A New Pasifika Movie for Everyone to Enjoy

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Finau Fonua, recently posted an article about an acclaimed New Zealand-Samoan film director Damon Fepulea’i who made his feature film debut this week with the premiere of Pasifika themed comedy Red, White and Brass.

The film premiered Tuesday night at the Wellington’s Embassy Theatre and will make its first Auckland appearance on Wednesday night at the Hoyts Theatre in Sylvia Park.

Set during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the comedy follows a group of Tongan fans who form a brass band as the pre-game entertainment in a desperate attempt to get tickets.

“It’s a film that anyone can enjoy, like you can take the kids to see it, or you can take the uncles and aunties to see it…that’s the main thing for me is making a film that everyone can enjoy,” said Fepulea’i.

It’s a long time coming for Fepulea’i, who has worked in New Zealand’s film industry for over 25 years – producing documentaries, music videos and short films.

The director is highly regarded for his work. During his career, he’s directed episodes in a number of New Zealand TV shows such as Jono and BenFreshMean Mums, and The Market. “It’s pretty surreal, I’ve done all kinds of things but this is the first feature film that I’ve ever actually got to direct,” said Fepulea’i.


“The process of making this movie was quite long, like we spent maybe a year-and-a-half, writing it and then filming it. Because the filming took place during covid times, we had to stop filming and then start again, so it took ages. Then there’s the post production process. So yeah, after all the waiting, we are finally getting it out. It was a massive journey.”

Fepulea’i took on the film after being offered to direct a movie parodying the true story and antics of co-writer Halaifonua Finau.

In 2011, Finau hastily put together a brass band in a bid to perform in the pre-entertainment to the Rugby World Cup game between Tonga and France in Wellington. The game was considered one of the biggest upsets in rugby, with Tonga winning 19-14.

The film stars John-Paul Foliaki, who acted in the widely-acclaimed TV Series Panthers. “Most of the cast hadn’t been in a lot of films or TV shows, but came through different performing art schools. We didn’t have that many people to choose from but the people that we did get to choose were all amazing. They picked up things really quickly. Their interactions were natural and they were effortlessly funny as well. They don’t try and play funny, they just are.”

Fepulea’i hopes his feature film debut is one of many to come for aspiring Pasifika directors and producers, and is optimistic about the next generation of Pasifika talent.

“I’ve been on a lot of projects where it’s just like, you can see the new next generation of talent coming through,” he said.

“Hopefully in five or ten years they will see a lot more Pacific directors coming through.”

“It’s about Pacific people being the ones to tell Pasifika stories, because for a long time it’s been told by non-Pasifika directors or writers.”

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“Red Robe of Heaven,” A Maori Legend

Our new legend is one of my favorites, and is a story from the Maoris of New Zealand. The story was found in the book, Tales Told in Hawaii. Next time you are enjoying the sunrise or sunset, think of this story…

The Red Robe of Heaven

After Kane had kicked his Father Heaven into the sky, Mother Earth was very lonely and she begged Kane to kick her up there too.

“I cannot. You are below me,” Kane said. He was sorry for his mother. “Don’t weep, Mother. Dry your eyes and look at the new dress my plants have made for you. Father will be dizzy with your sweet perfume.”

Mother Earth was so beautiful in her new dress of flowers that Kane thought he saw Father Heaven lean down and caress Mother Earth at the far horizon. For a time Mother Earth was happy.

One day she looked from her own flowered gown to the colorless robe of heaven. “My son, your father is so poorly clad,” she said.

Kane searched and found a red garment, which was so sacred that only the gods know where it came from. He wrapped it around Father Heaven. “Now you are better clad,” he said.

Father Heaven was well pleased with his red robe, which can be seen to this day at sunrise and sunset. But he still mourns for his dear wife and in the long nights his tears fall upon her bosom in what men call dewdrops. The warm sighs of Mother Earth rise in what men call mists.

Red Robe of Heaven (New Zealand)

“The Red Robe of Heaven,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, Copyright 2023.

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Polyfest Is Back After Years of Disruptions

After four years of disruption, Polyfest has kicked off, with live audiences, in Tāmaki Makaurau, New ZealandSecondary school-aged performers were welcomed at a pōwhiri on Wednesday for the event’s 48th anniversary.

