“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.


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!

Tonight is going to be… Herstoric!!

7 05 2011

Tonight is a very special custom made Pacific Sisters event right here in South Auckland!!

Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik is only $10 on the door and promises to be a truly herstoric event! Doors open at 6.30pm, show starts at 7pm. Very limited seating! Get in early or buy your tickets TODAY from Fresh Gallery Otara or Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku!

What: Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik
Where: Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku, Cnr Bader Drive + Orly Ave, Mangere Town Centre, South Auckland
When: Doors open at 6.30pm, show starts at 7pm, Saturday 7 May
Tickets: $10

Niu Sila’s celebrated all woman art collective the Pacific Sisters come together from all corners of the globe to reunite for a one night only, fresh and flash, South Auckland ‘Southside” performance.

15 years since they first formed, the sisters are reigniting their kaupapa of urban Pacific grass-roots collaboration to produce ‘Pacific Sisters’ EyeKonik, where fashion show meets performance art meets local artists’ showcase. Witness the ’21st Sentry Cyber Sista’ awaken the Po Ula…

The collective reminds their fans not to “Miss or Mister boat! – Get in with your best dressed for the legendary ‘freestyle frock action’ and after DARK funKtion.”

British Council and Toi o Manukau have enabled the core collective members to gather in New Zealand to present this unique one-night-only show.

This performance contains nudity. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Entry to the show is at the discretion of theatre staff.

Fabulous frocks! A bit of politics! Lots of tattoos + a flash of flesh!

5 05 2011

Suzanne Tamaki is a Wellington-based event producer and visual artist here in South Auckland for Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik – a stand-out event in the Pacific Arts Summit programme. We have a chat with Suzanne about the history of the Pacific Sisters collective and this weekend’s show…

Tell us about yourself and your background…

I currently have a full-time position at Te Papa in Wellington as an Events Producer. I have my own label, Native Sista, and have worked as a freelance fashion show coordinator since 1991, which is when Pacific Sisters was formed.

What was the beginnings of Pacific Sisters?

In ’91, me and Selina Forsyth set up a warehouse in Nelson Street (Central Auckland) and had our first show, Te Hau Wairua Wahine at the Powerstation, and Rosanna Raymond was our MC. Ani O’Neill was still at Elam School of Fine Arts and was a model in the show. The show was so great and the energy was amazing. We did a couple more shows, we got on really well and decided to set up a collective, which is when Pacific Sisters formed. We combined all our energy and knowledge to create platforms for Maori and Pacific artists, performers, musicians, designers and gorgeous people.

The warehouse we set up was our base; we used to throw warehouse parties to help pay the rent. Artists like Te Kupu, Lei’d Lee, Dubhead and Tutuevera Evans would perform for us, and we’d have a cash bar, they were really great nights, lots of fun. But then we spent the money on fabric instead of rent and got kicked out, so then we moved into Rosanna’s warehouse!

When did the collective formally start working as the Pacific Sisters?

We did a lot of shows starting in 1992, quite a few in South Auckland. We did a few City shows, warehouse parties, we did stuff for Workshop and Wella Fashion – there was no Style Pasifika back then. Rosanna established a relationship with Auckland City Council to do a big Pacific fashion event, along with Feeonaa Wall, and Style Pasifika was born.

It was held in Chase Plaza and it was ah-mayzing, just packed. People started to really pay attention to Pacific fashion… they realised that it was edgy and relevant and lots of people wanted to be a part of it. It came from a place that was local, but more honest than anything on the international market. We were trying to show that we didn’t have to wear American labels, we could create our own.

So, tell us about this weekend’s event!

It has been a really fun and awesome catch up, bringing all our new styles that we’re all making, but still blending together really well. That dynamic is still there, and the fun… we’ve all matured so much, and bring a lot of really great skills back into the collaboration. We’re looking forward to being back on our stomping ground and showing something stunning! We’re still here and we still kick ass!!

What’s special about presenting this show in South Auckland?

I think that Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku is gorgeous, it’s such a lovely venue to work in. We’re rapped to be there. We’ve done shows where the backstage was a toilet with no lights, so this is glamour! There’s good support around the event, everyone wants to help. There’s a really genuine excitement and enthusiasm from the Mangere crew.

And what can audiences look forward to?

Fabulous frocks! A bit of politics! Lots of tattoos… a flash of flesh… New Zealand sounds, lots of kaupapa and… a few scary moments!! So be prepared if you’re bringing your kids!

Vinaka vakalevu Suzanne and the Sisters! Can’t wait!!

What: Pacific Sisters SOUTHSIDE: EyeKonik
Where: Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku
When: 7pm, Saturday 7 May
Tickets: $10 from Fresh Gallery Otara + Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku

Summit Day 1!!

3 05 2011

The Summit is here! Our first event is Pecha Kucha Night! This is an excellent event to get a taste for what the 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit programme has in store.

Speakers are confirmed, excited and ready to surprise you with their 20 images and 6-minute-40-second quick-fire-talanoa! It’s onnn!! Tickets are only $5 and doors open at 7.30pm.

Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku‘s beautiful new theatre is an ideal space to celebrate the richness of Pacific art practice and appreciation in South Auckland!

Come along to hear unique and inspiring presentations from:

  • Linda T / Christopher Fitzgerald // D.A.N.C.E
  • Daren Kamali + Leahna Gill // Poet + Illustrator // Poems and Songs from the Underwater World
  • Martin Leung-Wai // Architecture + Samoan spatial philosophy // The Taualugā: A Spatial Study
  • Monty Collins // Aerosol Artist / Graphic Designer
  • Nicole Lim // Visual artist + Design // Fresh Gallery Otara
  • Ema Tavola // 2011 South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit
  • Tanu Gago // Film Maker / Visual Artist // Samoa is in the TV
  • Siliga David Setoga // PopoHardWear / Graphic Design

ALL WELCOME!! Get inspired Southside stylee!!

“Kingdom of Lote”

16 04 2011

KINGDOM OF LOTE is a brand new play written by Suli Moa, directed by Vela Manusaute premiering at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku during the Pacific Arts Summit!

New Zealand’s first ever full-length Tongan play to be performed by a full Tongan cast with both English and Tongan dialogue – BOOOOM!!

Witness Pacific art history! Tickets $20/$15 from Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku or online from www.eventfinder.co.nz

Interview with writer, Suli Moa coming soon!!