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Arts Pasifika Awards 2003

MEDIA RELEASE
17 November 2003

Arts Pasifika Awards 2003
a celebration of Pacific arts

The pioneer of Pacific writing in New Zealand, a sculptor dedicated to innovative work and two emerging artists – an opera singer and multi-media artist - are recipients of the Arts Pasifika Awards 2003, presented by the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand at a ceremony in Auckland on Monday, 17 November.

The Arts Pasifika Awards 2003 were presented to Auckland writer Albert Wendt (the $6000 Senior Pacific Islands Artist Award); New Plymouth sculptor Filipe Tohi (the $5000 Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award); Auckland multi-media artist Shigeyuki Kihara (the $3000 Emerging Pacific Islands Artist Award); and Auckland opera singer Daphne Collins, currently living in Queensland (the $6500 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award).

The annual Arts Pasifika Awards are the only awards in New Zealand aimed at professional Pacific artists across all artforms. Chair of the Pacific Arts Committee Marilyn Kohlhase said that this year’s recipients range widely both in terms of artforms and experience.

“What all of the recipients share is a commitment to pursuing excellence and innovation in their work,” she said. “These awards are about celebrating the diversity and vibrancy of Pacific arts, and their contribution to New Zealand’s profile as a creative, innovative nation here in the Pacific.”

Albert Wendt of Ponsonby, Auckland, awarded the $6000 Senior Pacific Islands Artist Award:

The pioneer of Pacific writing in New Zealand, Albert Wendt is a distinguished novelist, poet, short story writer, playwright and educator. Born in Apia, Samoa in 1939, he first came to New Zealand to study at the age of 13 on a government scholarship. After returning to the Pacific for a number of years, he became professor of New Zealand literature at the University of Auckland in 1988.

Wendt’s first novel, Sons for the Return Home, was published in 1973. Since then, he has written six novels, three collections of short stories, four collections of poetry and a play, and has edited numerous literary and poetry anthologies.

This year has been a series of creative highlights for Albert Wendt. First was the publication of Whetu Moana, the first anthology of contemporary indigenous Polynesian poetry in English, edited by Wendt along with Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri. Then in August, his latest – and longest - novel, Mango’s Kiss, was launched. Although Wendt always has “four or five projects on the go”, this novel was 18 years in the writing and its publication a significant landmark. A month later, his new play, The Songmaker’s Chair, premiered at the AK03 festival in Auckland.

This year, Wendt also accepted the position of Citizen’s Chair in English at the University of Hawaii. He will take up the two-year tenure in mid 2004 but will retain his position at the University of Auckland.

Albert Wendt’s books have won many awards over the years and in 2001, he was made Companion of the Order of New Zealand for his services to literature.

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Filipe Tohi of New Plymouth, awarded the $5000 Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award:

Filipe Tohi was born in Tonga and came to New Zealand in 1978 at the age of nineteen. A sculptor of wood, stone and steel, his work has been exhibited and is in public parks throughout New Zealand and in countries as diverse as the United States, Japan, Australia and France. His work has also been purchased by the Chartwell Collection and this year, he was commissioned by the Auckland City Council to create a public artwork for the Onehunga Community Centre and Library.

For the past decade, the New Plymouth-based artist has been exploring the patterns and history of tufunga lalava, the traditional Tongan binding system used to lash together houses or canoes. Tohi describes lalava as his people’s DNA and has created a new artform called “lalavaology”.

“I’ve been working with Filipe for 15 years,” says curator and dealer Deborah White. “His lives his life through lalava patterns and has documented more than 3000 of them. These patterns actually speak about Pacific cultures and are a metaphor for the human condition.

“Filipe is passionate about his art practice and incredibly committed to researching and developing his innovative work. His work is truly unique and he is in huge demand internationally.”

In 2000, Tohi was Pacific artist-in-residence at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at Canterbury University. He has been undertaking a residency at Niigata University in Japan and returned to New Zealand on 10 November. Among his considerable achievements, Tohi participated in the 5th Lyon Biennale of Art (2000), Pacific Notion in Sydney (2002) and Pacific Ways of Knowing in New York (2002).

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Shigeyuki Kihara of Grey Lynn, Auckland, awarded the $3000 Emerging Pacific Islands Artist Award:

Shigeyuki Kihara’s work fuses performance, photography, language, art and fashion to explore issues of identity and culture. “I’m constantly challenging myself to explore new mediums. I love that cross-over journey where all the artform boundaries are blurred,” says the Auckland artist, who came to New Zealand from Samoa in 1989 at the age of 16 and graduated from Wellington Polytechnic with an advanced diploma in fashion design and technology in 1996.

A former fashion designer turned artist, Shigeyuki Kihara is also a freelance fashion stylist. Her fashion editorials have been published in magazines such as Pavement, Pulp and Staple.

Kihara’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and her works are in collections such as Te Papa Tongarewa and the Waikato Museum of Arts and History. She also participated with the performance group Pasifika Divas in the 4th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Queensland in 2002 and in the House of Global Cultures in Berlin in 2003.

In October, her latest digital print works, Fale aitu – House of spirits, were exhibited at the Australian Centre of Photography in Sydney and earlier this year, she was a special guest speaker at the Clothing the Pacific conference with the British Museum in London.

In an article about Shigeyuki Kihara in the October issue of Australia’s Object magazine, the writer Jim Vivieaere concludes: “Sigeyuki Kihara was born to defy categorisation. Her very existence blurs and challenges the organisation of mainstream thought and practice ... She has stood uncompromisingly in her own marginalised space, fully intending the world to come to her.”

******

Daphne Collins of Queensland, awarded the $6500 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award:

Daphne Collins’ singing potential was recognised at secondary school in Auckland where she was encouraged to study under the guidance of the late Beatrice Webster. Since then, the Samoan soprano has achieved significant success in various competitions, performed to critical acclaim in operas and musicals, and expanded her repertoire to include shows such as Michael Parmenter’s dance opera, Jerusalem, and Classical Polynesia, a work created and directed by the late Iosefa Enari. It was premiered at the 1998 International Festival of the Arts in Wellington.

“I’m very grateful to receive the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award, which is dedicated to a man who always motivated me and encouraged me to fight for what I believed in,” Collins says. “Along with the honour attached to receiving this award, the financial support will be a great help as I pursue my goal of working in England or the United States.”

Collins’ experience is broad and ranges from grand opera and gospel to rock opera and traditional Samoan music. Among her achievements are: third prize in the New Zealand Herald Aria, Auckland (1992); second prize in the Lockwood Aria, Rotorua (1997); and second prize in both the Harris Aria in Napier and the Wendy Chatfield Aria on the North Shore, Auckland (1998).

In 2000, Collins studied at the Conservatorium of Music at Griffith University in Queensland. After graduating, she has been preparing for auditions and working intensely with Dr Margaretta Elkins. She is also teaching, working with Opera Queensland, and performing in concerts in Australia.

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The Arts Pasifika Awards 2003 were held at the Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson and attended by approximately 150 guests.

ends


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