Celebrating excellence and innovation in Pacific Art, the awards recognise outstanding Pacific artists practicing contemporary and heritage artforms.
Wellington-based, internationally acclaimed theatre director Nina Nawalowalo received the Senior Pacific Artist Award with other winners representing a range of artforms from opera to visual art and traditional Pasifika handicrafts.
“These awards recognise some of this country’s most outstanding Pacific artists, who bring so much to the cultural landscape of this diverse nation,” said Arts Council of New Zealand Deputy Chair Caren Rangi.
“Pacific arts are a cultural touchstone to the historical, cultural and familial ties this country has with other Pacific nations. These awards help to recognise the contribution that art plays in maintaining these connections,” she said.
In 2017 the total value of the awards will increase to $52,000 from $33,000 in previous years. Caren Rangi said this was an important signal of the Arts Council’s ongoing support for the development of Pacific Arts in Aotearoa.
Nina Nawalowalo – Senior Pacific Artist Award ($20,000)
In a career spanning more than 30 years, internationally acclaimed theatre director Nina Nawalowalo has created a platform for the telling of Pacific stories across the globe. Artistic Director and Co-founder of Wellington-based theatre company The Conch, she is a performer, mentor and teacher who has presented at over 40 international festivals, including the London International Mime Festival, British Festival of Visual Theatre, and the Moscow Arts Festival. From her ground breaking Vula, which toured for seven years including a three week season at The Sydney Opera House and a sold out season at London’s Barbican Centre, to Masi and Marama, Nina is renowned for her powerful work exploring Pacific themes.
Nina has imbued the same magic through her unforgettable direction of works such as Hone Kouka’s The Prophet and Edinburgh Festival award winning Duck Death and the Tulip. She is passionately committed to bringing untold stories into the light and for using theatre as a vehicle to affect social change. In 2013 she established the Solomon Islands National Women's Theatre Company Stages of Change as a means to address violence against women and girls. The 15 women company performed at the Melanesian Arts Festival in Papua New Guinea and at the EU Parliament in Brussels. Her most recent show, The White Guitar, is the powerful story of The Luafutu Family: Father John and sons Matthias and Malo – aka renowned hip hop artist, Scribe. Told by the Luafutu family, the sold-out show was lauded by critics with praise such as:
“If there’s any show that you’re going to see in the next decade, this has to be it” Radio New Zealand
“a seminal moment in New Zealand theatre history” The Press.
Kalisolaite Uhila – Contemporary Pacific Artist Award ($7,500)
Described as one of ‘New Zealand’s most intriguing and gifted artists’, Tongan born Kalisolaite Uhila’s innovative visual art uses metaphor to express ideas and provoke audience introspection. He challenges audiences to confront their prejudices to understand works oscillating between Tongan and Western notions of self, space and time.
Kalisolaite’s work explores cultural, social and political themes such as urban homelessness, and how the ocean connects people from distant, disparate nations. He also examines how traditional Tongan notions of the relationship between people and sacred animals, like pigs, intersect with Western ideas. His experiential performances have involved living rough on the streets of Auckland for three months, living as a pig in a crate, and conducting the waves of the Pacific Ocean from the shore of Oriental Bay.
Noma Sio-Faiumu – Special Recognition Award ($7,500)
With more than 25 years’ experience in arts management, administration and event production, Noma Sio-Faiumu has earned a reputation as an inclusive, talented leader. As a performing and recording vocalist in her early career she performed for various groups and with Bamboo opened for BB King and Irish super-group U2 on its 1989 tour of New Zealand. After crossing over to the organisational, administrative and marketing side of the industry, she proved herself adept in a multitude of roles. These included Otara Music & Arts Centre Manager, co-founder of the Pacific Music Awards, and lead facilitator of APO Remix, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s award winning international programme.
Noma’s welcoming and personable style has helped her establish a valuable network of contacts in the arts, connecting communities from across the social spectrum. This talent was exemplified at the 2017 Auckland Arts Festival when she co-led Whānui, a programme comprising five distinct arts projects involving diverse ethnic communities. Her contribution was summed up by a former colleague who said recently: “Noma puts people and the arts together to create magic.”
Lakiloko Keakea – Pacific Heritage Arts Award ($7,500)
Tuvaluan born Lakiloko Keakea has become one of Aotearoa’s most renowned exponents of Pasifika handcrafts since she arrived here in 1996. After learning handcrafts in Tuvalu, she moved to Kiribati in 1971 where she learned kolose (crochet) through a church-based women’s group, making crocheted dresses and tiputa (crochet tops).
Moving back to Tuvalu Keakea joined a women’s arts group called Fakapotopotoga Fafine Tuvalu. The group included women from all the island groups in Tuvalu, each of whom shared the knowledge and expertise of art practices distinct to their island. In the 1970s three women from the group travelled to the Marshall Islands and brought back the star-shaped design and techniques used in making fafetu (star-shaped wall hangings). This knowledge informed Keakea’s practice, which she brought back to Aotearoa and shared with other artists and audiences at exhibitions such as the critically acclaimed Home AKL exhibition of Pacific art in 2012.
Filipe Manu – Iosefa Enari Memorial Award ($5,000)
One of this country’s most gifted young opera singers, Tongan New Zealander Filipe Manu has global ambitions. Fluent in Tongan and English, he is set to soon arrive on the global stage, after recently receiving a scholarship to commence his Masters in Music at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music, whose alumni includes Orlando Bloom and Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel. Before leaving for London he won multiple local honours, including second place in the Lexus Song Quest and in the New Zealand Aria in 2016, and earlier this year won the top award at the Australia Singing Competition – Australasia’s richest singing competition. With an eye on New York, Filipe Manu is well placed to take his voice of the Pacific to Broadway and beyond.
Tupua Tigafua – Emerging Artist Award ($5,000)
The youngest of five children, Samoan New Zealander Tupua Tigafua’s first memories of dancing were with his brothers at home, where it was something they all enjoyed. After studying dance full time at Unitec aged 19, it was not long before he embarked on a professional dance career where he presented works with Pacific Dance New Zealand, White Face Crew, Healing Through the Arts and Justin Haiu. He has created works for primary, intermediate and high schools and for students at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts and Unitec. He danced with Black Grace from 2007-2010, and worked with Mau Dance Company in 2011, and the New Zealand Dance Company from 2012-2016. In 2018 he plans to premier his first full-length work Shel we? in Wellington.