Men Dancing

The Oceania Dance Theatre presents Men Dancing


Newly appointed Director of Performing Arts at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture & Pacific StudiesPeter Rockford Espiritu unveils his latest creation, Men Dancing.

Featuring the men of the Oceania Dance Theatre, PASIFIKA VOICES, Conservatory of Music, RAKO PASIFIKA, MR. GRIN & Tropic Thunda, and the Heavy Metal Crew. They come together to raise the positive consciousness of men through dance and music.

Men Dancing
Oceania Dance Theatre
Japan-Pacific ICT Theatre, University of the South Pacific
Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji

18-20 July and 26-27 July, 2013

COST: 18 July VIP GALA $100.00; 19-20 July and 26-27 July $10.00

Tickets on sale at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture & Pacific Studies; USP Book Store; Mango Cafe; Kahawa ; ROC; Holiday Inn; and Sea Salt Restaurant

11th Festival of Pacific Arts

The 11th Festival of Pacific Arts kicked off on Sunday (1 July) in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The festival is on for two weeks and brings together 22 Pacific Island countries and territories to share, exchange and celebrate their cultures.

The Festival is recognised as a major international cultural event, and is the largest gathering in which Pacific peoples unite to gain respect for and appreciation of one another within the context of the changing Pacific. More than 3000 artists and cultural practitioners are expected at this year’s Festival.

Check out the Festival’s website for updates and programme details. Some events from the Festival will be streamed live on the Festival’s website.

I’ve pulled together a few other online resources where you can keep up with date with the Festival.


Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme will be covering the Festival through its regular broadcast programme. If you’re in the Pacific, tune into their partner stations. They also have an online stream and have podcasts available on their website:

Radio Australia/ Solomon Islands


Festival of Pacific Arts 2012 official Facebook Page.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Artists at FOPA 2012 Facebook Page.

NZ at Festival of Pacific Arts Facebook Page for the Aotearoa Delegation to the 11th Festival of Pacfic Arts.

Pacific Voyagers Facebook Page.

Pacific Islands Museum Association (PIMA) is a Pacific regional forum that assists Pacific Museums, cultural centres and peoples to preserve Pacific Island heritage. Check out PIMA’s Facebook page for regular updates from Jean.

Luk Piksa “When two people see everything through the camera lenses we bring you Luk Piksa (See Picture)” Photographs from the Solomon Islands by Alex Akwai and Steve S. Aumanu.

Radio Australia – Pacific  is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s international radio, online and digital content service for Asia and the Pacific. Check out their Festival of Pacific Arts 2012 photo album.

Websites/ Blogs

The Australian Delegation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists

Oceanian Expressions a blog from the  staff of the Regional Media Centre (Secretariat of the Pacific Community)

Pacific Voyagers At the beginning of April 2011 a crew of seven vakas started their journey across the Pacific. Coming from all over the Pacific: Aotearoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, and Tonga the vakas sailed into Honiara for the 11th Festival of Pacfic Arts.  Check out Pacific Voyagers blog here for updates on the Festival.

Luk Piksa

Solomon Islands Newspapers

Solomon Star

Solomon Times


Festival photos by Tom Perry. Perry is an Australian writer and photographer living in the Solomon Islands. Do check out his website here for more of his other breathtaking photographs of SI.


Follow the Festival of Pacific Arts >>>> @FOPA2012

Follow the tweets #FOPA

An emotional morning for the Fijian delegates and community in Honiara as they did a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony called cere for the Uto ni Yalo crew.  

The Uto ni Yalo crew are part of the Pacific Voyagers  seven vaka fleet,  coming from all over the Pacific: Aotearoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, and Tonga. Read more about the Pacific Voyagers arrival on their website here.

I will be sharing photos from the Festival thanks to Tarisi Vunidilo and the Pacific Islands Museum Association (PIMA) on Urban Viti’s Facebook page over the coming two weeks.


