New Pasifika work takes fresh look at Samoan traditions

O le ala ile pule, o le tautua - The Pathway to leadership is to serve.

Born and raised in New Zealand, Lui has big dreams for his future that don't involve his Samoan roots. But Lui's father has hopes for his son that are steeped deeply in tradition.

Matai is the debut work of Pasifka theatre company Tulou Productions and takes a fresh look at Samoan culture. Tulou Productions grew out of No Limits, a Pasifika theatre troupe with a focus on youth. "After five years, we decided it was time to step up and provide more opportunities for young people in Christchurch to perform and share their voice," says founding member of Tulou Productions and director/co-writer of Matai, Sela Faletolu-Fasi.

The troupe wanted to explore a different aspect of Pasifika life in New Zealand, and looked at the contemporary experience of New Zealand Samoans. In Matai, the challenge to balance traditional values with modern life is brought to the fore when Lui returns home for his younger brother's birthday and is pressured to become a Matai, Chief of the aiga (family). Lui's father considers it a great honour; Lui sees it as an unbearable responsibility and financial obligation.

This premise is close to the hearts of Matai's creators. "There are differences of opinions and values in any family,' says Faletolu-Fasi. "There's always a black sheep or pressure from parents." Faletolu-Fasi's father-in-law is a Matai, and her family have seen both the cost and value of the position up close. "We walk that struggle now. Sometimes we see the burden, but we also know our family is always going to be there."

Matai will be staged as a Forge Development Season as part of Christchurch Arts Festival. Artistic Director of The Court Theatre, Ross Gumbley, is proud that The Court continues to support emerging artists and The Forge will be "the first place to hear this exciting new voice in Pasifika theatre".

Matai will be staged at The Court Theatre from 8 -16 September.

Cast:

Matai'a Salatielu (Sala) Tiatia Mikaele Manuia

Gaseilevao Faletolu-Toaiva Malia

Peniamina Sofai Lui Manuia

Faith Saimoa Taula Masina Manuia

Moresby Peseta Jonah Manuia

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