24 Oct 2020

Creative NZ celebrates Pacific artists

1:40 pm on 24 October 2020

New Zealand's arts development agency has recognised eight Pasifika artists at this year's Creative New Zealand (CNZ) Arts Pasifika Awards.

The awards recognise innovation and excellence in Pacific Arts and the contribution to enriching the diversity of Aotearoa as a multi-cultural Pacific nation according to CNZ.

Scene from Angels by Tanya Muagututi'a and Joy Vaele.

Scene from Angels by Tanya Muagututi'a and Joy Vaele. Photo: Supplied

One Pasifika performing artist says she was "pretty overwhelmed" with winning the Special Recognition Award.

"I don't win things," said Tanya Muagututi'a who was recognised for her contribution to elevating the standing, and standard, of Pacific Arts both in New Zealand and internationally.

An integral part of the award-winning arts company Pacific Underground since 1992, Muagututi'a has collaborated widely in developing ground-breaking Pacific theatre and music in New Zealand and abroad.

Despite playing in bands in the late 1980's, said Muagututi'a, her career trajectory really kicked off in Christchurch with Pacific Underground.

"All the wonderful friends and creatives that met back in that day and then, we're still going now. You know, our arts career has been about keeping the stories alive, working with young people. Yeah, so it's been a ride!"

After fleeing Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake, Muagututi'a and family settled in Auckland. However, she was in Wellington this year when the disaster of Covid-19 truly unfolded.

"I was working on a show of Okāreka Dance Company with Taiaroa Royal. He was part of the New Zealand Festival with his brand new show. And then on our last show, the Festival was cancelled the next day."

Her next two gigs were cancelled as well but she said there was relief from the financial support from the government's Covid-19 response and she was able to utilise the lockdown period to write and craft new work.

Tanya Muagututi'a's award recognises an individual whose work, influence and commitment have raised the standards, expectations and reputation of Pacific Arts and artists. It includes $10,000 in prize money.

Muagututi'a earlier this year won Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright at the Adam New Zealand Play Awards.

Pati Solomona Tyrell's work Matua II, a portrait of the artist with his parents.

Pati Solomona Tyrell's work Matua II, a portrait of the artist with his parents. Photo: Pati Solomona Tyrell

Another winner is a member of the queer-Pacific arts collective FAFSWAG, who has won the Creative New Zealand Emerging Pacific Artist Award for the promise and potential he has shown.

Pati Solomona Tyrell is a Samoan interdisciplinary artist with a strong focus on performance.

He utilises camera work focusing on queer-Pacific visual identity.

Pati says he was amazed at the win as he "just makes art" about himself and the questions he has about life.

"It's been an interesting year with covid happening and then all our cancellations for international gigs but then having the Laureate and then the CNZ Awards as well, so yeah, it's been a really interesting ride."

Pati mused that the enforced lockdown of Covid-19 gave him the opportunity to reflect "back on the last four or five years that we (FAFSWAG) have been working" while also allowing time to plan new ways of working.

"Trying to figure out 'how does it work?' as most of us have a social practice and so a lot of networking and relationship building. How do we do that in a genuine way over the internet?"

He noted that for Pasifika people face-to-face interactions are embedded in cultural DNA.

"A lot of my practice has been about collaborative processes and community," he added.

The CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist Award comes with a $7500 prize while Pati and FAFSWAG also shared the $25,000 Laureate Award for inter-disciplinary arts earlier this year.

The eight winning Pasifika artists were acknowledged across seven categories with an online announcement, as well as an intimate celebration with the Arts Council of New Zealand.

"It's a great honour for us to celebrate and recognise the amazing work our Pasifika artists continue to achieve in our communities, in Aotearoa and globally," said Arts Council of New Zealand Deputy Chair Caren Rangi.

"The eight award recipients this year are artistic and cultural experts in their fields, and the high calibre of applicants demonstrates the diversity of Pasifika talent here in our country and their valuable contribution to our national identity."

Lusi Faiva performance.

Lusi Faiva performance. Photo: Supplied

The artist practices range from award winning interdisciplinary artists who challenge and innovate, an internationally acclaimed visual artist, to an artist reviving the traditional art of Niuean hiapo.

This year there are two recipients of the Pacific Toa Artist Award, Pelenakeke Brown and Lusi Faiva. The award is in its second year and recognises the outstanding contribution of a Pasifika artist with the lived experience of disability. Pelenakeke is currently the interim Artistic Director of Touch Compass, a performance company that works with disabled and non-disabled creatives and is the first disabled artist to lead the company. Lusi is a founding member of Touch Compass, who has performed with the company for the last 24 years.

Arts Council member Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban added, "we're really excited that we can still acknowledge these outstanding Pasifika artists during these trying times."

"This year has proven that our artists are adaptable and innovative, and through our Pacific Arts Strategy we've been able to shift our focus into the online space and continue to engage with our communities to ensure that Pacific Arts continue to be supported for future success," said Luamanuvao.