ASB Polyfest festival, which began in 1976, features traditional music, dance, costume and cultural speech competitions.

It’s one of the most recognised events on Auckland’s calendar, showcasing New Zealand’s diverse cultures and a celebration of youth performance. Students compete for first place on six stages, performing traditional items from the Cook Islands, Aotearoa, Niue, Samoa, and Tonga.There is also a Diversity stage to honor the cultures that weren’t previously included in the festival.

Polyfest’s theme this year is mana motuhake – creating one’s own destiny.


Director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu said they were “very grateful” to be back, running live without interruptions. “The vibe is so good,” she told Morning Report on Thursday.

“You know, you can’t help but smile when you go around the festival, because you can see how much enjoyment people are getting from just engaging even with the stall holders, having some beautiful food, buying crafts and engaging with our sponsors. Then the pride – and the nerves – you see on the students’ faces as you’re going onto the stage, that’s just irreplaceable.”

In 2019, the final day of the festival was cancelled in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. In 2020 the festival was cancelled altogether as Covid-19 began spreading in the community, less than two weeks before the country went into lockdown.

In 2021, it was delayed a month – again due to Covid-19 – and in 2022 it went virtual, with no live audience, sponsors or stalls, and groups performing individually without interaction with other groups. The reason? Covid-19 again, this time the growing Omicron outbreak.

“It’s a real resetting and rebuilding stage for us. We want people to feel safe to come back,” Leo-Mauu said.

Auckland recently suffered its worst-ever flooding, but the weather has since cleared up enough not to pose any problems for Polyfest 2023.

“Especially after the recent weather events, we also want this festival to be able to provide some hope to Auckland and to those around the country – you know, let’s continue to look forward and to support our young people.”

This year will see 181 groups from 55 schools compete and perform at two different events. The Cook Islands, Diversity, Niue, Samoa and Tonga stages will run from 8-11 March at the Manukau Sports Bowl, while the Māori stage will run from 3-5 April at the Due Drop Events Centre. g

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“The Island in Me” Film Update

I recently received an update regarding the documentary film, The Island in Me, that I’d like to share…

After the 41st Hawai’i International Film Festival, the director of the film, Gemma Cubero del Barrio, traveled to Tahiti with The Island In Me for the 19th FIFO. She shared an unforgettable experience with viewers in French Polynesia and Caledonia who felt the film spoke to their own experiences too. The documentary received a lot of attention and won the Special Jury Prize at the 19th Festival International du Film Documentaire Océanien FIFO in Tahiti.

The film continues to show on French Television.

The film is about three women who travel to the remote Polynesian atoll of Pukapuka in the South Pacific, taking the viewer into a riveting and poetic journey on memory, love, loss, identity and the universal search for wholeness.

After Tahiti, Johnny Frisbie along with her lovely daughter Carla and husband Alistair, Amelia with her parents Nancy and Rob and Gemma all traveled from Hawai’i to Aotearoa to celebrate the premiere of The Island In Me in New Zealand at the  DOCEDGE Film Festival. We also met up with Pio Ravarua, Executive Officer of Pukapuka and many others to celebrate the film. The  film showed in three cities – Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington -with all sold out screenings.

The Pukapukan community introduced the film with blessings, songs and heartfelt expressions.Many audience members cried and shared their own memories and stories of Pukapuka. Johnny also turned 90 and celebrated by bungee jumping off the Sky Tower!

The Island In Me at Cinequest in 2023! The festival started last week with his virtual edition called Cinejoy. From March 1st through March 12th you and anyone in the world has access to watch  The Island In Me ! To do this just go to the film page, click on the watch button the view film,  vote by clicking on the rate button and also RSVP for a virtual gathering with the creative team, friends and supporters of the film, for this click on the join the screening party button.

The virtual screening party will be on zoom on Saturday March 11th at 6PM, Pacific Standard Time. To get the zoom link with your local time and join that day click on Cinejoy Virtual Screenings Parties, scroll down to find The Island in Me and just click on RSVP.

Once the film completes the film festival circuit this year, you will hear from us, to inform you on ways to acquire  copies of the film etc…Gemma remembers you have been asking! Till then we hope this update brought you happiness and that participating in Cinejoy will be a wonderful communal experience!


