Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

South Auckland dance collective debuts new online film, ‘SYNTHESIS’

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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

Art in the time of Covid has been a challenge for many of our Māori and Pacific creatives. But for co-founder of South Auckland dance collective Lighthouse Famz Ennaolla Paea, it pushed her and the collective to become more innovative.

Originally working to debut a live showcase earlier in the year, Lighthouse Famz were stumped by the two lockdowns. “We couldn’t come together, we could barely meet,” remembers Paea.

“So we presented back to our dance family and said, ‘Look, why don’t we consider filming something and turning it into a show that can go online?'” she says.

“What we didn’t expect to happen due to all the creative juices it turned into a mini movie, artistic doco,” Paea enthuses.

SYNTHESIS: Collaborative creating between art forms was the end result. Premiering to a full house at the Māngere Arts Centre this week,  SYNTHESIS showcases a collaboration between Lighthouse Famz dancers and artists who specialised in other art forms.

The project features personal interviews and stories, ardent musical scores and spirited dance vignettes, all filmed and edited by musical prodigy Johann Ward. The project is a real testament to the rich and empowering creativity of our Māori and Pasifika artists.

SYNTHESIS film is a collaboration between the dancers of Lighthouse Famz and South Auckland artists. PHOTO // Ennaolla Paea


SYNTHESIS Artistic Co-Director Ennaolla Paea (right) and one of the projects collaborators, artist Kat Su’a Sagapolutele.   PHOTO // Alice Lolohea, Tagata Pasifika

For Artistic co-director Ken Vaega, SYNTHESIS was about encouraging the collective to step out of their comfort zones.

“With me and [Ennaolla], we’ve always been passionate about pushing our collective artists to perfect their craft, try something different, get better at it. And at the same time, inspire other people.”

As a pioneering krumper on the Kiwi dance scene, Ken collaborated with fellow krump artist and music producer Oliva Luke. Their artistic partnership resulted in an emotionally impactful story of the negative perceptions of brown men, his struggles with his Māori Samoan identity and his mental health.

“It’s been a story of mine ever since I could remember. It was really important for me to tell my story and let the audience experience a taste of my journey.”

SYNTHESIS premiered at the Māngere Arts Centre to a packed house. Artistic Co-Director Ken Vaega MC’d the event.  PHOTO // Alice Lolohea, Tagata Pasifika

For his SYNTHESIS piece, creative artist and Lighthouse Famz member Nela Tu’iha’angana wanted to portray his struggles of becoming a young father and his eventual embrace of the role.

It was a narrative which Tu’iha’angana felt isn’t really seen in mainstream media. “I was only 17, everyone didn’t really know what I was going through coz I was known as a happy guy.”

“But really, it was hard. I couldn’t do it, I still wanted to be a teenager and then when baby was 1 or 2, I finally saw that it wasn’t about me, it’s about her.”

Nela’s daughter Talayna, who is now 10, has followed in her father’s footsteps. A member of the Saintz Dance Academy and Krump enthusiast, Tu’iha’angana knew he wanted to involve her in his piece.

“She was like, ‘No Dad, I don’t want to dance with you!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m the one who taught you how to dance!'” he laughs.

“But it made my piece easy, just coz I really wanted to dance with her. I’ve always wanted to do that father-daughter dancing piece.”

Dancer Nela Tu’iha’angana performed with his daughter Talayna  PHOTO // Alice Lolohea, Tagata Pasifika

Dancer and choreographer Seidah Tuaoi became the project’s artistic advisor, envisioning a project that would connect their collective with South Auckland creatives. “Initially we wanted to extend the community of artists in Lighthouse Famz,” Tuaoi says.

“Because it was funded by the Māngere-Otāhuhu Local Board, we really wanted to make the connections with artists in the area and also learn new things from an artist as well.”

Collaborating with students from McAuley High School, Tuaoi says she was “really proud to see them watch their own work”.

“They had a dance show planned out and then it got cancelled, so it was an opportunity for them to perform. Awesome process and a lot of setbacks, but a lot of learnings and a lot of friendships made.”

Seidah Tuaoi collaborated with the McAuley High School students for SYNTHESIS  PHOTO // Lighthouse Famz

With the positive response to the project from the premiere, Paea hopes their collective will take away learnings from the film and their artistic pieces. “Seidah was always instigating ‘it’s about the process’.”

“I think the initial goal of SYNTHESIS was for the artist to grow from the process, not even the product. We’ve achieved what we’ve set out to achieve and now we have content that’s worth others seeing. My hopes are that the artists take their pieces and try push it further.”

“Everyone had their different challenges, so it’s exciting that we reached their end point.”

SYNTHESIS will be available to view on the Lighthouse Famz Instagram from today.

By Alice Lolohea





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