11th Festival of Pacific Arts

1 – 14 July 2012, Solomon Islands

Check out the FOPA website for full programme and updates

and on Facebook

Image Sources:

11th Festival of Pacific Arts banner: original photo via the Festival’s website

Arrival of Uto ni Yalo crew: Tarisi Vunidilo and Pacific Islands Museum Association

Updated: 12 July, 2012

Nesian Pride

Sunameke brings the Pacific Communities of Darwin together to present



Sunameke Productions is a Pacific Performance Group based in Darwin committed to promoting our diverse Pacific Culture.

Sunameke’s motto is “From old to new old, that’s the way we go forward”, showcasing contemporary and traditional dances from Oceania.


‘Our ancestors lay the stepping-stones of the Pacific. We continue their voyages to the present and share with you our Pacific Diversity in Unity’.

All this culturally celebrated together through food and laughter! A magical night not to be missed, delivered in true Darwin style.

Guest Performers: Leah Flanagan, Will Hatch, African Community, Chung Wah Society Lion Dance Troupe and the Darwin Dragons Rugby Union Club.

You will be transported to the Pacific and taken on a journey of rich culture and spine tingling performances, taste testing amazing food and sharing your night with NRL superstar Nigel Vagana, Clinton Toopi & Roy Asotasi

Pacific Communities – Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Kiribati, and New Zealand.


Saturday May 19th  2012

Where: Filipino Hall, 4 Batten Road, Marrara, Darwin, Australia  – Gates open at 6pm.

Cost: General Admission: $35 Concession: $30 Children (5 – 16 yrs): $15 Family Pass (2 adults 2childrens): $90 Children under 5: Free

Purchase tickets from

All proceeds go to Sunameke’s Little Sunameke group and their tour to Tahiti in November 2012 to attend workshops at the Conservatoire Artistique de Polynesie Francais.

Nesian Pride Facebook page:


Sunameke on Facebook:

Urban Viti Talanoa with Julia Mage’au Gray of Sunameke:’au-gray-sunameke//

Source and Image:

Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar

Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar | $AU29.99 (excludes postage)

Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar  celebrates the multi-cultural diversity of Darwin – with images crossing all cultures touched by PASIFIKA through dance.

The calendar was created by Julia Gray of Sunameke in collaboration with Hair by Renee Lalor and Lash to Lash.

Artistic grants are few and far between with very little funding for regional cultural dance. The sale of  Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar is funding Sunameke’s little Sunameke Group to attend workshops in Tahiti, to learn traditional Tahitian dance.

Sunameke are a performance group based in Darwin that was formed in 1997 by two sets of Australian based Papua New Guinea sisters: Julia Mage’au Gray &  Yolanda Gray and Katrina Sonter &  Samantha Sonter.

Sunameke’s performances are a combination of traditional and contemporary that is distinctively Oceania.

“I can’t create any of my work unless I have a strong traditional grounding of whatever I’m using from that dance style. The PNG stuff, we were brought up with it. But I’ve always been attracted to ‘Ori Tahiti’ or Tahitian dancing and, you know, it’s the same with Samoa and all of those things, you have to go to the places, find out what the people are like. That will tell you why they move the way they move.”  ~ Julia Gray [Interview with Mosca Media]

I  interviewed the lovely Julia back in August last year for Urban Viti’s Talanoa column. Check out the interview here.

Head over to

and order your copy today!

Photos by Julia Gray for Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar photo shoot

Darwin Pasifika on Facebook:

Photos from Darwin’s PASIFIKA 2012 Calendar by Julia Gray on Flickr:


Sunameke on Facebook:

MoscaMedia Interview |  Julia Gray of Sunameke Productions (Darwin) 

Urban Viti Interview | Talanoa: Julia Mage’au Gray:

Fine Dancing

The University of the South Pacific’s Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies presents

Fine Dancing

Image via Oceania Centre

“This is a powerful work and underneath, there is something that you take away from it. It’s a small cast but a strong ensemble, rare and worthwhile experience.” ~ Peter Espiritu

Written and directed by Vilsoni Hereniko and produced by the Oceania Centre, the play Fine Dancing will explore the taboo themes of homosexuality, spousal abuse, child abuse, the impact of Christianity in the Pacific community and fostering spirit of forgiveness.

