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March 3, 2017 | by  | in Theatre |
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Conchus Summit

As part of Circa Theatre’s WTF! Women’s Theatre Festival, arts collective The Conch put together a two-part event on February 25 celebrating Pacific women’s performative art.

During the day, Nina Nawalowalo, Tusiata Avia, and Anapela Polataivao shared their stories and experiences of creating and performing art that was not only challenging in subject matter, but also difficult to produce where there was a lack in structural, financial, and creative support from the creative industries. Nina emphasised that for Pacific stories to be told, Pacific storytellers are going to need a lot of courage. But these stories also require courage and faith from those in power to fund and facilitate their telling.

Throughout each shared story was a running theme of the absolute necessity of sharing our platforms, our spaces, and our talents with each other. There is enough to go around. The speakers encouraged artists to leave behind the sense of competition with each other; our stories will travel further if we build them together. Tusiata explored the many moments of doubt about not being smart enough, brown enough, literary enough, creative enough, skinny enough, enough enough, to take her place in the creative world.

In the evening was the Conchus Showcase, with an array of song, dance, readings, and acting from several artists at different points in their creative careers. Selina Alefosio’s Whatupaepae paid homage to her mother, grandmother, and ancestors who have shaped her identity, through traditional Tokelauan dance mixed with contemporary elements. Tusiata read an excerpt from a novel in progress, prose being a form outside her usual comfort zone of poetry. Tupe Lualua and Le Moana showcased the final act of their captivating show 1918, a dance show about the ‘Spanish’ influenza epidemic that spread across the world, but hit Samoa’s population significantly due to New Zealand’s poor colonial administration of Samoa.

Filoi Vailaau choreographed and directed a piece titled Ie toga: A Samoan Woman’s Legacy that honoured two of Samoa’s precious measina (sacred treasures): Ie Toga, the fine mat gifted ceremoniously to show deep respect and alofa to the receiver; and the people who pour their spirit and sweat to weave these treasures. The performance piece did what I thought was unusual for theatre (that even I, a non-theatre goer, would know); it had the Samoan women performing as themselves. There’s something inexplicably breathtaking about seeing the women from generations before us, on a stage that would be foreign to them, but telling a story that is weaved into their being. Seeing older Samoan women, the unsigned authors and painters of many sacred tales over generations, get their time to shine and be celebrated was a beautiful moment. I don’t know if all theatre shows have this effect, but as a first-timer, this was a great first impression.

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