The hit of the cultural component of Friendship Week, Return to Hawaiiki has received wide acclaim on Samoan radio and television, and in the local press.
The group of six artists and a curator arrived in Samoa on 1 August to carry out an intensive programme of workshops with school and National University of Samoa (NUS) students in Apia. Samoan New Zealanders or with close links to Samoa, they seized this opportunity to return to the land of their ancestors, with Hawaiiki a metaphor for their cultural roots. “It’s a spiritual homecoming,” says music producer Matthew Salapu aka Anonymouz.
Matthew describes his music as a fusion of New Zealand and Samoan influences, which he has come to Samoa to share with NUS students. He worked with them for three days to give them the tools to write, perform and produce the Friendship Song . “They did it all themselves,” he said.
The group made a presentation before Vice-Chancellor Leapai Tu’ua Ilaoa Dr Asofou So’o and the New Zealand High Commissioner Nick Hurley, who jointly hosted the event on Tuesday night at the NUS Fale Samoa. The highlight was the recorded song backed by the students’ inspired singing which brought the house down. The audience laughed, wept and cheered in a moving tribute to the superb performance – and the work of the group.
Mural artist Dan Mills, who has worked for many years with Pasifika youth in New Zealand, oversaw the painting of a concrete wall at NUS, with the students designing and painting a vibrant mural that will stand as a testament to Friendship Week for many years.
Renowned Samoan artist Fatu Feu’u and Josh Bashford, an art student from Canterbury University, carried out printmaking workshops at a school in Fatu’s native village of Poutasi, with terrific results. They were impressed by the originality and skill of these untrained artists.
Lonnie Hutchinson and Leanne Clayton worked with students and also a class of visual arts teachers in printmaking fabrics, cutting out intricate patterns from heavy builders’ paper to create original works. Again, they were so amazed by the quality of their work that they plan to continue to engage with the schools after their return to New Zealand.
Together, the Return to Hawaiiki group have forged enduring relationships with young people and their teachers in Samoa. They have also given the tools to those very talented people to expand their artistic skills. They all plan to come back to see their progress.
Return to Hawaiiki was made possible with the support of the New Zealand Government through Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Diplomacy International Programme and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade.