There are few opportunities for Pasifika artists to seek and receive funding and resources to tell their stories, their way. In the wake of a major shift in the New Zealand political landscape, times are feeling more turbulent than ever for storytellers, and the need for alternative ways to resource Pasifika artists becomes more pressing. The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi has launched its annual Boosted x Moana campaign to help catapult 18 projects by Pasifika artists from ideas to reality.

Talanoa is excited to share with you the stories of these artists and their dreams.

Lalaga Niu is a collective made up of Selu-Kian Lealiifano-Faletoese, Claire Patolo, Bai Buliruarua, and Nirvika Nair. It was created through their love for storytelling, fostering creative partnerships through community and growing networks among Indigenous & Pasifika creatives, specifically with a focus on Youth who are interested in Film & Storytelling.

“Our kaupapa is simple, Lalaga Niu isn’t a group but a shifting space. A bridge that connects the stories of the Past with the Present. We hope to make this a vessel for Indigenous & Pasifika storytellers to continue to amplify their voices and artistry.”

What brought Lalaga Niu together, and what kept you together?

We all met through AUT as students! We were all studying Communications and naturally gravitated towards one another, as Pacific people do. We all share a love for storytelling and community, working in these spaces in our different capacities. Our values and beliefs all aligned, which meant we were all on the same page and shared a collective vision and goal for what this would look like. We’re also mega fans of each other which means we’re constantly in awe of each other!

What does Lalaga Niu mean and why did you choose that name?

Lalaga is a pan-pacific term for weave/weaving. In Samoan, Niu is a young coconut, at times used as a term for coconut water. Together, Lalaga Niu, for us, means the weaving of stories across the water/moana. We are the bridge that will bring these stories together, for Indigenous & Pasifika storytellers, and also our rangatahi without connections, experience or qualifications that have a shared love for our craft but are struggling in an uncertain and seemingly elusive industry.

Why is Lalaga Niu not ‘a group but a shifting space’? What is the importance of space – or space between people – in your practice?

Lalaga Niu is ‘not a group but a shifting space’ because we want the space to shift as it pleases as opposed to us trying to mold it to a singular form. Space is really important to us as it allows for the free movement of ideas, concepts, connections, and collaboration. Between people and communities, it encapsulates the mutual exchange of ideas and work, allowing and encouraging reciprocity. What you give out will make its way back to you. We believe in a cyclical system that only further empowers our communities through storytelling.

What other collectives or platforms inspire your mahi?

We are extremely lucky to have been inspired by so many, the list is too extensive and would require many pages, but we will list a few that you should check out and support as well. The Taro Patch, Southsiders Co., Vunilagi Vou, Moana Fresh, Tautai, Moana Vā, Malae/Co., Umu Creative and many more!

What are the skillsets and interests in Lalaga Niu?

All of us have great skills in different areas; communications, design, social media, video production, scriptwriting, directing and producing to name a few. The thing that brings us together is a genuine passion for the stories of the beautiful people of Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa.

We want to build a community around storytelling and sharing stories that may not be heard from. Our main interest is with our people and their stories.

You are interested in film and storytelling, so without giving away any secrets – what stories do you want to focus on and how do you want to do this?

We want to focus on fresh, personal stories that relate to the journey and lives of Indigenous & Pasifika peoples. Members of our team have been successful in creating their own short film, E Lele Le Toloa, which was featured in film festivals around the globe.

Something we heard at a Boosted x Moana event, which really speaks to our kaupapa was “tell your story or they won’t be told” – Selina Tusitala Marsh.

Are there any proverbs or ‘sayings’ from your culture that guides Lalaga Niu’s values and vision?

As a collective, we’re made up of a number of rich cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Lalaga Niu draws inspiration and guidance from a number of some of our great Pasifika disruptors, world-builders and practitioners such as Epeli Hau’ofa, Albert Wendt, Konai Helu Thaman, Tusiata Avia & many more who have come before us. During the early stages of our forming, the first piece of research that affirmed our dreams and wishes was a blog post by Matirini Ngari, in which she acknowledged the shifting landscape in which we tell our stories but the essence of “Oceania” still remains.

Big picture, best case scenario – what does a Lalaga Niu takeover of how we tell stories look like? 

This looks like a thriving collective of storytellers & world-builders who are empowered and strengthened by their community. All connected by the Moana and their love for the craft of storytelling. It looks like Indigenous & Pasifika storytellers having full autonomy over their stories and the way in which they’re told. It looks like having more Young, Indigenous and Pasifika voices protected and being afforded more working opportunities in this shifting industry that doesn’t always look/think like them. Saying BYE to gatekeeping behaviour and lazy storytelling when it comes to our Indigenous & Pasifika communities. 

Help Lalaga Niu reach their boosted target by their October 31st deadline by donating here

Stay up to date with their stories on social media @lalaganiu