The full 2020 Arts Pasifika Award recipients list follows.

Iosefa Enari Memorial Award ($7,500)

recognising the contribution of the late Samoan opera singer Iosefa Enari to the arts, in particular his pioneering role in Pacific opera. This award supports the career development of an individual Pacific singer, musician or composer across all classical genres and career stages.

Moses Mackay (Based in Auckland)

Moses Mackay

Moses Mackay Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Moses is a songwriter, musician, opera and theatre artist, and a one of the founding members of opera trio SOL3 MIO. Recent projects include Alofagia: Le Opera and the immersive musical Pleasuredome, directed by Michael Hurst and produced by Rob Tapert. In 2019 he was approached to be a contestant on the television show Celebrity Treasure Island, where he raised $22,500 for his chosen charity the Dream Chaser Foundation. Following this he was invited by the New Zealand Embassy and the New Zealand Olympic committee to perform in Tokyo, Japan in conjunction with the Rugby World Cup. This year saw the rescheduling of SOL3 MIO Live concert at the Spark Arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, SOL3 MIO were approached by FLAVA Radio to host their Breakfast Show. Albeit a different stage, this was a proved a great opportunity for SOL3 MIO to connect with listeners both nationally and internationally, especially the youth. In the few weeks they've been at the helm, they have managed to double their listener numbers - and the numbers keep growing. Moses is currently working on some exciting projects, soon to be released.

Emerging Pacific Artist Award ($7,500)

recognising an emerging artist showing promise and potential in their chosen artform. The purpose of this award is to recognise achievement at this developmental stage, ensuring the artist will develop their career in their chosen field.

Pati Solomona Tyrell (Based in Auckland)

Pati Solomona Tyrell

Pati Solomona Tyrell Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Pati Tyrell is a Samoan interdisciplinary artist with a strong focus on performance. Utilizing lens-based media he creates visual outcomes that are cantered around urban Pacific queer identity. He has shown work at Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Centre Pompidou Paris and was a 2018 Walters Prize nominee. Tyrell is a co-founder of the queer Pasifika arts collective FAFSWAG, who in 2020 received an Arts Foundation Laureate. Pati is a pioneering member of the New Zealand ballroom scene, father to the House of Aitu where he continues to build and mobilize his community. He is a graduate of the Bachelor of Creative Arts programme at the Manukau Institute of Technology, Otara. Pati is originally from Kirikiriroa, Waikato but is now based in Maungarei, Tāmaki Makaurau.

Pacific Heritage Artist Award ($10,000)

recognising an artist or cultural group who has made a major contribution to maintaining, reviving or promoting a Pacific heritage artform in New Zealand. This may include language, dance, traditional music, weaving or tatau.

Cora-Allan Whitcliff (Based in the Auckland)

Cora-Allan Whitcliff

Cora-Allan Whitcliff Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Cora-Allan is of Niuean and Māori descent, her grandparents Vakaafi Lafaiki and Fotia Lafaiki grew up in the villages of Liku and Alofi, migrating to Auckland in the 1960's. As a contemporary hiapo practitioner she produces traditional pieces alongside her simplified modern hiapo works. In 2013 she completed her Master's in Visual Art and Design from AUT, also receiving an AUT Postgraduate Deans award for her research and excellence and was recently named as one of the McCahon house residents for 2021. She is the Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Corban Estate Arts Centre, is a founding member of BC COLLECTIVE and resides in Waitakere with her fiancé Daniel Twiss and sons Chaske-Waste and Wakiya Wacipi.

Pacific Toa Artist Award ($10,000)

recognises the contribution of a Pasifika artist with the lived experience of disability to the standing, and standard, of Pacific arts nationally or globally. The award recognises an individual whose work, influence and commitment has raised the standards, expectations and reputation of Pacific arts and artists. It may be awarded to any artform or for arts management. It could be for an ongoing contribution to a local, national or global success story.

Pelenakeke Brown

Pelenakeke Brown Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Pelenakeke Brown (Based in Auckland)

Pelenakeke is an interdisciplinary, Samoan/Pakeha disabled, immigrant artist from Aotearoa. Her work explores the intersections of disability concepts and Samoan ways of framing the world. Currently she is the interim Artistic Director of Touch Compass, a performance company that works with disabled and non-disabled creatives. She is a founding member of the company and the first disabled artist to lead the company in its 24-year history. Previous to this role she was based in Lenapehoking, Mannahatta (NYC). She has exhibited, performed and published work in the US, UK, Germany and Aotearoa. She has created projects with Movement Research, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Goethe Institute and many other arts organisations and institutions. Pelenakeke is a 2020 Artist-in-Residence at Eyebeam (NYC).