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Samoan Artist Focused on His Art

Journalist, Shalveen Chand, of the Samoa Observer recently wrote about how for the last three weeks, Poto Tapumanaia has been a regular sight at the seawall facing Apia Harbor.

He has been making a canoe out of driftwood he fished out of the harbor. He has gathered the attention of an art collector who has offered him money for the finished canoe and he has agreed to sell it.


Apia Harbor, Samoa. Photo by Brandon Oswald

Mr Tapumanaia, 49, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is a mental disorder which he needs medication for but his art keeps him busy and focused. “I will be very open about by medical condition. I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and yes it has impacted me in life but I like to believe that keeping busy with art helps me deal with this condition,” he said.

“I realize that most Samoans are not able to realise the mental health illnesses are diseases and can be treated and there is medication for it. I also have high blood pressure and diabetes, people will think that these are diseases while schizophrenia is not.”

Last week, he pulled more driftwood from the sea. These would make the outrigger for the canoe and give it balance. “Carving and art is a family trait, I have a uncle who was teaching Samoan art at the National University and I see art in every day life,” Mr Tapumanaia said.

“So when this driftwood was hitting the seawall in Apia, others would have looked at it as just a piece of log but not for me. For me this was a canoe and a way to turn that log into money. I have agreed on the offer that was made and I hoping to complete this work in another week.”

Mr Tapumanaia will take the canoe for a paddle just to test it after it is completed. There will be no sails and the canoe would resemble the paddling canoes used by fisher folks in yesteryears.

As an artist he is hoping that young Samoans take art especially to do with the cultures and traditions of Samoa.

He believes that this is the way to keeping the history of Samoa alive. So if you are strolling along the seawall and come across Mr Tapumanaia hard at work, do say Talofa and Manuia Le Aso.

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Cook Islands’ Navigator Aims to Discover Stars Names

Radio New Zealand reporter, Caleb Fotheringham, recently wrote a piece about how traditional navigation knowledge could be hidden in stories and songs, and a Cook Islands master navigator is hoping to unearth them. 

Cook Islands master navigator and one of the founders of the organization, Peia Patai, said he wanted to speak with older Cook Islanders to learn the indigenous Māori names of stars that are used for navigation. “I think this is the time to touch base with them before they disappear,” Patai said.

“I have seen a lot of my older people, old mates that have disappeared and they’ve taken a lot of knowledge with them. We have to share it with our young people because I see us passing on really quickly with it.”


Master navigator Peia Patai. Photo: Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation

Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation will be holding three navigation workshops around New Zealand, and Patai said the workshop is just a matter of “chatting” with older people who may not know they have knowledge of the star names. “I believe some of our star names are in our stories, and in our songs, so some of older people may not think they have that star but once you listen to them tell stories, now and then it pops out.”

Patai said some knowledge had already been lost.

He said more people were learning traditional voyaging in the Cook Islands but he felt “a bit awkward” teaching in English rather than in te reo Māori.

Two workshops have already been held in Rarotonga and Auckland, and a third in Porirua, near Wellington is due to be held soon. The information taken from the three workshops will be compiled and archived in the Cook Islands.

Patai said he wants to create national standard for the names of all the stars, which can be a challenge because of differing names in each of the nation’s islands.

He said he wants the information used for a national curriculum used in Cook Islands schools.

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Another Lapita Site Found in Vanuatu

Journalist, Elton Barley, of the Vanuatu Daily Post, recently wrote about how a Lapita site that was  recently discovered by archeologists from the Vanuatu Kaljarol Senta (VKS) was the 15th Lapita site to be discovered in Vanuatu.

Lapita is the term is used to represent a certain group of people moving throughout Oceania in a given period and were the first people to settle the islands of Oceania.

A Lapita site is an evidence of these first colonizers of the Oceania and their way of life.


The Lapita People. Image from http://www.amuraworld.com

Reports from VKS reveals that 14 Lapita sites were already discovered by archeologists on the island of Motalava, Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Efate, Aneityum and Erromango and the latest on Pangpang Efate, makes it at 15.

