Samoan born choreographer awarded CNZ artist residency
A Samoan-born choreographer Lemi Ponifasio has been awarded this year's Creative New Zealand artist residency in Samoa.
A Samoan-born choreographer Lemi Ponifasio awarded this year's Creative New Zealand artist residency in Samoa hopes to challenge and change people's perspectives about their lives, culture and the arts.
The award is a partnership established with the National University of Samoa, offering New Zealand-resident Pacific artists the opportunity to develop their art.
Lemi Ponifasio is the founder and director of MAU, the contemporary dance and theatre company, and has presented work at many arts festivals around the world.
He told Sara Vui-Talitu that he will be conducting lectures and workshops as well as developing a dance theatre programme during the three-month residency.
LEMI PONIFASIO: With the university in Samoa, I think it's a good place to plant some ideas about arts, about life, I think. My intention is really not to create a singer or a dancer or an actor, but just how to make sense of being present in the world, you know, being conscious about the world. And for me that is the point of the arts - it's how to reimagine ourselves and keep searching for a more infinite reality than just what the world is telling us. So that is what I think you're trying to grow by creation, by making art, it's this reimagination of how life can be, you know? We need to propose how we want our lives to be in the next 20, 50 years, instead of always hoping with the life that seems to be defined by other people.
SARA VUI-TALITU: And how receptive do you think people in Samoa will be to that?
LP: Like a farmer, you know? When you go in to plant your seed you get your hands dirty. Nobody is looking, you know? (Chuckles) So the fruit is something that happens much, much later. But I think it's an ongoing process. I think Samoan people are very intelligent people like anybody else. They are also very open, I think. It's just how you meet certain points of view. I think some truth may emerge from that little dance. One must go in more with a question than with a whole lot of answers that are not going to be very helpful.
SVT: Tell us, Lemi, what was the seed for you way back when you were starting your career, getting into choreography and movement? What was the seed for you that made you decide to go down this path?
LP: As a teenager or as a student, when the teacher says something your mind goes 'Bling, bling. Why are they telling me that?' Then you start to think what's in it for you? Because most of the time what they teach you in schools or universities, it's not how the world is for me outside of the classroom. So it's almost like you've been fed a lie about existence. So dance or the theatre or arts was that way of saying, 'Oh, OK'. In the arts you can create a whole new sense of being in the world and trying to embrace how life is being real to you. And a lot of the failures of especially Pacific people in universities is because they're entering into the frames of other people's world views.
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