Tuffery, Ralph Hotere, Nigel Brown, just because I studied them all and many more during my college years.
A&ML: Do you see the arts playing a part in an ‘after rugby’ career?
NT: Yes I definitely will go back and complete my last year with my arts then a year at teachers college and hopefully one day teach art and working with kids…
Thanks so much Neemia Tialata for doing this interview!
Recently I’ve come across a lot of people who find Art boring and inaccessible, and yet you can see here, that the universality of the art experience can range from me here at my suburban kitchen table to the front row of an international rugby scrum.
*Interesting that when told NOT to throw plastic bottles in the air during Mexican wave, even the well dressed middle-aged man next to me in the main stand immediately did so.
** My partner, who has a strong appreciation for the arts, is also a prop
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