15 Nov 2013

Diversity on show at Pasifika arts awards

9:13 am on 15 November 2013

An opera singer, a hip-hop choreographer and a Tokelauan community group are among the winners of this year's Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards.

Bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu won the supreme accolade of senior artist at Thursday night's awards ceremony in Wellington.

The heritage award was won by the 700-strong Atafu Tokelau Community Group from Porirua.

New awards for making a special contribution to the standing of Pacific arts have gone to the senior curator for Pacific cultures at Te Papa, Sean Mallon, and to hip-hop choreographer Parris Goebel, creator of the Polyswagg style.

Other winners were playwrights Victor Rodger in the contemporary artist category and Suli Moa for emerging artist.

Harpist Natalia Mann won the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award for classical music.

Creative New Zealand's Pacific arts committee chairperson Winnie Laban says the awards show the enormous diversity of Pasifika contributions to the arts in New Zealand and internationally.

Lemalu hopes his example will encourage young artists to put themselves forward for funding and support.

The opera singer's award came with $10,000 in prize money.

Lemalu performs in many of the world's great opera houses but when he left to study overseas in 1999, he did not apply for funding because he felt he wasn't good enough.

He says the award will be a huge motivation for him and he hopes it will inspire others to believe that if a Samoan boy from Dunedin can do it, they can too.