Local Produce: Rosie Roaché

Local Produce: Rosie Roaché

Rosie Roaché is a talented visual artist with a show coming to Dunedin Fringe. After the success of last year's candid photography exhibition ‘Flâneur’, Rosie is back with an innovative personal project involving Pasifika culture. ‘Brown Skin Girls’ is a showcase of portraits that come to life – heartfelt photos of Rosie’s Pacific muses performing cultural dances and songs, portrayed alongside their real-life counterparts in live performance. Critic Te Ārohi sat down with Rosie to talk about the Fringe show.

Rosie’s show last year was “just” photography, and this year she wanted to step things up a notch. “I want it to be different. I want to set a challenge for myself,” Rosie told us. This year the show involves the subjects of the photographs performing in front of their still portraits, reframing the voyeurism of exhibitions to include the power of live cultural art. Originally from Auckland, Rosie wanted to bring Brown performances to Dunedin theatre to “show them what us Polynesian girls can do.” Dunedin was a culture shock for Rosie, and though isolating, she was able to get in touch with her roots. “I want to celebrate and immortalise Brown skin girls,” Rosie enthused. 

Rosie is also part of the theatre community in Ōtepoti, so she hopes to merge Polynesian culture with theatre. “They seem to be a little shy of each other and I want to change that,” said Rosie, also adding that, “Polynesian culture can be quite theatrical, so I want each side to know they’re not so different and we can bring them together.” After applying for a Pasifika grant from Fringe, her show was so successful that people were clamouring to buy her art.

Rosie’s next goal is to get into directing. “Photography is one of my passions but film directing is what I mainly want to do,” she said. This has had a notable influence on her current works, and is “why with this exhibit I’ve incorporated more live features to have it feel more like a movie.” Rosie is influenced by “a bit of everything”, including the likes of Taika Waititi, Tim Burton, and Todd Philips. “I’m always trying new things,” said Rosie, “That’s basically how I ended up in Fringe.”

While taking the photos for ‘Brown Skin Girls’, Rosie chose quintessential Dunedin locations, which “was crazier than I assumed it would be. I made my girls dance in the water at St Clair. I did another shoot at the Railway Station and in front of a Regent Theatre sign and a third one at Signal Hill.” Her choice of location was deliberate and meaningful, offering, for example, that “the reason for the one in front of the Regent was calling it back to Fringe and the theatre scene.” 

Rosie spent a lot of time in her life performing, which helped inspire her art. As a kid, she would sing and dance for her church. She later participated in Polyfest as a photographer, as well as performing in hip-hop dance competitions, showcases, and theatre productions. “Auckland is so diverse, so I was surrounded by Pacific culture all the time,” she said, adding, “Being in Dunedin where it is a lot less diverse in comparison to Auckland really made me appreciate it more, which is why I want to show Dunedin my culture.”

‘Brown Skin Girls’ will be hosted at the Dunedin School of Art from the 18th to 22nd of March, with a closing performance event on the 22nd at 5pm. You can follow Rosie @roache_rosie on Instagram.

This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2024.
Posted 5:16pm Sunday 17th March 2024 by Jordan Irvine.