The play opens with a Gala Night Cocktail this Thursday (1 December 2011) at The University of the South Pacific in Suva and ends next week Saturday (10 December 2011), which I’ll be able to make as I’ll be in Fiji from the 9th! So look out for a review sometime next week by Urban Viti.

Starring the dancers from the Oceania Centre Dance Theatre Allan Alo, Ateca Ravuvu, Glen Lord and Sadrishan Velaidan, the play is choregraphed by Peter Espiritu who recently joined the Oceania Centre as the Artistic Director. Music and sound by Igelese Ete and Dave Lavaki.

Fine Dancing

Visual and Performing Arts Pavilion,
Oceania Centre
The University of the South Pacific
Suva, Fiji

Gala Opening Night Cocktail
Thursday 1 December 2011 $50

Regular Shows:
2, 3, 8, 9, 10 December 2011. $20

University Student Night:
7 December 2011. $10 (USP Student ID required)

Time: 7:30pm

Contact Ann Tarte for more information on (679) 323 2332 or

Tickets are available at the Oceania Centre, the USP Book Centre, the Kahawa Cafe, the Guava Cafe and the Holiday Inn.

Oceania Centre website:

Further reading:

Centre to launch play for adult audience by Samisoni Nabilivalu. Fiji Times, 25 November 2011.

Fine Dancing play for adults only by Samisoni Nabilivalu And Antonia O’Flaherty. Fiji Times, 29 November 2011.

Talanoa: Julia Mage’au Gray of Sunameke

Sunameke are a performance group based in Darwin that was formed in 1997 by two sets of Australian based Papua New Guinea sisters: Julia Mage’au Gray and Yolanda Gray&  Katrina Sonter and  Samantha Sonter. Sunameke’s performances are a combination of traditional and contemporary that is distinctively Oceania.

From old to new old, that’s the way we go forward“~ Sunameke

Chauka Calling (2009.) Fiji. Julia Mage’au Gray and Yola Gray

The first time I saw Sunameke perform was Chauka Calling at the opening of Pacific Storms in Brisbane in December of 2009. Which coincidentally they had debuted early that year in my home town Suva (Fiji) at the Miss Pacific Pageant.

Chauka Calling was created to raise awareness of climate change and its effects in Oceania. Chauka was the guardian bird of the village in the legend ‘Leveyam’ and warned the villagers of a threat. That performance blew me away. I remember the grace and strong movements of this performance – perched like frigate birds as they weaved a story to the sound of spoken words and song.

I’m delighted to finally talanoa with Sunameke dancer and choreographer Julia Mage’au Gray.

Tell us a little about yourself – what path has led you to what you are doing now?
My mother is PNG, my father an Aussie.

Me, I am both and wouldn’t want it any other way…best of both worlds totally informs my practice and the creation of my work.

Apparently I have always danced, always sung and movement is truly the way I express myself best and is also what I have relied on to communicate with my multi-lingual family.

I don’t speak PNG languages fluently though I hear them well. When I can’t rely on language to translate for me, I rely on BODY language.

For me Body language never lies and says so much more than words. Combine that with finding my place in two distinctly different countries, I reckon that’s what set me on this path today 🙂

What challenges have you faced, and what advice would you have for aspiring Pacific artists?
Main challenge is learning to deal with ignorance on both sides of the coin. When people don’t understand, they react from a place of fear and the results are not always pleasant.

Advice – If you wake up every morning and the burn to make and create is still with you NEVER give up.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration when beginning a new piece?
My Aunties 🙂 Always my Mekeo heritage. The end result may not look like it or feel like it but all my work comes from my place 🙂

How would you describe Sunameke’s choreography?
Eclectic… Distinctive … from the Pacific

Sunameke started off in 1997 – how has your choreography style changed and developed over the last 14 years?
Hahaha…… so so so long ago it feels… Sunameke is more about performance than purely dance.

