Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pasifika writers showcase monologues at the 2023 TAHI Festival

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Niuean writer, and director of Tongan television series Brutal Lives, Vela Manusaute.
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Kendall Vano | Reporter

Pasifika and Māori writers have been given an exciting opportunity to showcase their talent and perspectives at the 2023 TAHI Festival. This show is titled, ONO.

In an effort to address the lack of representation in previous years, the festival organisers have commissioned six monologues centred around the theme of aroha/alofa.

Recognising the need to provide a platform for diverse voices from Pasifika and Māori communities, the festival hopes to amplify the voices of these underrepresented groups and foster a greater sense of inclusion and cultural exchange.

During their exploration of the themes, these Pacific writers of this year’s festival came to common discovery. The healing power of their words, which opened up past wounds and addressed the deep underlying issues within themselves. 

Niuean writer, and director of Tongan television series Brutal Lives, Vela Manusaute has put his hat into the ring. The theme gave Vela the opportunity to explore past relationships with his father. 

“Our relationship was never the best and it didn’t end so well between us. And so I’ve put down in words my thoughts and feelings, that’s why I’ve named the monologue “No love, only tears.” 

Vela says that they didn’t always see eye-to-eye or he didn’t agree with the things he was saying. 

“I remember I would be crying in my room, confronted by my father. We got into a lot of disagreements and so I’ve written it all down into a reflection on him.”  

Vela says their relationship still affects him to this day, as he reflects on his father’s influence  and who he’s come to be. 

“It’s because that relationship continues to impact me to this day, it has played a significant role in shaping my identity and the person I have become,” he says. 

The Niuean writer says that he wants young people to take away the importance of our words and our stories and that writing can be good for you. 

“I hope this monologue inspires young people to know when it’s time to move on and make peace. And that writing can heal wounds instead of drowning in these stories, let them go or else you’ll drown in them. Writing is my healing, and it can be theirs too,” says Vela. 

Cook Island Māori writer and playwright Michaella Steel.

Another standout writer contributing to the festival’s ONO monologues is Cook Island Māori writer and playwright with roots in Tainui; Michaella Steel.

Michaella says that her monologues explore the love and hate relationship between siblings, more specifically the relationships shared between sisters. 

“My monologue will delve into the struggles of having that type of relationship, the intricacies, the complexities, the fluctuations. The idea that we didn’t get to choose each other and yet have to learn to love another or at the best; get along”

“Inspired by my relationship with my sister. Told through my lens, as I come to grips with who she is and who she’s come to be. And that I need to understand that she it’s not that little girl with the bowl cut with the Harry Potter glasses,”

“And how I need to realise that she’s an adult and she’s old enough to make her own decisions and make her own mistakes and that I can’t be a protector no matter how much I really want to. My sister is a strong Wahine, and needs to give her space to grow, ”

Following in the footsteps of her fellow writer, Michaella emphasises the healing benefit she uncovered in her writing. 

“I find writing to be cathartic, I liken the whole process to therapy. Touching on very heavy themes of inspiration. And writing the monologues and delivering them will allow that space to grieve and breath and let go of those issues holding us back.”

Joining the ONO project as fellow playwrights are an impressive group of six individuals. They include:

  • Jthan Morgan, whose ancestral heritage encompasses Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Sapapāli’i, Magiagi, and Lotofaga.
  • Isaac Martyn, representing Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa.
  • Poata Alvie McKree, who proudly represents Ngapuhi / Ngati Kahu ki Whangaroa ancestry, with additional roots in St Vincent and Barbados.
  • Tainui Tukiwaho, whose lineage extends to Tūhoe and Te Arawa.

ONO will be presented at the TAHI Festival at Circa Theatre on 6th -16th September 2023



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