Congratulations Keneti Muaiava!

8 06 2011

The final event in the 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit was the launch of the 2011 Pacific Dance Artist in Residence programme, delivered by Pacific Dance New Zealand with support from DANZ and Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Committee.

BIG congratulations to Keneti Muaiava, the recipient of this year’s residency!

MP Su’a William Sio, Filoi Vaila’au (Pacific Dance New Zealand) and Keneti Muaiava

Guest speaker, Mangere MP Su’a William Sio

Makerita Urale, Senior Programme Adviser – Pacific Arts Portfolio, Creative New Zealand

Makerita Urale (Creative New Zealand), MP Su’a William Sio, Keneti Muaiava and Susan Jordan (DANZ)

The PDNZ documentary team, Aaron Taouma + Popo Lilo

Ema Tavola (Auckland Council) and Mangere MP Su’a William Sio

Pacific Dance New Zealand in association with DANZ, Auckland Council and Creative New Zealand are calling for dancers to take part in the Pacific Dance Artist in Residence programme 2011.

This exciting eight-week dance residency is offered to an established New Zealand based dancer, dance choreographer or a director of Pacific Island descent with a proven track record of working in a community and or professional theatre context.

This year’s Pacific Dance Artist in Residence, Keneti Muaiava, is a master dancer specialising in Samoan dance. He is the co-founder for Vision Cultural Movement; an organisation that specialises in the maintenance of Samoan heritage arts & culture in Aotearoa.

The residency programme runs between Saturday 4June and Saturday 30 July 2011.

Keneti’s residency project is called “Past, Present and Future” and is centred around the teaching and development of three distinct Samoan dance styles whereby community dancers will have the opportunity to imbue themselves in the concepts and culture behind the movements while also exploring contextual elements making the dances both “authentic and relevant.”

This is a great opportunity for dancers from a variety of backgrounds to learn the Samoan dance styles of the Sasa, Fa’ataupati (slap dance) and ma’ulu’ulu (action dance) from a master teacher (tofuga) such as Keneti.

The residency will also allow for experimentation in the dance forms once the basic heritage form is learnt and will culminate in a final showing at the Metro Theatre on Saturday 30 July.

Dancers will partake in workshops for three days a week (three hours per day) but are not expected to have any prior knowledge of the dance forms, although this would help in the learning phases.

For registration and enquiries please email or phone Filoi Vaila’au on 09 370 0487.


“Kingdom of Lote” from a Samoan perspective

8 06 2011

I stepped off the plane in Auckland, was greeted at the airport by my girl Ema Tavola and promptly told that that night we would be watching a Tongan play called Kingdom of Lote. I was mildly intrigued. Like most Samoans, and having grown up in Hawaii, I can honestly say that I have “lots of Tongan friends” and consider myself quite fluent in the diverse PI world, but a play about Tongans? This was something completely new. I was prepared for the familiar Tongan references: meals featuring some form of domesticated quadruped (usually horse, possibly dog, but not cat), an unnatural obsession with rock wall-ing, infinite kava circles, and more than a few gold teeth. I was not disappointed. Add to that, though, a cast of unforgettable characters, a beautiful score, the most spatially intimate theatrical experience I’ve ever had, and you have Kingdom of Lote – the poignant story of Lote, the head of her small kingdom, which includes her brother Krak and teenage twins, Saia and Sela – a family balancing the demands of Tonga, and Tongan-ness, in current day Aotearoa.

Now, remember, I’m Samoan, so my idea of a great night out has never included taking in a bit of Tongan theater. That said, though, even I could not escape the charm and subtle brilliance that Kingdom of Lote, at its very core, is.

Much of the dialogue is delivered in Tongan, my favorite being the scene where Lote has a conversation with a nosey neighbor—in rapid-fire Tongan and at the top of their lungs. The unapologetic use of the Tongan language, and by extension the inclusion of traditional Tongan songs, works on so many levels: it identifies the primary audience, privileging those lucky enough to understand and speak Tongan. And it places that experience within the context of Pacific life so that someone like me, who may not understand Tongan, can easily identify with it because I’ve had nosey neighbors as well (except mine are mostly Samoan).

Woven amidst the drama of Saia’s burgeoning rugby career, Sela’s unsolicited political pontifications and Krak lamenting on wasted opportunities, is what I thought was the soul of this story: one woman’s drive to keep her family together. Lote represents the Pacific Everywoman, as comfortable in the kitchen as she is on the rugby sideline, as driven as she is humble, as skilled at picking up the pieces as she is at throwing down.

Kingdom of Lote is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of family, shared through the voices, lives and songs of Tongans, but it is also, to its credit, a Pacific tale. For me, Uncle Krak might be Uncle Junior, touchdowns replace tries, and I’ll take turkey tail over horse any day, but when it’s all said and done, these are simply details. The power in this story is that it brings us back to family, whether you call it aiga, famili, or whanau, and that’s something we all identify with.

Dionne Fonoti
May 2011

Dionne Fonoti was they keynote speaker at the Curating Pacific Art Forum, an event in the Pacific Arts Summit delivered in partnership with AUT University on Saturday 21 May. Fonoti is a Samoan academic and film maker based in Apia.