So Sunameke started with our singing. It was too cold to take our clothes off in Adelaide and dance with grass skirts. So we chickened out and wore long black coats and sang AT people in the markets, in the malls, at birthday parties, weddings and folk festivals. We sang songs from all over the Pacific 🙂

If you dance with Sunameke you are expected to be able to dance Kairuku, Motu, Manus, Oro, Kiwai, Tolai (and more) styles…. Ori Tahiti, Samoan Siva and Kiribati dance from the rest of Oceania…. then on top of it all you need to be able to do them all at the same time…:) Though most importantly you need to be able to SHARE with other cultures.

Today the work I create is highly collaborative with my dancers that have been members for over 7 years… it is complex, layered and detailed.

Dear Aunty Production (2009). Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin. Julia Mage’au Gray and Justine Maxwell

What is the relationship between traditional and contemporary dance and music, for you?
Intrinsic…music is sound – you can’t separate sound from dance.

Traditional and contemporary …. hmmmm I remember the Hawaiian Kumu Hula – Vicky Holt Takamine from the Culture Moves Conference in Wellington 2005 at TE PAPA saying – “Todays contemporary becomes tomorrows Tradition”.

So true, some of Sunamekes old contemporary dances are now being taught to our little Sunameke group – is that passing on tradition?

Our contemporary dances find their base in Pacific dance styles.

We take our traditional movement styles and move them to a space that reflects our origins and our homes away from Home.

The music in our productions could not be in any way described as traditional. There is a definite relationship to our countries of origin but the sound is full and atmospheric and reflects the story we are telling. I am useless at describing it…its something you have to hear and feel. Our music is created by James Manoghig. We have a highly collaborative process when we create our soundscapes 🙂 Our cultural backgrounds play a huge part in the sound… Hapakasi [half-caste], PNG – Australia and Philippines – Dutch.

Little Sunameke with Darwin School Of Ballet, Darwin Festival 2011

Can you give us a little insight into your creative – how do you first approach a new choreography?
Normally its a drive to make…. something that burns and eats at me until I make it (usually a social comment or strong emotion). I get an idea in my head and then that’s all I see eat breathe drink and the thing that happens after you eat and have digested hehehe.

When I am in create mode it is all consuming and horrible for family and friends because that’s all I think about. So I often miss the light hearted banter between people… totally get SUCKED IN and I start looking off into space…hahahahaha

The very first thing I do is write down/draw my images… the scenes that take place in my head. Its all in pictures. Then I formulate how I want those pictures to be see. Then I work out on paper scene by scene in pictures and words (story boarding ).

The flow in the story board has to feel and look right then I enter each scene and fill it in bit by bit… after the scenes I create the transitions which are often more full on then the scenes.

Hhahahaha… I just read all this back hmmmm not sure if it makes sense but its a very mathematical process. Everything is coded numerically or with colour, and dancers get the storyboard before rehearsals. But mind you all of this is done with much haste and ripping and starting again…. LOL

Julia with the Sunameke dancers rehearsing Who Born You ( 2010)

Once we are lucky enough to get in a studio, which is very rare since we often don’t get funded. So more like an empty school room 🙂 I work very fast and give the dancers all the base information about how the show will run/work scene to scene and what their entrance and exits are. Once they have that knowledge then we fill in the scenes and that’s were the collaboration occurs – I don’t want them to dance like me and I need them to source their own culture and experience, its up to them how much they give. My dancers are incredibly adept at working super fast dealing with change (nothing ever stays the same) and still dancing with intention that is real.

hmmm so an example of very fast = 4 hrs to create a 10 minute piece including music costume etc….then performing it to an audience of MANY!!!!

I HATE having to work fast in the studio but we just don’t have the luxury to spend time crafting .. My dancers are mostly mothers of many.

Oooops I think i gave you my whole process rather than the beginning 😦

What do you hope audiences will experience or take away from your performances?
I hope people can relate that they can see that the pacific as a unified front is stronger  that they walk away feeling like they know something personal about us that is in them also.

Julia's Bubu Auki and her Aunty Minia. Oaisaka Village, Papua New Guinea. 1976.