There is one site in Motalava at Lequesdwen, four at Matantas in Espiritu Santo, Port Olry, Aore and Malo, and five at Vao, Atchin, Wala, Uripiv and North West area in Malekula. On Efate there are three sites located at Teouma, at Erueti and the latest discovery at Pangpang. There is one site on Erromango at Ifo and one on Aneityum.

Archeologist and Director of VKS, Richard Shing explains that the first Lapita site to be identified was at Erueti on Efate in the 1960s by a French government official Bernard Hébert.

The site was investigated by the pioneering archaeologist José Garanger, but it was very disturbed. Then more than 40 years later the extraordinary site of Teouma was discovered, at which the VKS led six seasons of excavation.

Mr. Shing also stated that there are Lapita sites on other islands, yet to be discovered and some are hard to be discovered as they are buried under ash fall as is the case of Shepherds because of Kuwae, as well as Ambrym and Ambae.

The archeologist further elaborate that these sites provide wealth of knowledge about the origins of men colonizing the Oceania and the fascinating things about them. “Chemical analysis of bones found at Teouma shows that there were tortoises, big flightless birds and crocodiles which are all extinct mainly eaten by these first people,” said Mr. Shing.

The Lapita site at Teouma is one of the biggest sites in the Pacific region. The excavation of the site was done in 2004 and a burial site of these early men was discovered.

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Cook Islands’ Vaka Paikea To Get Whale Art

Journalist, Melina Etches, of the Cook Islands News recently reported about how the Cook Islands’ boat, Vaka Paikea will get whale art as a tribute to legendary Maori ancestor and his journey…

According to Maori legend, Paikea, a great fisherman from the island of Mauke who gets lost at sea, landed on on Aotearoa, New Zealand on the back of a whale many centuries ago.

And to pay tribute to this legendary Maori ancestor and his journey, artwork of a humpback whale will be engraved on Vaka Paikea which was gifted to the Cook Islands by the Okeanos Foundation for the Sea.

Paikea Poster

Poster by pbsvictoriaj.blogspot.com

Local artist Katu Teiti said he feels “so privileged” to have been commissioned to paint the vaka. This will be his largest piece of art.

Preparations for the artwork involved the graphic design of a whale projected onto the hull for the sketching. The design will be repeated on the other hull.

Vaka Paikea captain and master navigator Peia Patai was pleased to see the start of the painting and said the design of a whale was fitting.

Patai, who is from the island of Mauke, revealed that for some time he had been thinking of names for the vaka. “I had been thinking about an appropriate name for our vaka, and name Paikea came about in a dream,” said Patai.

However, Patai felt a bit hesitant and uneasy and contacted the vaka culture advisor and one of his cousins, Tinokura Tairea, who knows the korero of Mauke. They okayed the name.

He had to also dig deeper and learn more about the story of Paikea. Patai said when Tairea finally gave his approval, he said the name “Paikea” needs to be revived in the Cook Islands. “From that conversation, I finally felt at ease about the name. I was happy.”

Maintenance work is still being carried out on the vaka, “mainly cosmetic things but time consuming”.

The blessing and official unveiling of Vaka Paikea will be held on April 14 before she sets sail for Mauke where traditional voyaging programmes will be conducted with young people on the island.

“We want to focus on the young people in the Pa Enua, to pass on our knowledge to them … we are doing this for our young ones,” said Patai.

Tauranga Vananga (Ministry of Culture) is documenting the artwork on the vaka with filming by Paula Paniani. The ministry has also provided some shade from the beaming sun.

Patai would like to acknowledge Culture Secretary Anthony Turua, Paula Paniani and the Okeanos Foundation chairman Dieter Paulmann. “We are very lucky we have his (Dieter’s) support, and he’s happy we are carrying on what he has advocated for,” said Patai.

Okeanos is a non-profit organisation that seeks to support innovative and transformative community led solutions to the challenges Pacific Islands are facing. Their mission is to advance sustainable sea transportation, indigenous learning, fossil fuel-free living, inter-island connectivity, cultural respect, economic sustainability, and climate change preparedness.

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Tane’s Amazing Collection in Fiji

Journalist, Pekai Kotoisuva, of The Fiji Times recently reported about Toka Tane selling her handicraft at the RoC Market in Suva.

