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In Aotearoa, It Is The Year Of Pasifika

In Aotearoa, It Is The Year Of Pasifika

By Kalafi Moala

AUCKLAND (Lali Media/Pacific Media Watch): There¹s no denying 2004 is the year of Pasifika in Aotearoa --- and we still have three months to go.

>From the entertainment stage to the rugby field, from the halls of wisdom to the corridors of business, Pacific Islanders have been stamping their mark in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Take Samoan hip-hop sensation Malo Luafatu for example. Even before the recent Tui Awards, New Zealand¹s version of the Grammy Awards, the media were touting the name of Scribe, Malo¹s stage name.

Predictions were right on song. Of his nine nominations, he took home seven trophies.

Scribe¹s debut album, The Crusader, won album of the year, best male solo artist and best urban hip-hop album.

His single, Stand Up, won best single as well as the people¹s choice.

Scribe distinguished himself last year by being the first New Zealand artist to have an album and a single at No 1 in the local charts --- the single for 12 straight weeks, and the album for eight.

He set a record, beating out all music recordings, both local and foreign.

Probably Scribe¹s most notable contribution to the New Zealand music industry is that he has made his style of music acceptable to the mainstream audience.

Tongan-New Zealander Ben Lummis, the first winner of the New Zealand idol TV contest, and the Tokelauan group Te Vaka, joined Scribe as award winners, thus emphatically marking the dominance of Pasifika talent in New Zealand¹s music industry.

Over the past decade, Niuean musician Che Fu has been dominant, walking away with assorted Tui awards and featuring best selling albums and singles.

Other Pasifika talent in the same vein include Samoan King Kapisi, Jamoa Jam, a mixed Polynesian group called Nesian Mystik, Samoan Mareko, and the mainly Tongan group Deceptikonz.

There is a host of others coming up the ranks, including, of course, opera singers Samoan Johnathan Lemalu and Tongan Benjamin Makisi, both of whom are making waves internationally with their type of music.

Brother D of the local, hugely successful production company, Dawn Raid Entertainment, works with many up and coming Pasifika stars in producing and marketing records. He says: "It is no surprise the artists have done so well."

Brother D also thinks the uniqueness of New Zealand Pacific sound is behind the success of Pasifika performers.

Their undoubted musical talent is constantly on display through the leading roles they¹ve played in television, film and drama productions.

The Tagata Pasifika community television programme, Triangle TV, and two established radio stations --- 531PI (AM) and NiuFM, both broadcasting out of Auckland, Radio Samoa, a host of Pasifika language radio programmes throughout the country, and several weekly newspapers in the Pasifika vernacular, testify to the tremendous growth of Pasifika media in New Zealand.

A Samoan, Elizabeth Farani, aged 25, was crowned Miss New Zealand Asia Pacific 2004 a few days ago. She beat a field of 15 beauties from various Asian and Pacific Island ethnic backgrounds.

And in the world of fashion, no show matches the Style Pasifika, produced and directed by Tongan Stan Wolfgramme, a model, actor, and filmmaker.

The annual event displaying Pasifika-style creations is New Zealand¹s top fashion show.

This year¹s Pasifika Festival, organised by Auckland City Council, reached an all time record with 170,000 visitors. That¹s an amazing number of people turning up in one place to celebrate culture.

The festival is an annual celebration of Pasifika culture, displaying as it does material and performance arts, handicrafts, enjoyment of Pasifika food - simply a meeting ground for various Pasifika groups.

In the world of sports, when Samoan Tana Umaga was selected to captain the mighty All Blacks which, for non-rugby playing nations, can be likened to the prestige of baseball, basketball, grid iron, and soccer put together for one small nation.

The New Zealand Rugby Union and the All Blacks coach have made a Pacific Islander leader of the country¹s top sports team.

Nearly half of the team members are Pasifika players anyway. The national game has been dominated in recent years by players such as Tongan Jonah Lomu, Niuean Frank Bunce, Fijian Walter Little, and now - Umaga.

The All Blacks are not just a sports team, they are a New Zealand institution. Rugby is the main "religion" preoccupying the Kiwi nation.

In education and commerce, worlds traditionally reserved for the Palangi and Asian sector of Aotearoa¹s society, Pacific Islanders are making their mark.

Increasing numbers of Pasifika people are graduating from universities throughout the country, in liberal arts, engineering, medicine, and law.

At Auckland University, for instance, there are 14 Tongan PhD candidates, as well as several Samoans and Fijians. Some were capped last week, one being among the six with scholar awards out of the university¹s 23 who earned their PhDs.

Ana Folau Tutone, who earned her PhD following her research in genetic engineering, will continue at Auckland University as a research fellow.

And in the world of business, former mortgage broker financier Mike Pero is not the only Pacific Islander in the multi-million dollar bracket.

There are plenty of other Pasifika millionaires advancing into most spheres of business but they may not be members of the Chamber of Commerce or known in the Palangi and Asian world of business.

If anything, the Pasifika communities of Aotearoa are very aware that this has been a good year for their sons and daughters.

Their talents and efforts are finally being recognised but it has taken only two decades to come this far.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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