Do other art forms or artists in different disciplines inspire or have influenced you and how?
My Bubu’s – their knowledge and stature – gone now! How I miss the old Mekeo men and women of the past. They were Forward thinkers, and today greed does its best to destroy our rich culture.

Mamie Lousie at the Conservatoire in Papeete, Tahiti – I admire the Tahitians and their ability to take the risk of sharing their Ori Tahiti with outside cultures in an official way. To teach the correct way and to show proof that they do something about cultural misappropriation. I love how they have taken what they know of the old and have made something new to reflect who they are as a people today. Their generosity and humility astounds me.

THE DIVERSE CULTURES OF THE PACIFIC – the old stories, the new ones, the dance, the music, the land, the sea, THE PEOPLE!!!!!

The Internet has seemingly made it more easy for artists, writers and musicians to share their work with the world. Do you think the Internet has created possibilities for Pacific artists?
It has connected us in a way that was not possible before. I have access to Pacific people that I would never have known before the internet. I know whats happening in the region!

And people now know about us 🙂

Tell us about your recent performance Who Born You? and the reception it received.

This is the write up –

Who Born You? recounts the personal Kokoda Trail adventures of mixed-race Pacific modern women. Women born from Indigenous cultures impacted upon by Christian Missionaries and Western Lifestyle. It is intimate and thought provoking, challenging the stereotypical image of the Pacific Woman with flowers in her hair and a beckoning smile. The modern day Pacific woman is not made from wood or stone nor is she an exotic exhibition. Sunameke questions the depictions of Pacific women as not unlike traditional idols now seen as objects of art in a museum or gallery.

Who Born You ( 2010). Darwin Entertainment Centre, Darwin

We delve into our contemporary space with rhythmic hips, shoe boxes, shared stories and grounded feet. We weave the tracks of the modern day Pacific Woman from her tattooed grandmothers through the treacherous Kokoda Trail straight to Darwin.

Who Born You? came about after a phone call with longtime Sunameke member Julia Quinn. She told me I needed to remount a a piece we had created in 2004 Weaving the Map.
The piece was originally choreographed alongside Julia Quinn and was an interpretation of my own feelings about the impact the Christian Missionaries had on the cultures of the Pacific Islands, and how that impact effected modern Pacific Island culture.

I had just completed a solo contemporary dance work development, incorporating film, photography and creating new music with James Mangohig. I used shoes, shoeboxes and red tape in The Centipede and Her Odd Shoe to trace my first steps in making the tracks from Papua New Guinea to Australia and to the rest of Oceania. The shoes painted the story of my personal KOKODA TRAIL.

So after the phone call I decided to combine both these pieces, The Centipede and Her Odd Shoe and Weaving The Map. Both pieces with their different stories addressed the effects of colonialism and missionaries in the Pacific. I wanted to present the connection between Australia and PNG in our own lives – the effects of missionary and western influence and how all of this connects to how we live in Aussie today as mixed race Australians.

Who Born You ( 2010). Darwin Entertainment Centre, Darwin

It is layered and complex and the BEST we have to offer to date.

We found that it connected to anybody who has any connection to PNG…anyone who has had to learn to live with two very distinctive cultures… anybody from a christian background – its accepts the role of missionaries in PNG and is a positive perspective even in its sadness…those Australians that have traveled the Kokoda trail and are connected to it through lost loved ones during war time…hapakasi [half-caste] that have and have never been exposed to the richness of PNG culture… mothers and daughters…. those that have strong cultural ties with cultures that are not blood connected…those that cant be classified or put into a box 🙂

We would love to present Who Born You? in QLD one day and NZ and Hawai’i and ……… hahahaha

What are you working on at the moment?
Technique, strength…… LOL. Focusing on our island sets at the moment.

Future – trying to get Who Born You? out there 🙂

You have on your website a Dance Genealogy that shows who you’ve worked with over the years. Tell us a little bit about this and how important collaboration is to Sunameke.
Collaboration and sharing culture is everything…. moving to Australia at 9 years of age was a difficult period for me. Didn’t recognise it for what it was until I was much older. CULTURE SHOCK!!

