28 Aug 2019
A young Tongan artist from South Auckland has won the Creative New Zealand and Massey University Arts and Creativity Award at the 2019 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.
Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau was among 11 other young Pasifika leaders acknowledged at a special ceremony at Parliament hosted by Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito Sua William Sio and attended by Prime Minister the Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern.
Twenty-one year old Manuha'apai is of Tongan descent and has been a member of queer arts collective FAFSWAG since 2016.
The successful collective has collaborated with many artists in the Pacific arts community and have opened discussion – alongside artists Pati Solomona Tyrell and Sione Monu – for the re-instating and activating of queer Pacific identities (fakaleiti, fa’afafine, akavaine, etc.) in digital and public spaces, both nationally and internationally.
Manuha’apai hopes to one day become a lecturer and help other Pacific peoples, specifically those of the queer Pacific community, whom he notes are the shareholders of cultural knowledge.
“I think a lot of people fail to realise that the power that comes with being able to embody both the masculine and the feminine comes with the ability of holding all aspects of our culture and our work,” he says.
This is the sixth year that Creative New Zealand has supported the awards which are run by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.
Arts Council Deputy Chair Caren Rangi said Creative New Zealand was delighted this year to again be supporting the award in conjunction with Massey University.
“Supporting and uplifting young Pasifika artists from all communities is important in making sure that we celebrate the true diversity of our people. Manuha'apai’s work with FAFSWAG has had international recognition, so we look forward to seeing his career develop further,” she says.
Manuha’apai is planning to use the award to initiate a project with his grandmother, looking at the inter-generational sharing of traditional knowledge.
“My Nana and all the women in my family are such powerhouses in regards to all the knowledge they hold and the way they use that knowledge to secure us in our mana. I want to immortalise and give thanks to them by documenting and securing as much of that knowledge in a self-publication and in an exhibition, and maybe have it developed further into a film.”