Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television

since 1987

Sima Urale and artist Coco Solid receive Arts Foundation Laureate Awards

Samoan-born filmmaker Sima Urale. Photo / Nan Sirisamphan

Two Pacific artists are among the recipients of the 2019 Arts Foundation Laureates Awards, which recognise exceptional artists with a $25,000 grant to empower their growth and their work.

Sima Urale and Jessica Hansell aka ‘Coco Solid’ are two of the 10 high-calibre artists that were awarded this year. 

Samoan-born filmmaker and actor Sima Urale moved with her family to Wellington when she was 7 years old. 

“We moved here in 1974, so I’m an immigrant. Mum [artist Pusi Urale], she wanted us to see what other people were going through. I think that’s the thing that’s allowed me to empathise.”

She says storytelling is about conveying an entire world and belief system and refers to it as one of the most powerful tools she is privileged to access. 

Her debut film was O Tamaiti (1996), which won Best Short at the Venice Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and the NZ Film & TV Awards, as well as a Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival.

Other films include Velvet Dreams (1997) which screened at the NZ and Hawaii film festivals and won Best Documentary Award at Canada’s Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, and Still Life (2001) which became the first New Zealand short to take the top award at the Montreal World Film Festival. She then directed Coffee and Allah (2007) and her first feature film Apron Strings (2008), both written by Shuchi Kothari.

“I think as an artist you always want to get things off your chest. So, Still Life, you know, [that was about] the whole issue of euthanasia. I just had to get it off my chest and write about it. And those are the types of stories that actually affect society and hopefully bring change to people.”

Jessica Hansell aka ‘Coco Solid’. Photo / Nan Sirisamphan

Other awardee, Jessica Hansell, is of Māori, German and Samoan heritage, and is a musician, writer, director, producer and artist. She entered the Auckland music scene at 19 years old and was a part of all girl band The Pussies. Since 2003 she has independently produced nine albums.

She says her work is driven by her desire to make alternative experiences visible. In 2017 she partnered with the Spinoff and fellow musician Trixie Darko to launch Equalise My Vocals, a campaign calling out sexism and racism in the music industry.

“In recent years I’ve learned my voice, be it literal or figurative, that’s my weapon of choice, that’s the one that always makes people say, ‘oh thank God you are here.’

She is also the creator if animated TV series Aroha Bridge.



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