As you stroll through the Suva Curio and Handicraft Centre in Suva you cannot miss the intricately woven products by Toka Tane on display.

Ms Tane who had Kiribati and Tuvalu backgrounds was born in Kiribati but moved to Fiji with her parents as a one-year-old.

Her father was a doctor assigned to Ono-i-Lau and many little islands in the Lau group.

“You can say that I grew up learning and adopting the Fijian culture, food, language and way of life,” she said. “My father was assigned to Nanukuloa, Ra and then to Nasau Village, Koro after his time in Lau.”

Ms Tane who is the weaver, designer and artist behind the business name, Te Raraga, shared how her rich and unique cultural background has inspired her craftwork. “My craftwork has a touch of Kiribati, Tuvaluan and Fijian cultures.”


“I also find inspiration from the wonderful rich colours of our natural environment and the different people I’ve met along throughout my journey of crafting custom-made items.”

Every third Sunday of the month you can find her at the RoC Market.

“I’ve been selling at the RoC Market for the past 20 years and I absolutely love it. I meet people from different cultures and backgrounds and they may not know this but their stories also inspire my craftwork. The RoC Market has allowed me to showcase the work that I do and it is a platform which rakes in a lot of income for me.”

For those who are still trying to figure out what Te Raraga means – it is a mixture of the Kiribati word ‘raranga’ and the Tuvaluan word ‘lalaga’ which both refer to the ‘art of weaving’.

“Both words are used in other Pacific Island languages pertaining to the same meaning, the art of weaving has evolved in the Pacific over the years and changing from island to island they each have a unique story of the own.

“Our designs and way of weaving here at Te Raraga showcase that diversity in the Pacific rather than just one particular island nation or culture.”

Her products range from hanging mirrors, trays, pot plant holders, laundry baskets, jewelry boxes, earrings and many more.

“The timeframe for creating each product depends on the size, so if I am working on a big laundry basket it takes me two weeks to complete and that would cost around $300.”

She added that Te Raraga’s logo was inspired by the shape of their signature craft which is the mother of pearl shell fan with vau fringes along with matching earrings which she had designed and created back in 2012.

If you’re ever in town be sure to pay her a visit at stall 59 Suva Curio and Handicraft Centre.

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The Darklands Book Featured at Local San Diego Library Showcase

new typewriter logo

I just wanted to share that my book, The Darklands: A Melanesian Experience, was featured at the San Diego Library’s 57th Annual Author Showcase at the downtown San Diego library branch on January 27, 2023.

The Book’s Summary:

The Darklands acutely examines the mysterious and unique cultural practices of the

Melanesian islands. The book delves into legends, supernatural beings, and haunting

places, and explores the dark realms of the region. Its underlining story shows how

the “Melanesian Way of Life” has been compromised by colonial governments,

missionaries, and Europeans desire to exploit the islands, and the Melanesian

people’s struggle to regain some of their traditional beliefs and customs.

Additionally, interwoven throughout the book are some of the author’s adventures

while serving as a volunteer archivist throughout the region.


The Darklands can be found on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

The San Diego Public Library was proud to sponsor the 2022 Showcase, featuring published works by San Diego’s most talented authors. The event was live and in-person! The showcase featured a stunning collection of display cabinets filled with locally authored books from several different genres.

The display will be available for public browsing for the entire month of February, afterwards the books will be prepared to circulate for one year. Books will also be featured in an online exhibit.

The gala included multi-award winning local author T. Greenwood who delivered the keynote speech. The evening also featured local jazz musicians, Ria & Aaron, light refreshments, a limited open mike event* and a few more surprises, including a Library Shop sponsored breakout session with the International Memoir Writers Association featuring several authors from their annual Memoir Showcase contest, collected and published as Shaking the Tree Volume Four: That’s a Terrible Idea. What Time? with free copies of the book for a few lucky breakout attendees.


57th Annual Local Author Showcase at the San Diego Downtown Branch, January 27, 2023. Photo by Brandon Oswald


The Darklands prominently displayed at the 57th Annual San Diego Author’s Showcase on January 27, 2023. Photo by Brandon Oswald.


Books on display by local San Diego authors during the 57th Annual San Diego Local Author Showcase, January 27, 2023. Photo by Brandon Oswald.

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