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VOU Dance Company ignite Fiji collections

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VOU Dance Company ignite Fiji collections

by Bethany Edmunds
Sat, 14 Mar 2015

Dance and the spoken word are powerful forms of cultural expression and memory and have a rich heritage in the Pacific. To celebrate Fijian Language Week 2014, we invited Suva-based dance company 'VOU' to bring sound and dance into the Museum. They spent four days with us, and members of the local Fiji community, to study and interpret themes sparked by the Fiji Collections. The result was an incredible dance performance.

The four performances were filmed and will be screened in Silo Park this Saturday 14 March as part of this year's Auckland Arts Festival event White Night.

About 250 people came to the Museum to celebrate Fiji Language Week last year and were taken on a journey through song, dance and spoken word. Everyone contributed to the activation of the Museum's contemporary Pacific Lifeways galleries enjoying cultural objects highlighted from the collection. It was a warm and interactive celebration of Fiji culture, pride, community and identity.

Below you can watch the dance interpretations and hear from some of the people involved. We also feature images from our Documentary Heritage Collection.

I centre my indigenous systems of knowledge and worldview in my practice, and it was empowering and inspiring to share my Pacific History training and passion with performers and writers and to see the amazing things that came out of that sharing. 

- Luisa Tora (Fiji Collections Research Intern)

Riding the Currents: navigation and journeying

I enjoyed working alongside a group of young individuals who have chosen to portray Fijian culture into contemporary dance as one simple method of keeping our traditions alive. VOU have embarked on a journey of discovery where they themselves continue to learn and embrace who they are as Fijian's in their dance.

- Joanna Manolagi (Masi Master)

Unknown, photographer (n.d.)Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-NEG-15588.

Nailakolako ni Masi, Movement of Masi: barkcloth, recording, story and memory

The 'Movement of Masi' gave an informative account of how Fijians use the masi for different celebrations, in life and in death, this piece brought to life our ancestors and how their journey from back then has lead to us and how we use it today. The 'Movement of Masi' story along with VOU was a great way of bringing to life what we only read in books. These important methods of communicating our history through dance, poetry or song is of wonderful value to Fijians who can share this with future generations.

- Joanna Manolagi (Masi Master)

Postcard Girls: stereotyping, female as object

When you dig deep into our history, whether it be through archives/collections such as those of the museum or talking to elders, you gain a deeper understanding and clearer perspective on why we are the way we are today. I want to discover my own perspective and how I feel about colonisation but for it to be an informed perspective. I don't want to have an opinion that's heavily influenced by other people's perspectives. We were shown postcards of women who I presume would've been told to pose in a particular way. But their clothes/adornments weren't overly provocative or sexual to any degree considering the context of the photo. But she was being sent around the world as an exotic whore. I'm guessing for the benefit of missionaries and the excitement of the negligent other people. I used those postcards to provoke movement and ideas.

- Ula Buliaruarua (Dancer, Auckland)

Postcard Girls


Weapons and Warfare

As a performer, I have always been able to tap into the 'other'. Because of the way I was raised, my experiences, and who I am as a person, I have always been able to access a part of myself and of my history that is so much greater than I am. An ancient ache. When I was performing with the men in VOU, and when I heard the music and the male chanting, I felt this presence start to 'wake up', and it vibrated throughout every cell. It was absolutely indescribable, and surreal. My sense of knowing just increased and elevated and I felt so connected to that ancient ache in a way that I had never been before.'

- Jahra 'Rager' Wasasala (Dancer, Auckland)

Weapons and warfare


Activating the galleries

Being able to witness their (VOU team) first introduction to Māori culture and protocol, seeing their interest in the differences/similarities between Māori and our own traditions made me so much more appreciative of my grandparents and parents who have imparted some knowledge on to me and my siblings. Our heritage, our history is so much a part of our present and future and being able to workshop ways of weaving that into our art has been gold for my own practice.

- Ula Buliaruarua (Dancer, Auckland)

Audience comments

'It was a wonderful addition to Fiji Language Week 2014 and it was nice to see a great turn out of people from the wider community, not just Fijians, to support VOU and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.'

- Audience member

"An amazing performance by VOU in response to Auckland Museum's Fiji Collection and Pacific Galleries! Performance and costumes all created in a week! Vinaka Vakalevu VOU, Auckland-based Fijian dancers and the amazing team involved including Joana Monolagi, Tarisi Sorovi-Vunidilo, Keteiyau Tora and Bethany Matai Edmunds"!

- Audience member

Films of the dance performances will be projected at Silo Park on 14 March 9pm-11pm as part of the Auckland Arts Festival, White Night, with live performance activations by Daren Kamali, Jahra Rager, Ula Buliruarua and Eddie Soro.

This is just one of the events that Auckland Museum will be attending offsite over the exciting month of March, including Pasifika and Polyfest.

  • Post by: Bethany Edmunds

    Bethany Edmunds is Auckland Museums Youth Outreach Programmer. Outside of work she is an artist, weaver and MC and has a history in museum collections and material culture research. She is passionate about creating opportunities for young people to see the potential of taonga to activate personal responses, using creative tools and Mātauranga Māori, and connecting out to their communities.

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