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Arts Pasifika Awards honour six Pacific artists


Arts Pasifika Awards 2005 honour six Pacific artists

Six Pacific artists, representing a range of artforms, will be honoured tonight at the Arts Pasifika Awards 2005, to be presented by the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand at a special ceremony in Christchurch.

The Arts Pasifika Awards 2005, the only awards in New Zealand aimed at professional Pacific artists across all artforms, will be presented to:

- musician Opetaia Foa’i (Samoan) of Laingholm, Auckland – the $7000 Senior Pacific Artists’ Award

- master artist Mafi Malanga XIII (Mr ‘llati Taungākava, Tongan) of Avondale, Auckland – the $5000 Pacific Heritage Arts Award

- multi-media artist John Ioane (Samoan) of Ponsonby, Auckland – the $5000 Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award

- sculptor Maui ‘Ofamo’oni (Tongan) of Mangere, Auckland – the $3000 Salamander Gallery Award for Emerging Pacific Visual Artists

- opera singer Ramonda Te Maiharoa-Taleni (Samoan, Waitaha) of Invercargill – the $3000 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award

- writer Miria George (Rarotongan, Atiu – Cook Islands) of Wellington – the $3000 Emerging Pacific Artists’ Award.

Chair of the Pacific Arts Committee Marilyn Kohlhase said the six artists reflect the richness and diversity of Pacific arts in New Zealand. “This year’s awards represent a wonderful mix of artists at different stages of their careers and across a wide range of artforms, both traditional and contemporary.

“However, what all of the artists share is a commitment to pursuing artistic excellence, and producing work that speaks of their cultural heritage and helps profile New Zealand internationally as a creative Pacific nation.”

Ms Kohlhase acknowledged Anne and Bob Munro for their generosity in sponsoring the inaugural Salamander Gallery Award for Emerging Pacific Visual Artists and said that the Christchurch gallery has a long history of exhibiting the work of emerging and established Pacific artists.

“Nurturing emerging artists is a vital part of the Pacific Arts Committee’s work and we’re delighted to be able to celebrate the achievements of two talented young artists – one a sculptor, the other a writer – alongside established and senior artists,” she said.

The annual Arts Pasifika Awards were established in 1996 to celebrate Pacific artists and their contribution to New Zealand. This is the first time they will be presented in the South Island.

“Christchurch has an active, supportive and very innovative Pacific community,” Ms Kohlhase said. “Presenting the awards in Christchurch is one of the ways we can acknowledge the importance of Pacific artists and their work in the South Island.”


Biographical background

Opetaia Foa’i (Tokelau/Tuvalu/Samoa) of Laingholm, Auckland, awarded the $7000 Senior Pacific Artists’ Award:
Opetaia Foa’i has been performing and writing music for the past 20 years. Named in the New Zealand Listener as one of New Zealand’s finest songwriters, he was playing the ukulele by the time he was six and the guitar by the age of eight. In 1994, inspired by the music and stories of Polynesia, he began writing in the Tokelauan language and formed the band Te Vaka. His goal was to take Pacific music to the world and since then, he has toured with Te Vaka and performed in 30 countries.

“Although I speak English, Samoan and Tuvaluan as well, I was brought up in a Tokelauan community and this is the most comfortable language for my songwriting,” says Foa’i, who arrived in New Zealand in 1965 at the age of nine.

Foa’i has written and co-produced all of Te Vaka’s four albums. In 1996, he wrote and recorded Te Vaka, which was released in more than 80 countries to worldwide acclaim. The subsequent albums – Kia Mua (1999), Nukukehe (2002), and Tutuki (2004) – have also gained world attention and won awards. His song Samulai from the Tutuki album was second in the world music category of this year’s International Songwriters Competition in the United States.

Mafi Malanga XIII (Mr ‘llati Taungākava, Tonga) of Avondale, Auckland, awarded the $5000 Pacific Heritage Arts Award:

Mafi Malanga XIII has contributed to traditional Tongan arts and culture, both in secondary schools and the wider Tongan community, for more than 30 years. He is committed to teaching young Tongans the rhythm, symmetry, harmony and beauty of their performing arts and since 1991, he has led the Mt Roskill Grammar Tongan Performing Arts Group to many successes at the annual ASB Bank Cultural Festival in Auckland.

In the wider Tongan community, he has contributed to Tongan performing arts as the King’s matāpule (master orator) and punake (master artist). Born in Tatakamotonga, Mu’a, Tongatapu, Tonga in 1949, he comes from a family of artists. His father, Mafi Malanga XII, was also a matāpule and punake, and he received strict training for these offices from his father. It is rare for people to hold both offices.

Mafi Malanga XIII came to New Zealand in 1974 and has continued to be active in the ceremonial and artistic affairs of Tonga. He has been matāpule on many occasions, including the royal visits by His Majesty Tupou IV and his younger brother, his Royal Highness Prince Tu’i Pelehake, in Auckland.