Learning about my cultural arts and those of other Pacific people around me is what kept me centered and grounded. The DANCE GENEALOGY page is to give credit where credit is due.

You cannot know everything. The people that have shared with us over the years are generous and trusting. We take their gifts seriously and give them the respect they deserve.

Collaboration with Sistanative at the Cultural Village Production – Paradise Remixed. Darwin Festival 2008. Sistanative, Yola Gray, Katrina Sonter and Julia Mage’au Gray

If you could collaborate with another artist or creative person, who would you choose?
Sunameke crew collaboration with Leilani Kake, Oshen and/or Tiki Taane 🙂 YES YAH !! hahaha

What are you looking forward to?
Merrepen in September – Sunameke dancing at Daly River and we are travelling down by bus…. going to be a fun loud trip.

Canberra in September – Pasifika Australia with the most amazing Dr Katerina Teaiwa

Napier in November – my partner is doing the Ironmaori (I LOVE NZ)

Tahiti in April – don’t know why…all we do is sweat in a room and end up with seized thighs for the rest of the month…LOL … LOVE IT!!

Continuing creating work with SUNAMEKE crew!!

Vinaka Julia! Can’t wait for Who Born You? to make it’s journey to Brisbane *hint hint 🙂

Interview conducted via email 14-19 August , 2011. Images courtesy of Julia Mage’au Gray.

Sunameke on the kokonut wireless:



Who Born You 

Dear Aunty

Shigeyuki Kihara embarks on German Samoa relations

Apia and Auckland-based international artist and independent curator Shigeyuki Kihara will commence her research into the shared history between Germany and Samoa courtesy of the Visitor Program funded by the Goethe-Institute New Zealand. She will be Artist-In-Residence at MATCHPOINT, an initiative of the Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin Germany from August to October 2011.

Theatre Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) is one of the leading theatre institutions for contemporary dance, theatre and performance in Europe presenting regularly critically engaging works by important artists including Richard Maxwell, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and William Forsythe. During her time in Germany, Samoan-born artist Shigeyuki Kihara will be researching the shared history between Germany and Samoa, particularly through its forgotten colonial legacy.

Kihara will be investigating the historical archives held in various ethnological museums and meeting with key scholars from institutions including Ethnologisches Museum (Berlin); Linden Museum (Stuttgart); Museum für Völkerkunde (Hamburg) and Weltkuturen Museum (Frankfurt) before presenting the progress of her research in relation to her own art practice as part of the Asian-Pacific weeks 2011 event held at Theatre Hebbel am Ufer.

Kihara’s presentation entitled ‘Weaving and Unweaving His/her/tories’ on 11  September coincide with Kihara’s residency as guest lecturer and mentor at MATCHPOINT, an international exchange programme for young dance choreographers taking place during the festival “Leaving the Comfort Zone” , a programme  of the Asian-Pacific-Weeks 2011. “We are honoured to have Shigeyuki Kihara taking part in the programme in various forms”, said Anna Wagner, curator of “Leaving the Comfort Zone” at Theatre Hebbel am Ufer.

Since her solo exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA in 2008 Kihara’s public performance work Talanoa: Walk the Talk VI has been commissioned and featured in The 4th Auckland Triennial Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon in 2010. Other recent curatorial projects have included the BRING YOUR GAME Hip Hop Summit commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of the 2011 Sydney Festival, Australia.

Closer to home, Kihara’s performance video work Taualuga: The Last Dance (2006) is part of the current exhibition Presence: New Acquisitions and Works from the Collection at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, showing until 28 August 2011.

Kihara’s work is also included in the upcoming exhibition ‘Oceania’ – a landmark collaborative project between Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand and City Gallery Wellington opening 6 August till 6 November 2011.


Programme : Leaving the comfort zone

Goethe Institute Wellington –

Theatre Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin –

Shigeyuki Kihara –

Source: Shigeyuki Kihara, Media Release, 5 July 2011.