D.A.N.C.E. Papakura!

8 06 2011

Papakura Art Gallery manager, Tracey Williams reflects on the D.A.N.C.E. Art Club performance programmed to coincide with Sheyne Tuffery’s solo exhibition, The Ancient Mariners.

Auckland based artists collective D.A.N.C.E. (Distinguished All Night Community Entertainers) presented a one-off performance for the Pacific Arts Summit at Papakura Art Gallery on May 21 in response to Sheyne Tuffery’s show The Ancient Mariners currently on show at the gallery.

Tuffery’s show, also part of the Pacific Arts Summit, is his response to recently becoming a Matai (Samoan chief). The artist said being given the title made him look at Polynesian history afresh, particularly the “incredible seafaring of our Ancestors”.

D.A.N.C.E. picked up on Tuffery’s themes of nautical antiquity when developing their work for the Summit, leading to the building of a symbolic vaka/waka, which they paraded from the water at Prince Edward Park, through the main street of Papakura, then on to the gallery in Averill Street.

Papakura came under the authority of the Auckland Council about six months ago. The area, accessed via the last off ramp on the Southern motorway, is located on the shores of the Pahurehure Inlet, approximately 32 kilometres south of Auckland’s CBD. Many locals resisted the idea of joining the super city, wanting to retain its distinct rural/urban identity. The D.A.N.C.E. event served to symbolically claim this space within the new city structure – as an addition to South Auckland and its dense Pasifika influences.

The action of steering the vaka/waka from the water’s edge through the main street also served as an allegory for the navigation of shared spaces by different cultures – particularly looking to history when Pacifika people first arrived in New Zealand.  Elam postgraduate student Debbie Stenzel who joined in the parade described this in detail:

It seems that whenever I participate in a performance piece, I experience something profound.  Something that cannot come from any other source or be learned any other way – perhaps some type of inner continuum switch that is only activated by the collective sharing of an experience? 

While walking in procession behind the waka and crew, I began to question my own place within today’s multi-cultural society. My thoughts seemed as if they were being echoed by the waka’s journey as it was forced to veer around obstacles, lower itself to avoid collision and to walk confidently when it’s right of way was questioned. 


While observing the waka’s difficulty navigating the modern landscape, I noticed that people were watching us – not just a quick glance or an inquisitive look, they were staring, some with mouths agape in some kind of peculiar reenactment of the colonial gaze. It was at this point I started to feel very self conscious, a touch embarrassed, that through their behaviour we had been relegated to the status of a modern day ethnographic curiosity. Perhaps parallel to the recreation of a Pacific Island peoples past journey, a modern immigrant experience of Aotearoa was inadvertently performed? In that moment I felt that time had changed very little.

When we reached about half way along Great South Road, there was a noticeable shift in energy. I don’t know where it came from or how to describe it other than those feelings of not belonging, or of being observed, dissipated – giving way to a feeling of oneness or acceptance. As we turned into Averill Street, an overwhelming sense of purpose seemed to clear the way forward and the waka led us ashore to the gallery doors where we shared the warmth of music, food and ourselves as we celebrated our journey together on a purposeful autumn morning.

D.A.N.C.E. – consisting of  visual artists Chris Fitzgerald, Ahilapalapa Rands, Linda.T and Maila Urale – facilitates art gatherings whereby boundaries are blurred between creative disciplines and social engagement is the key focus. Events by the collective are art installations that incorporate themed music, food, refreshments and entertainment – with the aim of encouraging audience participation as a way of making art accessible to a wider audience.

Tuffery, based in Petone, is a multi-media visual artist who works primarily in painting, moving image and printmaking. He is perhaps best known for the dynamic style of his prints and woodcuts, describing himself as ‘a paper architect who uses his work to create and represent his own cultural context and sense of belonging’. Tuffery’s prints and paintings often envisage Polynesia as a futuristic urban utopia; with the Samoan fale as the symbolic archetype for skyscrapers, apartment housing and rocket ships (vaka) – reflecting the artist’s research into his Samoan heritage and symbolism.

Vinaka vakalevu Sheyne, D.A.N.C.E. Art Club and Tracey and the team at Papakura Art Gallery!

Vinaka vakalevu Tagata Pasifika!

22 05 2011

Very happy to have some of the Pacific Arts Summit events profiled on Tagata Pasifika [TVNZ] this week. Vinaka vakalevu Marama Papau and team!

“Kingdom of Lote” opens THIS WEEK!

16 05 2011

This week, the theatre component of the 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit opens for a 5-night season at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku. KINGDOM OF LOTE is a brand new play written by Suli Moa and produced by Kila Kokonut Krew, Auckland’s premier Pacific entertainment company. This is Pacific theatre history making stuff! We have a chat with Producer, Stacey Leilua to find out more…

Tell us about Kingdom of Lote – how did it come about, what is your role and who else is involved?

