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About

Welcome to the home of Talanoa – a place where you can find authentic Pacific voices sharing real stories and experiences in the hope of inspiring, encouraging, and informing people in our communities and in our world.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you think stories are important? Are you looking to connect with Pacific people around the world? Then you’ve come to the right place. Sit down and talanoa with us, an inclusive global community of Pacific people who are sharing their stories online.

In many Pacific languages, talanoa means to tell a story, or have a conversation. Seu’ula Johansson Fua describes it perfectly:

Talanoa is a generic term referring to a conversation, chat, sharing of ideas and talking with someone. It is a term that is shared by Tongans, Samoans, and Fijians. Talanoa can be formal, as between chiefs and his or her people, and it can be informal, as between friends in a kava circle. Talanoa is also used for different purposes; to teach a skill, to share ideas, to preach, to resolve problems, to build and maintain relationships, and to gather information.” – The Kakala Research Framework, Seu‘ula Johansson Fua.

Our Team

Creative Director // Emele Ugavule

Emele is a Tokelauan (Te Kaiga o Fagatiale, Nukunonu, Te Kaiga o Koloi, Uea) Fijian (Kaideuba) multi-disciplinary storyteller working across live performance & film as a performer, writer, director & photographer. 
 
Her work is intercultural centering the development of trans-indigenous collaborative creative processes & outcomes informed by Indigenous epistemological frameworks. 
 
Emele has worked with Next Wave, Mangere Arts Centre – Nga tohu o Uenku,  Q Theatre, Arts House, Transoceanic Visual Exchange, Griffin Theatre Co, Belvoir, Warner Music, Sydney Opera House, Casula Powerhouse, Solange Knowles & The Chinati Foundation, ABC + Playmaker Media & SBS Life. Emele has also been featured on ABC Arts, Huffington Post, Audrey Journal & Out of the Box.
 
Emele is an Ambassador for the 2019 Human Rights & Arts Film Festival, and is a board member for PACT – Centre for Emerging Arts. She is also recipient of the 2018/19 Creative Development Fellowship (Theatre) from Create NSW, enabling her to research and document Pacific theatrical practice in Australia, Fiji & Aoteaora including as a resident artist of Vou Dance Co & the University of South Pacific.
 
Her photography & film work has exhibited in Aotearoa, Barbados, Australia & the USA.
 
Emele is the Creative Director of Talanoa.
 

Founder // Arieta Tegeilolo Talanoa Tora Rika

Arieta founded Talanoa in January 2015. Born in Australia, she spent most of her childhood and teenage years in Tonga, New Zealand and Fiji. Her mother is Tongan (Kolomotu’a, vasu i Lakeba, Lau) and her father is Fijian (Somosomo, Gau).

Talanoa began with a dream of creating a digital marketing agency for the Pacific, incorporating Arieta’s love of writing and storytelling to help raise brand awareness. After sharing the stories of a few Pacific people she knew, Arieta soon realised Talanoa was empowering people by giving them a safe space to candidly share their experiences and truths without judgement or censorship. She then decided to shift her full focus on writing and sharing Pacific stories, and hasn’t looked back since.

Since founding Talanoa in 2015, Arieta has shared her knowledge of Pacific storytelling with international organisations such as the World Bank and LAUNCH, Australian based agencies like S1T2, Millipede, SecondMuse and Keep Left, as well as grassroots charity organisations such as the Australian Fijian Rugby League. As a Pacific writer and storyteller, Arieta’s work has been published by BBC Worldwide, ABC News (Australia), Fiji Times, Samoa Observer, Nuku’alofa Times (Tonga), Coconet TV (New Zealand and the Pacific), Stella Magazine (Papua New Guinea). Arieta has also shared talanoa via podcasts and radio shows on SBS Radio, ABC Radio National, ABC Pacific Beat, USA Today and BBC World Service World Have Your Say.

At the moment, Arieta is a Communications Manager at the Salvation Army, and a part-time student at Western Sydney University as she completes a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology).

Read more about The Founder of Talanoa here, in an interview with The World Bank.

Taofia Pelesasa // Content Creator

Taofia Pelesasa is of Tokelauan (Nukunonu) and Samoan (Fatausi, Safotulafai & Vailoa, Palauli) heritage, born and raised in Rotorua, Aotearoa
and currently resides on Gadigal lands of the Eora Nation (Sydney, Australia). A graduate of the Unitec School of Performing and Screen Arts (Auckland, Aotearoa) he has worked as an actor, producer and writer in both screen and theatre in New Zealand and Australia. Highlights of his career thus far have been Auckland Theatre Company’s productions of ‘Mary
Stuart’,’A Frigate Bird Sings’, ‘Disorder’ and most recently the National tour of ‘My Own Darling’. He was also core cast on the International tour of “The Factory Musical” throughout Australia and Scotland as well as the Australian and New Zealand tour of the Victor Rodger hit “Black
Faggot” and the return season of “At The Wake” at the Herald Theatre.

