Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Te Ahu Taiohi: Changing lives of Pasifika youth through performing arts

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Te Ahu Taiohi. Photo: Provided
Te Ahu Taiohi. Photo: Provided
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Anauli Karima Fai'ai | Reporter/Director

The team behind Te Ahu Taiohi, a digital show screening at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of Arts, has been making an impact on Pasifika youth in Wellington.

It is the culmination of a seven-week programme, now in its second year, which gives Pasifika and Māori youth a platform to speak about issues that concern them.

Their stories have been woven into an hour-long performance combining art forms such as poetry, hip hop dance, kapa haka and theatre.

Senior producer Sasha Gibb says the film has received a positive response since it began streaming last month.

“I’ve shown it to people who know nothing about the process, who didn’t have any connection to our young people, and I’d turn around and look at them, and they’re crying their eyes out,” she says.

Gibb says identity was a topic that the young people regularly spoke about and one she could relate to, growing up as a New Zealand-born Samoan.

“I found it interesting that this generation coming through have a whole new sense of challenges around that identity because they’re not just trying to identify with one culture but have multiple cultures within their ancestry that they’re trying to connect to.”

Making the show happen has been a big operation, requiring a team of 30 staff to build a theatre inside the Te Rauparaha sports complex in Porirua.

“That was really important to me because what that then says to our young people is that you are just as important, just as worthwhile listening to as any of those other performers coming out at that kind of level.”

Despite the level of professionalism behind the project, Gibb says its main purpose is to make a difference in the young people’s lives.

“Like around our discipline, like around our confidence, our ability to speak in public, our ability to empathise with other people, our understanding of other humans, it’s all those things that we’re actually using this process to train inside of ourselves.”

Amelia Ta'atiti performing her poem on Pacific identity. Photo: Provided
Amelia Ta’atiti performing her poem on Pacific identity. Photo: Provided

One of the performers, 15-year-old Amelia Taatiti, wrote a poem on the misconceptions about being a Pacific Islander in New Zealand.

“I think one of the biggest challenges is the comments that other people make on us and having to overcome those comments – usually by ourselves,” she says.

Taatiti says the camaraderie in the team gave her the confidence to be able to try new things.

“At the start of the project, I feel like I was a lot more shy. I wasn’t very good at coming out of my comfort zone. I definitely would never have gone on stage performing hip hop.

“It was really good to have the encouragement of others and be able to push through and break past those barriers.”

Youth facilitator Dylan Vailima Fa’atui, who comes from a theatre background, says many young people had performed cultural dancing in the past, but few had acting experience.

“Because they were so used to being themselves, to become someone else, was a bit out of it for them.”

Fa’atui says the young people have shown vast transformations throughout the programme and hopes the show will encourage adults to listen to their concerns more often.

“I guess as adults, they spend a lot of time constantly being like ‘I know what’s right, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ but our rangatahi have a voice, and when given a platform to actually share and speak and say what they want, it’s really powerful work.”

Click here to watch the show which will be screening until Sunday 17 April.



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