Lusi Faiva (Based in Auckland)

Lusi is a dancer, performer and founding member of Touch Compass ever since she auditioned in their first audition workshop back in 1996. She has performed and toured across New Zealand and Australia in all of their major shows including the acclaimed performance Lusi's Eden (based on her personal life story) directed by Christian Penny and choreographed by Catherine Chappell.

Lusi Faiva

Lusi Faiva Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

She also attended the DanceAbility teacher's training workshop in Europe in 2003 and the contact improvisation workshop with Andrew Morris in Australia in 2009. In 2014, she was featured in the dance box Mr and Mrs Jones, a short film, directed by Alyx Duncan. She has collaborated with Wellington-based performance company Everybody Cool Lives Here since 2018 and worked with the UK multi-sensory theatre group Frozen Light in 2019 on Mesina Returning Home, the first multi-sensory theatre show of its kind in Aotearoa for audiences with profound and multiple Learning Disabilities. In 2019 she also received a High Commendation award for Artistic Achievement at the Arts Access Aotearoa Awards for her long-established career and contribution to dance. Lusi's latest projects include The Political Dreaming, a development project with choreographer Alexa Wilson, as well as For Your Eyes Only, a digital virtual reality of creativity writings with Rowan Piece and Everybody Cool Lives Here.

Special Recognition Award ($10,000)

recognising the recipient's special contribution to the standing, and standard, of Pacific Arts in New Zealand and/or internationally. This award recognises an individual whose work, influence and commitment have raised the standards, expectations and reputation of Pacific Arts and artists. It may be awarded for artistry across any artform or for arts management, and could be for a one-off or ongoing contribution to a local or international success story.

Tanya Muagututi'a

Tanya Muagututi'a Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Tanya Muagututi'a (Based in the Auckland)

Tanya has been an integral part of the award-winning arts company Pacific Underground since 1992. Pacific Underground became a vehicle for ground-breaking Pacific theatre, music concerts, an album and theatre tours both national and international. From 2000 to 2010, along with husband and Music Director Pos Mavaega, the company presented the Christchurch Pacific Arts Festival developing multiple platforms for and by Pacific artists and crossing over their collective theatre skills to event management. Tanya continued to support community events such as Aranui's AFFIRM and also started co-producing shows for the Christchurch Arts Festival, such as Igelese Ete's Ifoga and Michel Tuffery's First Contact. When the family relocated to Auckland due to the earthquakes, Tanya worked on major events Pasifika, Diwali, Lantern and Auckland Arts and Christchurch Arts Festivals. She has also worked in theatre with Auckland Theatre Company, Mangere Arts Centre, continuing today with the Court Theatre, Okāreka Dance Company and No.3 Roskill Theatre. She was the recipient of an Adam NZ Playmarket Award, is a freelance Producer, still creating with the Pacific Underground family to nurture the next generation of emerging artists.

Contemporary Pacific Artist Award ($10,000)

recognising an artist who has demonstrated innovation in their artform. Artists must have a track record and have achieved in their chosen field. Recognition will be given to those who work in a unique artform, or those who continually push the boundaries of their practice.

Tanu Gago

Tanu Gago Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Tanu Gago MNZM (Based in Auckland)

Tanu is an award-winning photographer, interdisciplinary artist, and filmmaker. He is a 2020 Arts Foundation Arts Laureate, the 2014 Auckland Festival of Photography Annual Commission recipient, the 2018 Macmillan Brown artist in residence, and in 2019 was inducted into the Order of Merit, with Queen's honours for services to Pacific arts and the LGBTQIA+ community. Gago sits on a number of arts boards and advisory groups and is also a founding member of the LGBTQIA+ Pasifika Trust - The Love Life Fono Charitable Trust. He is a founding member of the Auckland vogue scene, as well as the co-founder and creative director of award-winning Queer Indigenous Arts Collective FAFSWAG. Over the past seven years FAFSWAG have exhibited and performed around the world, including Paris, London, Switzerland and Toronto. They've also had the pleasure of collaborating with some of Aotearoa's innovators and creative misfits, including VICE, Neil and Liam Finn, COCOSOLID and Taika Waititi and Carthew Neil's production company PIKI Films. Gago has spent the past ten years invested in cultivating the unique and important voices of artists and activists within the queer Indigenous space and remains committed to supporting and preserving pathways for future generations.

Michel Tuffery

Michel Tuffery Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

Senior Pacific Artist Award ($25,000)

recognising the contribution of a senior established Pacific artist in maintaining or developing their artform in New Zealand.

Michel Tuffery MNZM (Based in Wellington)

Michel is a New Zealand-based artist of Samoan, Rarotongan and Ma'ohi Tahitian heritage. In his art practice he plays the role of connector, working "in between" people and places and focusing a fresh lens on environmental, community, cultural and art historical divides. He exhibits worldwide and has undertaken research and community residencies throughout the USA, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Asia, India, Australia, as well as Aotearoa and the Pacific. In 2008 Michel was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art, but his real reward comes from enriching communities through his art.