Taofia also wrote and co-produced short-films “The Promise of Piha” and “Maria” both of which successfully travelled the International film festival circuit. “Piha” receiving a special mention at the prestigious ‘imagiNATIVE Film Festival’ in Toronto and ‘Maria’ receiving funding from
the New Zealand Film Commission, being selected to represent New Zealand as part of the Department of Tourism’s cultural road show of South America and winning the ‘Most Popular Film’ award as part of the PBS Online Film Festival. As a writer Taofia has been mentored by
Sima Urale, Louise Tu’u and Victor Rodgers with his first short-film screenplay being short-listed for the 2012 Fresh Shorts initiative. His writing has also seen him receive mentorships with Script-to-Screen NZ in Auckland and International & Cultural Exchange in Parramatta, Sydney.
Recently Taofia worked alongside Emele on the AV Series “The Places we Call Home” for Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIIC), Cowbird & PBS.

Amy Zhang // Associate Artist

Amy is an Australian-born dancer who has completely immersed herself in the global street dance scene by working, teaching, choreographing and performing both nationally and internationally.

Amy moved to Sydney to train under Brent Street’s full time course and caught the eye of many, gaining roles as a feature dancer for the likes of Nike, Wrangler, Universal Store and Paces. She toured through L.A with Bust a Move Dance Company, performing at the Special Olympics World Games and the annual Dizzy Feet Gala.

She is known in Sydney for her versatility, rocking her groove when she jumps into hip hop and other street styles whilst also being trained in ballet, contemporary and jazz styles. Amy’s extensive dance vocabulary is no accident, as she has been mentored by and performed for some of the biggest international choreographers, including Dana Foglia and Rob Rich, recently placing in the Australian division of the internationally renown urban dance crew RichFam .

 

Sela Vai // Associate Artist

Sela Vai is a Sydney-based movement artist who seeks to create sensuous alchemy through movement. Pushing her creative thresholds, Sela is resident choreographer for female-run theatre company Black Birds since 2017 as well as choreographing the opening performances for Pacific Runway 2017 and 2018; all of which dignify her Pacific Islander heritage.

Sela performed for Solange in early 2018 at The Sydney Opera House, and also has choreographed and movement-directed Australian-based artists Ngaiire, Thelma Plum, Wallace, L-Fresh the Lion, Kase Avila and Kid Fiction. She has been invited to showcase at events such as TedX Sydney (2017), Sydney Fringe Festival, First VI Kinjaz production, World of Dance, and Australian Dance Festival. Sela has commercially been involved with choreographing for Disney Channel and Heaps Gay, and dancing for Sephora. Sela was also apart of The Dream Dance Company’s works ‘UNTOLD’ and ‘PRODIGY’ (2018), Amrita Hepi’s work ‘A Caltex Spectrum’ (2018) and toured Australia with Dancing For Jane’s production ‘ONE’ (2016). 
As a teacher, she has shared her work on many platforms, teaching workshops across Australia as well as in Switzerland (BGST Studio), London (Pineapple Dance Studio, Studio 68), Ireland (Fly Dance Studio), China (5KM Studio/Urban Animal Studio), New Zealand, Singapore and, more recently through her trip with CERES Global, all around India. Sela has judged at numerous competitions including World of Dance Australia (2017), Battelgrounds (2017), and World Domination Championships (2018).

Tatanja Ross // Content Creator

Tatanja Ross is a Tokelauan woman, born in Aotearoa (Taupō, New Zealand) and currently residing on the unceded lands of the Woi Wurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation (Melbourne, Australia). She graduated from RMIT University with a BA in Communication Design in 2014, and has since founded her own creative small business – On Jackson Street. Focusing on photo and video storytelling, Tatanja enjoys working with community, artists of all disciplines and small businesses. She is a member of Narrm based art collective New Wayfinders, and has created video pieces ‘Depicting Diaspora’ and ‘tuku-na e liu’ (Blak-Queer Futurism) for exhibition alongside them. Her working style is intimate, unobtrusive and collaborative; enjoying all elements of creating meaningful works for clients and friends alike.