TP+: Artist John-Paul Foliaki creates showcase to honour his late grandfather
Freshly graduated with a law degree and good job, performing artist John-Paul Foliaki seemed to be living a happy life. But unbeknownst to his family and friends, Foliaki’s mental health and well-being were being impacted by his unhappiness.
“One of the key things for me was working in a job I didn’t enjoy,” Foliaki says.
“I wasn’t getting any self-fulfillment or job satisfaction, and I found myself just losing my passion for creativity, passion for working with people, and I just wanted to shut myself out.”
Filling the void with parties and late nights, Foliaki eventually sought the help of a counsellor when his actions took a toll on his mental health. It was during this time that he also opened up to his close friends and family about his mental health journey.
“There was a lot of self-reflection that I had to do,” he explains.
“[I was] thinking about the things that made me happy and all the people that I’m surrounded by that give me the strength to get through difficult times.”
One of those people was Foliaki’s grandfather, the Late Dr Leopino Foliaki.
“It was a big funeral and everyone got to say their piece from the community, cos he was just such an amazing man.”
“We didn’t get to speak at his funeral,” Foliaki remembers.
Instead, Foliaki has created the I AM showcase, an exhibition of Māori and Pasifika performers from around Auckland. Featuring a diverse group of singing, dancing, film and spoken word talent, the I AM showcase is dedicated to Foliaki’s Grandfather.
“This showcase is on behalf of myself and of my first cousins just to say thank you and to showcase the values that he taught us,” says Foliaki.
Tackling a wide range of subjects, the showcase aims to open discussions surrounding mental health and well-being, particularly within Māori and Pacific communities
“What I’ve tried to do is see whose work has already reflected these key messages that I’m trying to portray in the showcase, and try bring their messages and experience through their previous work but just in another unique way.”
The I AM showcase will take place on 20-21 October at the Māngere Arts Centre.