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A Woman of the Moana: The Process of Searching, Learning & Creating

I often question myself as an artist; what kind of work do I want to make? Who am I making it for? And what is my intention? For those of you who do not know me, my name is Ufitia Sagapolutele, I am a New Zealand-born Samoan woman and I am an interdisciplinary artist currently working with movement, visual art and voice.

From a young age, I have always loved the performing arts. Whether it was dancing around in the lounge, singing at the top of my lungs in the shower, I knew one day I would pursue a career in the arts. Now, this little dream of mine did not grow on its own. It grew from the love and support of my family, especially my mother who always encouraged me to do what I love, and to do what makes me happy.

My mother is my inspiration, she showed me the power of hard work. I learned how to be resourceful and how to make the most of my gifts from her example. These are lessons I have taken forward into the work that I do, how I treat others and how I believe in those around me. I honour her memory by giving the best of myself and understanding that with great sacrifice comes great opportunity. After her passing, I decided moving forward I would create dance works with purpose and dedicate my career to giving back to my community.

Recently, I created and showcased a new work called Meaalofa Mamafa: A Heavy Gift with the help of my aiga – my village at the Pacific Dance Festival. This work sprouted from my personal experiences growing up with a name that did not fit in our society, a name that was constantly butchered by others, which resulted in feeling embarrassed and ultimately wanting to change my name. Meaalofa Mamafa: A Heavy Gift was created to start a conversation around names, and how important they are. To acknowledge these names which were gifted from our ancestors and past generations and to encourage others to speak our names into existence with pride.

I knew in order to create meaningful dance works from a Pasifika female perspective, I needed to be surrounded by others who are currently creating authentic, ground-breaking work. It is a blessing to say, I am surrounded by some incredible women such as Jahra Rager Wasasala, Rosanna Raymond and Grace Teuila Taylor who inspire me on a daily basis. These women research our culture daily, they constantly challenge boundaries, and are all for our Pasifika people.

I have learned a lot about my roots and my intentions as an artist through Talanoa's (conversations) with these women. I believe it is so important to surround yourself with those who are willing to support, encourage, call you out and uplift you always. In an industry that is male dominated with few Pasifika artists, I have realised how important it is to use my voice, represent my people and educate those who may not understand our truth and our stories. That is my WHY and intention behind my creative work. I encourage you to find your purpose and reasoning behind each work you decide to create and put out. Art is subjective, but when it comes from a place of authenticity, that is when the beauty of magic begins.

A Woman of the Moana: The Process of Searching, Learning & Creating

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