03 Oct 2021
Fijian choreographer Alipate Traill is hoping to create a world record with the largest online Meke on Monday 4th October.
In special recognition of Macawa ni Vosa Vakaviti – Fijian Language Week, Pacific Dance 2021 artist in residence Alipate Traill shares with us his reflections and thoughts on culture as he winds down the clock on his three-month residency.
The Auckland-based tutor and choregrapher of Fijian meke (dance) and culture was born and raised on the Island of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian Islands. Alipate, of mixed Fijian and European heritage, was raised by his Fijian Bubu (grandmother) who he attributes his cultural knowledge, skills and inspiration for things i taukei and Pasifika.
Alipate has worked at the world-renowned Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii for seven years before returning to New Zealand and establishing a Fijian cultural group named Kabu Kei Okaladi. Despite being currently employed full time in aviation, he is also currently the director of Te Mana Academy based at the Pacifica Arts Centre in Henderson.
Tell us a moment where your cultural identity became a defining moment in your life?
As I matured in my late teens I began to realise the strength and stability that cultural knowledge and identity gave me amidst a turbulent world of ever changing values and influences. It was then that I began to look back more and remember the cultural teachings and influences that helped shape me as a person. My cultural knowledge was instilled in me by my Fijian Bubu (grandma).
How does language and/or culture help form your artform today?
Language and culture are the cornerstones of Fijian Meke or dance. We need to know what we are dancing about and what the words of the meke mean or the whole meaning of the dance is lost. There are certain customs and protocols that must be carried out when a traditional meke is created and performed for the first time. These are all done in the spirit of loloma (love) respect (vakarokoroko).
What motivates you do the art you do?
My why is seeing our kids stand up with confidence in claiming their identity regardless of whether they are full-blooded Fijians or mixed, born in Fiji or overseas. It is having the opportunity to share and instill some of that knowledge and wisdom that helped shape me with the younger ones. The joy of seeing them performing at big events such as Pasifika and Fiji Day annually and seeing their families excited and proud of them makes all the hard work of teaching and making costumes worth it all.
What’s a phrase or proverb in the Fijian language that speaks to you?
"E sega ni vuka na kaka me biu toka na buina." - The parrot will not fly leaving its tail in its nest. My interpretation of this Fijian proverb is that we cannot fly high without our culture and identity.
How will you be celebrating Fijian Language this week?
As the Pacific Dance NZ 2021 Artist in Residence - I will be running an online challenge to create a world record of the largest online Meke class on Monday 4th October. On Tuesday the 5th of October I will run a live online Meke costume workshop. On Wednesday the 6th my 2021 Artist in Residency programme will be officially closed online. All these activities will be carried on the Pacific Dance NZ Artist in Residence Facebook page.
Who or what are some of your favourite Fijian artists or events?
Favourite Artists are Joana Monolagi - Masi Artist, Seru Serevi – Singer, Saimone Vuatalevu – Singer. My favourite events are Pasifika- Fiji Village, Fiji Day Festival and Language Week Activities.