He plans to use the award to collect stories about the works of his father, from both his family and other matāpule and punake.

John Ioane (Samoa) of Ponsonby, Auckland, awarded the $5000 Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award:

John Ioane is a multi-media artist, renowned not only for his abilities as a painter and sculptor but also for his evocative installation pieces and dynamic performances, including digital and moving-image work.

Born in New Zealand in 1962, Ioane has worked consistently as a visual artist for the past 15 years as well as teaching art in secondary schools. Earlier this year, he gave up his teaching career to concentrate fulltime on his art.

Through his artwork, Ioane constantly pushes boundaries as he expresses issues about his culture and personal identity. His work is held in significant public collections throughout New Zealand and he is widely recognised as a leading contemporary New Zealand artist. He is currently working on major public sculptural commissions for both the Manukau City Council and Auckland City Council.

His work is also attracting a growing international audience. His installation, Poly Wants A Cracker, at the 2002 Pacific Notion exhibition in Sydney debunked clichés and stereotypes of a Pacific paradise. His Fale Sa installation and Moanamalosi performance featured in the 2004 Paradise Now? exhibition at the Asia Society Museum in New York.

Maui ‘Ofamo’oni (Tonga) of Mangere, Auckland, awarded the $3000 Salamander Gallery Award for Emerging Pacific Visual Artists:

Maui ‘Ofamo’oni was a member of the design team, comprising architects, artists and landscape architects, which designed the new Visitors Centre at the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens. The project won the Built Environment category of the 2005 Creative Places Awards.

Poised above the stone wall at the entranceway to the Visitors Centre are three nikau sculptures, commissioned by the Auckland Regional Council and created by ‘Ofamo’oni. The fronds are made from translucent fibreglass with a copper base, and the sculptures incorporate falling water and light. ‘Ofamo’oni’s first work, it grew from his involvement in the design team.

Born in New Zealand in 1974, ‘Ofamo’oni has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Diploma of Secondary Teaching, and is studying for a degree in architecture. His goals are to complete his architecture studies and eventually have his own business, involving sculpture, architecture and design.

As well as studying for his architecture degree and helping to raise three young children, he is also working towards his first solo exhibition next year. He says the exhibition will focus on obligation, identity and spirituality in relation to his mixed Tongan/Palagi heritage. He plans to use the award money to buy materials and tools to help him realise sculptural works for this exhibition.

Ramonda Te Maiharoa-Taleni (Samoa, Waitaha) of Invercargill, awarded the $3000 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award:

Ramonda Te Maiharoa-Taleni will use the award to study singing in London with a former teacher, Raymond Connell, who is based at the Guildhall School of Music. She will be leaving for six weeks of study immediately after the Pasifika Arts Awards.

Ramonda says she was “born singing”. Her formal training began with piano lessons when she was a seven-year-old growing up in Invercargill. At 14, she realised that music was a potential career and considered becoming a concert pianist. But a move to Christchurch and singing lessons when she was 19 sparked a change in her career ambitions.

She has performed in many concerts and choirs, including the Sydney Philharmonic Choir. She has also been placed in numerous competitions and won the 1998 Lockwood Aria Competition in Rotorua with Come Scoglio from Cosi Fan Tutti.

In 2004, she performed works by acclaimed New Zealand composer Gillian Whitehead with the group Tuhonohono at the Jakarta International Arts Summit. “Ramonda has an outstanding voice, backed up by a real and practical musicianship,” Whitehead says. “She is at a stage in her operatic career where she needs to expand her horizons by spending some time in Europe.”

Miria George (Rarotonga, Atiu - Cook Islands) of Wellington, awarded the $3000 Emerging Pacific Artists’ Award:

Miria George, 25, is a playwright and poet, originally from Rotorua but now based in Wellington. Her first play, Oho Ake, The Awakening, was produced by Tawata Productions in October 2004 and went on to win two Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.

Miria’s second play, Lost, Again, will premiere in Wellington on 16 November 2005. It was selected for workshopping at the Pasifika Playwrights’ Conference earlier this year and subsequently invited to the international young playwrights’ conference, World Interplay, in Townsville, Australia in July 2005, where Miria worked with some of the world’s leading theatre practitioners. The play has also been invited to Britain’s Pasifika Styles Festival in Cambridge in 2006.

Miria has several writing projects on the go. She is working on a third play, Sunset Road, with the support of a grant from the Pacific Arts Committee, and also reworking a short film screenplay. Radio New Zealand has commissioned her to write a full-length drama called Hikoi, hikoi and she is also writing episodes for the Radio New Zealand serial, Hui Hopping.

Her first collection of poetry, The Wet Season, will be published by Wai-te-ata Press later this year. She has also written a short film screenplay.

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