Pacific people are often praised for their artistic ability but feel the pressure to pursue other career paths. However, recipients of Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika awards in New Zealand hope their success can inspire others to turn their talent into a job. Daniela Maoate-Cox spoke to the winners about the significance of their work.
A Niuean man walking down K-Road in Auckland is stopped and searched by police.
In his pocket is a plastic comb he'd taken from a bin of free items at work so the police charge him with theft from an employer.
Random checks like this were legal and not uncommon in 1978 - it's the time of Dawn Raids where alleged overstayers from the Pacific were targeted by police in early morning visits often resulting in deportation.
Word of the arrest reached David Williams, a law lecturer at the University of Auckland, who marched into the police station with a University of Auckland branded pen demanding he also be arrested for stealing from his employers.
"We've just acquired that pen into our Pacific collections," says Project Curator Pacific at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai.
"The point he was trying to make was that they need to make an attempt at doing further research into how this Niue man got the comb rather than just randomly searching him and just arresting him," she says.
"He's had that pen with him and used it in lectures for the past 30 plus years."
The pen is one of the more unusual items collected for preservation but museums are now more accepting of collecting stories as well as items says Kolokesa.
"Sometimes you might have a particular work that is really worn out, someone has worn it and it's tattered but the story and the person who wore it is just as important, so we would consider that quite valuable."
Kolokesa's work itself is also considered valuable by the Creative New Zealand Arts council which awarded her the special recognition award at it's 20th Arts Pasifika Awards in Wellington this month.
She hopes the award will boost awareness of the purpose of museums.
"It's not a place that our communities regularly go to," says Kolokesa.
"I think museums as an institution are a foreign sort of concept to the wider moana Pacific but at the same time we display our works, we have our own collections but I guess the difference is with being part of the living culture this material wealth is constantly exchanged during certain occasions, birthdays, weddings, where you give a gift and you receive a gift," she says.
Kolokesa says being brought up in a family that is rooted in Tongan culture led to an interest in art history which opened her eyes to the value of museums.
But many Pacific people are steered away from a career in the arts.
Opera singer Madison Nonoa is the recipient of the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award created in memory of the baritone Enari who paved the way for classical Pacific musicians like Madison.
"Iosefa Enari who was a Samoan baritone really pioneered the way for young Pacific Islanders in the world of opera, there isn't a huge amount of us so he did a lot of work in raising awareness."
Madison began singing at the age of three charging her family to attend her concerts in the living room.
She has since spent 14 years studying opera and just completed her studies in French, German and Music at the University of Auckland where she was also a student mentor.
Helping students focus on their education goals is her passion but she says many feel the pressure to let their artistic talent fall by the wayside.
"Basically every Pacific Islander I've ever met either loves music or has some kind of affinity with it and is very gifted," she says.
"But there's a lot of pressure actually from the wider communities to leave it as a hobby and to do something else which is fair enough in lots of ways but I think there's an enormous among of potential out there and talent that I'd love to see more people coming through."
Changing those attitudes relies on having more Pacific role models championing the arts as a skill and a career.
Poet Karlo Mila whose works on Pacific culture, politics and love are regularly used in school curricula is the winner of the contemporary Pacific Artist Award but she says becoming a writer was never something she considered as a job prospect.
"When I was a university student doing a couple of English papers, because there were so few Pacific people, I was included in their promo video," she says.
"They were asking me why I took English and I was like 'oh 'cos you know it's good for jobs that you have good grammar' I didn't go 'oh I'm going to write a poetry book one day', I was just very practical and it was just very much out of the realm of what was normal for people around me."
But there's no shortage of enthusiasm to learn says Whitireia Polytechnic senior lecturer Tuaine-Nurse Tamarua Robati.
Tuaine has worked in education since 1972 and has been honoured with the Pacific Heritage Arts Award for his contribution to maintaining Pacific cultures amongst youth.
He says despite the distance from the islands there's no difficulty engaging students in Poly-clubs.
"The kids love it. I've never seen that as a negative because they come voluntarily, it's mainly at lunch time for practices, there's a hunger there for learning cultural dances."
At tertiary level students learn the history and some of the various languages behind dances but Tuaine is not a dancer himself.
"I think it's probably my teacher training and passion for being a Cook Islander. I am very passionate about the maintenance of our language for New Zealand born students and our culture, I'm very proud."
That pride in Pacific culture is part of what prompted the creation of the awards twenty years ago.
"It's the one night during the year that we celebrate everything that's fabulous about Pacific arts and the state of Pacific arts at the moment" says Creative New Zealand council member Caren Rangi adding that there isn't enough recognition for Pacific artists in New Zealand.
"I think this is where events like these are really important because it is a chance to showcase them, I think the rest of New Zealand probably doesn't know just how fabulous the artistic talent is, apart from those that get on mainstream TV perhaps or mainstream platforms but I just think New Zealand you're really lucky, you've got such a great line up of talent.