Kingdom of Lote was created and developed through the Young Kila Writers 2010 Program.  Kila Kokonut Krew recognised the wealth of unrecognised talent and established the program with the goal of developing this talent and producing it into a full length, professional production that would present their unique stories to the community.

Over four months, three young Pasifika writers developed their original concepts into a third draft script which was then workshopped, dramaturged and directed by professional industry practitioners, and shown to an audience at Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku.  The response was exactly what the company and its writers were looking for – recognition, praise and encouragement to further develop the plays into full length works, to be staged as separate productions over 2011.

Kingdom of Lote is the second of these plays, invited to be staged as part of the annual Pacific Arts Summit.  I was one of the mentors of the Young Kila Writers Programme, and am producing the debut season of it for the Pacific Arts Summit.  I am joined by Vela Manusaute and Anapela Polataivao who are directing the play, and Suli Moa, the playwright who also acts in Kingdom of Lote alongside a very talented cast of actors, singers and dancers.

How important is it to present this work in South Auckland?

It’s important that this work is put on, full stop, it’s the first of its kind, being written by a Tongan, starring a full Tongan cast speaking English and Tongan dialogue and performing traditional Tongan song and Dance.  The fact that it is being staged in South Auckland gives the community added accessibility; there is not the long haul to the city, the hassle of traffic and parking etc.  Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku is in the heart of South Auckland.  I love the fact that there are carparks, markets and A-Way a stones-throw away from where we are putting on the show.

What can audiences look forward to in this unique work?

For Tongan audiences, it’s the chance to see their culture, their language, their stories played onstage.  For non-Tongans, the chance to get an insight into the richness of the Tongan culture.  The story has the perfect mix of comedic and dramatic moments, song, dance, everything! Come and find out!

It has been so exciting to see the Young Kila Writers programme evolve, what does the future hold for this exciting initiative?

Young Kila Writers was such an amazing project, it enabled us to create work for actors and playwrights, expose raw talent, and collectively grow as a company.  The third installment of the Young Kila plays, Fatu to Fatu by Tavai Faasavalu, is on at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku in December.  The plan is to run another season of Young Kila Writers in 2012, and as for the work that has already been created, in terms of further developing the work, touring it, the sky’s the limit.

Vinaka vakalevu Stacey!

What: KINGDOM OF LOTE – A new play by Suli Moa
Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, Corner of Bader Drive and Orly Avenue, Mangere, South Auckland
When: 7.30pm, 17-21 May
$15 / $20
Enquiries + Bookings: Call Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku on 09 262 5789

Grassroots Mixer Otara WUUHHTT!!

15 05 2011

The second of three NiuFM Grassroots Mixer concerts in the Otara Town Centre went OFF on Saturday 14 May! With an aim of providing a free concert to Otara market goers and celebrating Pacific musicians in recognition of NZ Music Month, this weekend’s mixer featured Devolo, FMC VXN, Rosita Vai AND Malcolm Lakatani and band! Awwwwesome!

FMC VXN is an Otara-based MC who just took out the televised Pacific music talent quest, Hustle It Fresh on TVNZ’s Polynesian youth show, Fresh.

NiuFM Nites host, Lui doing some Pacific Arts Summit giveaways…

Tongan hip hop artist, Devolo

The smooth sounds of New Zealand Idol winner, Rosita Vai! WHAT a voice!!

Music man, Dee Letoa

And the one and only Niuean singer / songwriter, Malcolm Lakatani…

Good music, good energy + sunshine // a perfect start to the weekend!

Malama Papau reporting for Tagata Pasifika [TVNZ]

The last NiuFM Grassroots Mixer concert takes place on Saturday 21 May from 10.30am – 12.30pm
LIVE Pacific Music at the Grassroots
Otara 274


Grassroots Mixer // Take 1!

9 05 2011

The NiuFM Grassroots Mixer Concert Series takes place on the Otara Town Centre Stage for three Saturdays in May to celebrate Pacific music, NZ Music Month and provide audiences with a FREE gig to kick start their weekends! The first gig on Saturday 7 May went OFF!!

South Auckland’s own 10-piece reggae band Three Houses Down headlined with a signature high energy, crowd pleasing performance!

Grace Ikenasio and her awesome band, Dei Hamo and the Church Boiiz also performed beautifully!

It was awesome to hear saxophone, both alto + soprano, played lived in the Otara Town Centre!

Playing the Otara Town Centre on a Saturday morning can be a tough gig! But it’s so awesome to see excellent Pacific musicians performing for free right at the grassroots… very cool.

Good job Otara Music Arts Centre (OMAC) staff, Team NiuFM, Three Houses Down, Grace Ikenasio, Church Boiiz and Dei Hamo! Next week has a rock SOLID line-up too featuring amongst others… Otara’s own FMC VXN! She recently took out Hustle It Fresh, a talent quest on TVNZ’s hit Pacific youth programme, Fresh and will be performing LIVE and FREE this Saturday 14 May, only in Otara!

What: Grassroots Mixer Concert Series
Where: Otara Town Centre Stage, South Auckland
When: 10.30am – 12.30pm, 14 + 21 May
Tickets: FREE!