Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tongan artist takes a stand against oppression in Palestine through art

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Photo: @moanaloveniu
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Kendall Vano | Reporter

Artist, educator and director Vaimoana Niumeitolu, born in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, and raised in Hawai’i and Utah, is making a stand through her art to bring light to the oppression of Palestine by Israel.

“I consider all my art making ‘my ngatu.’ ( Tongan artform). We are born wrapped into ngatu and we are buried wrapped into it.”

Niumeitolu joined a rally for Palestine at the Provo Public library in Utah, a place that holds significant sentimental value for her.

“Education, reading, writing, and learning are important lessons that my mother and father taught all of my siblings and I. All of us started reading when we were 3 years old,” she says.

“My whole immediate family has a sense of social justice, awareness, social responsibility, social integrity, and service”. 

Vaimoana Niumeitolu with her mother at a protest in favour of a ceasefire. Photo: moanaloveniu

Reflecting on her family’s influence, Niumeitolu expressed a deep-seated commitment to social justice, with roots traced back to her grandfather, the first western doctor in Tonga, and her mother, a pioneering Tongan woman with a Ph.D. in mathematics and a key figure in the ProDemocracy movement in Tonga.

Despite facing negative reception for speaking out, she remains undeterred, using her art as a powerful tool for social change. 

Niumeitolu’s activism is driven by a broader connection between Pacific Islands and the Palestinian struggle, rooted in indigeneity.

In discussing the Free Palestine March in Salt Lake City, Niumeitolu highlighted her involvement with the Nuanua collective, an inspiring community of queer youth and young adults.

Vaimoana’s first mural painted in Brooklyn 2015 of Palestinian mother, Ahmany and daughter, Asmaa.

For Niumeitolu, art is not just a medium of expression but a business and a transformative force capable of mending relationships in conflicts.

“As my activism continues, I call on the Pacific community to get involved, asserting that the struggle for liberation is interconnected.”

“My art is always made by placing layer upon layer upon layer. Rather digging away layers like an archaeologist, I dig into my findings by placing them upon each other like a builder. Building and creating our life journeys, celebrating our existence.”

Photo: moanaloveniu

A co-founder of Mahina Movement, an all-BIPOC women/trans/queer music and poetry trio, Niumeitolu has performed on over 700 stages across the U.S and Ireland. Her commitment extends beyond the stage, as she is a founding member of Decolonize this Place and has written and directed over 20 theatrical productions, even gracing New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“I want my art to bring out beauty, strength, and connection by sharing the human spirit. Telling people’s stories in my art is important to me.”



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