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Dom’s poetry features in winning NZ play

Laufiso My Grandfather is a Canoe award presentation
'My Grandfather is a Canoe' director Marisiale Tunoka (centre) with musicians (from left) Oliver Tafuna’i, Waisea McGoon, Lopeti Sumner and Siaosi Kei


DUNEDIN - A play of Pacific cultures, voyaging and love, My Grandfather is a Canoe, including the poetry of Michael Dom, has won the prestigious Dunedin Fringe Festival’s Touring Award.

The award means the play will be performed at Christchurch’s Little Andromeda theatre in July and at the Auckland Fringe Festival in September.

First-time playwright Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i based the play on a book of poetry she published last year.

“We tried to give the community an immersive experience with the music, the colours and vibrancy of the Pacific.

“The award has given us another port for our waka to visit and share our stories, celebrate our ancestors, our artistry and connections.”

The play features eight Pacific languages and includes the poetry of eminent Papua New Guinean poet Michael Dom and Tafuna’i’s son, Oliver, who is one the lead guitarists and vocalists.

Each poem had its own illustration, created by artist Silivelio Fasi, which is projected on stage.

The play encountered a few storms with the Omicron outbreak when Tafuna’i, her Dunedin collaborators Inati Aotearoa, producer Pip Laufiso and musical director Hiliako Iaheto all became sick during the week of the show.

“To get the award despite that upheaval is so gratifying,” said Tafuna’i.

The award provides $1,000, free registration as well as support to deliver the play at the Auckland Fringe.

“The arts sector has been hammered with cancellations but it has also risen to the challenge to find innovative solutions,” said Laufiso.

“Pasifika creatives reached out to each other to offer and provide support and our own whānau/aiga and community pitched in to help cover the bases.”

My Grandfather is a Canoe final scene
The final scene of My Grandfather is a Canoe

She said the lessons learnt over two years of contingency planning for events and community wellbeing came into sharp focus.

Hiliako Iaheto, who went from leading the band to mentoring his musicians online, said he was proud of the band

“To have an all-Pacific cast meant we had a more organic process, and we didn’t have to spend time explaining our cultures to each other,” said Dunedin-based actor-director Marisiale Tunoka, who directed the play.

“Prayer, shared meals and having children at rehearsals also made it special.”

Fabric artist Ron Te Kawa designed the costumes, Taylormade Media sponsored the sound and lighting and the 555 Dunedin Motel assisted with accommodation.

“But more than that, manager Justin Hanning looked after our young artists and made them feel welcome,” said Laufiso.


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