Vita Vaka and Nicole Pereira. Photo: Matt Brown.

Pacific theater debut

A dynamic duo hopes to start a new appreciation for Pasifika culture in the community.

The region’s first ever Pacific theatre is set to make its debut in Blenheim this weekend.

Written and directed by 30-year-old kiwi-born Tongan Vita Vaka, and producer and partner Nicole Pereira, Mafana highlights issues faced by Pacific youth in New Zealand.

Vita says the show uses a variety of Pacific performing arts to get the show’s message across.

Performers rehearsing for this weekends debut show. Photo: Matt Brown.
Performers rehearsing for this weekends debut show. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’re telling the story through dance and music but also acting as well.”

Twelve young Pasifika actors from the boys’ and girls’ colleges as well as the wider community will perform in the show.

“Mafana – what it means is heart warmth – something that is heart-warming or uplifting,” Vita says.

“With Pacific people, they get excited or this emotional feeling that they get when they see something expressed further than they can.”

“I’m hoping that with this show it can ignite and start the Mafana within people to pursue and fulfil their destiny.

“If you’re trying to achieve your goals or dreams, it’s not an easy thing to do,” he says.

“Having the Mafana ignite them will help carry them through beyond their fear, beyond something that you can articulate.”

Along with directing, writing and performing, Vita composed the final song, the Mafana Anthem, for the play.

“The other music is from Pacific artists or using musical instruments that we do in the Pacific,” he says.

Vita secured funding for the show through Creative New Zealand’s Moana grant and additional funding has come from various local organisations.

“[The grant] was all about using heritage arts for communities to experience and explore who they are and their Pacific cultural identity through the arts,” Nicole says.

“When we were writing for funding, we had to rationalise why money should go into a project like this with a small Pacific community and a small Pacific audience.

“In the bigger areas, [Pacific Islanders are] a majority group so this stuff is really well developed and supported.

“This is a way to ignite that cultural identity and be really proud of it,” she says.

Mafana actors Monu Moli and Joshua Leota. Photo: Matt Brown.
Mafana actors Monu Moli and Joshua Leota. Photo: Matt Brown.

17-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College student Joshua Leota plays the lead character, Simon, a Kiwi-born half-Tongan half-Samoan.

“[Simon] is kind of out of touch with his culture so he disregards it,” Joshua says.

“Through the play, he is taught the island ways.”

Joshua says he relates personally with the character.

“I’m Tongan-Samoan as well, I wouldn’t say I’m the most in touch with my culture, so this is a learning experience for me.”

Vita hopes Marlborough’s first Pacific theatre will ignite a passion in the community for more performing arts.

“My dream and my hope is that I can instil this in someone else and they carry on, that releases me to create more projects,” Vita says.

See Mafana at the Marlborough Boys’ College 7pm, Saturday 7 September.

Tickets are available online at http://bit.ly/mafanashow and cost $15 for adults and $7 for children.

Renowned New Zealand carver and tattooist Heemi Te Peeti. Photo: Supplied.

Milestone sculpture to mark celebration

A towering sculpture marking a milestone moment in Marlborough’s history has secured $88,000 of council funding.

The $401,000 art installation created by renowned New Zealand carver and tattooist Heemi Te Peeti is inspired by Rangitāne o Wairau.

And the iwi has successfully secured $88,000 from Marlborough District Council to put towards the massive steel and bronze creation.

In a bid put forward to council, project organisers say the carving will go up on the corner of SH1 and Nelson St, next to the railway station.

“Archeologically, the Wairau is regarded as the first settled region with remains dating back 1000 years.

“The significance and heritage if this area is not widely known at a community level.

“Tui 250 provides the opportunity for a legacy landmark sculpture with interpretation panels to promote the region and its extraordinary history”.

Hopes for the Tauihu sculpture, representing the prow of a waka, to be cast entirely in bronze were scuppered due to a budget shortfall.

But plans for the 8-metre high art project were changed to ensure the project could go ahead as part of the Tōtaranui 250 celebrations in November.

Rangitāne o Wairau are contributing $30,000 to events and the project.

Organisers have also applied to the Rata Foundation for a grant of $120,000.

“A key part of the commemoration is the Tui 250 voyage, a flotilla of Pacific and European vessels.

“The voyage flotilla will promote the exceptional feats of Māori and European voyaging that brought us together, while providing an opportunity to reflect on our complex history of migration and settlement,” they say.

Rangitāne o Wairau will be co-ordinating the Haka Pōwhiri at Ship;s Cove , which will be led by Janis de Thierry.

Wānanga will be held to learn specific haka taparahi to perform with Wānanga training dates to be announced shortly.

If you are interested in being part of the Ope Haka Pōwhiri please contact the Rangitāne office on (03) 578 6180.