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fulbright–creative new zealand pacific writers’ residency

The Fulbright–Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers’ Residency at the University of Hawai‘i began in 2004. One award is offered each year to a New Zealand–based writer, to carry out work on a writing project. The residency brings to the center, the university, and the public-at-large the work and insights of an outstanding Pacific writer.

Leilani Tamu [2013]
“Kiwi Polynesian” Leilani Tamu is a poet, magazine columnist, Pacific historian, former New Zealand diplomat and dedicated mum. Born in New Zealand to a Samoan mother and Pakeha father, Leilani’s mixed cultural heritage has played an important role in shaping both her creative and professional career. Through her ability to draw on a diverse range of experiences, Leilani brings a fresh perspective to the table when tackling issues of social and cultural relevance to the Pacific region. In her columns, she has written about issues as diverse as racism, unemployment, property investment, cyber bullying, youth suicide and motherhood.

Leilani’s first book of poetry The Art of Excavation is due out in early 2014 and is a collection of work that traverses the inter-connected themes of Pacific history, colonisation, cosmology and genealogy. The collection took seven years to come to fruition and is being edited by New Zealand poet Siobhan Harvey.

In September 2013, Leilani will take up the Fulbright-CNZ Pacific Island Writer’s residency at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa to work on her second book of poetry Cultural Diplomacy. While at Mānoa, Leilani will spend time learning about the life of Princess Ka’iulani who she regards as an example of a Polynesian ancestor whose legacy has the potential to inspire and motivate all people of the Pacific region.

Daren Kamali [2012]
In 2012, Daren Kamali was the ninth Fulbright–Creative New Zealand Writer-in-Residence. Daren infuses his Fijian and Wallis and Futunan heritage with poetry and creative writing by including chants, songs, and oral traditions. Much of his work is inspired and influenced by his experiences and upbringing in Fiji and in Aotearoa/New Zealand. While in residence, Daren worked on a manuscript for his second book of poetry, songs, and short stories inspired by the ocean and the legends and history of exploration throughout Oceania.

Marisa Meapu [2011]
Marisa Maepu was the 2011 writer-in-residence. She has published numerous fiction and non-fiction short stories. One of them, '88, was a winner in the New Zealand national competition Six Pack Three. Marisa has also published several children stories in Samoan language. These are used in New Zealand schools to support the Samoan language curriculum. While in Hawaiʻi, Marisa researched and began writing a historical novel set in Sāmoa, American Samoa, and New Zealand.

Makerita Urale [2010]
Playwright, author, filmmaker, and producer Makerita Urale was the 2010 writer-in-residence. She was in residence at the center for three months, beginning in August. While in residence, Urale worked on her playscript, The Heathen’s Way, building on ideas she first explored in her play, Frangipani Perfume, published in 2004. Frangipane Perfume toured internationally and was named one of the top ten plays of the decade by literary magazine The Listener. As a film director, producer, and writer, Urale has a number of films to her credit, including The Hibiscus, Savage Symbols, Mob Daughters, Children of the Revolution, and Waiata Whawhai: Songs of Protest.

Toa Fraser [2009]
Celebrated playwright, screenwriter, and film director Toa Fraser was the 2009 Pacific writer-in-residence. A Pacific storyteller with a global perspective, Fraser began in theater. His first play, BARE, won Best New Play at the 1998 Chapman Tripp Awards in Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1998. His award-winning play No. 2 (1999), a solo show, was the basis for his debut feature film, Naming Number Two (2006), starring well-known American actress Ruby Dee as an aging Fijian matriarch who commands her children to prepare one last great feast, at which she will name her successor. His current project is a screenplay of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s novella The Beach at Falesa.

David Young [2008]
Writer, environmentalist, and historian David Young was the 2008 writer-in-residence. His work covers the nature-culture relationship, including perspectives from indigenous nature and indigenous culture. Among Young’s books is Woven by Water: Histories from the Whanganui River, a study of race relations on what is arguably the most distinctively “Māori” river in Aotearoa New Zealand. His most recent book are Our Islands, Our Selves: A History of Conservation in New Zealand; Whio: Saving New Zealand’s Endangered Blue Duck; and Keeper of the Long View: The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainability. In Hawai‘i, Young continued his focus on conservation issues and addressed the need for a cross-cultural dialogue on the source of pure water and its cultural and spiritual significance.

Sarona Aiono-Iosefa [2007]
Children and young people’s writer Sarona Aiono-Iosefa, from Aotearoa/New Zealand, was the 2007 Fulbright–Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer-in-Residence. The author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books, she first started writing for her children, so that they could read stories about their Samoan heritage. Aiono-Iosefa used her time in Hawai‘i to complete a draft of O Se Mea e Tatau, a novel that weaves stories of pre-Christian Sāmoa with contemporary stories and concerns. Much of her time in Hawai‘i was spent researching descriptions of the Samoan past at the University of Hawai‘i Pacific Collection, the most comprehensive collection of Pacific materials in the world.

Victor Rodger [2006]
Samoan-Palagi playwright Victor Rodger, from Aotearoa New Zealand, was the 2006 Fulbright–Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer-in-Residence at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. His semi-autobiographical award-winning first play, Sons, explored the culture clash a young afakasi Samoan man experiences when he tries to establish a relationship with his estranged Samoan father and his half-brother, who is unaware of his existence. Issues of race and both cultural and sexual identity figure prominently in all his work, and his third play, Ranterstantrum, took a darkly funny look at contemporary race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand. His fourth play, My Name is Gary Cooper, was first performed in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2007. It centers around a young afakasi Samoan man who travels to 1970s Los Angeles to wreak revenge on the Palagi father who deserted his Samoan mother. A former journalist, and occasional actor, Rodger has written for film, television, and radio.

Donna Tusiata Avia [2005]
The 2005 writer-in-residence was Donna Tusiata Avia, an emerging New Zealand poet, writer, and performer of Samoan and Palagi heritage. Her first collection of poetry, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, was published in 2004 and received widespread critical acclaim. Wild Dogs began as poetry for the page, but it developed another life, intertwining poetry and theatre and eventually becoming a one-woman show. During her residency at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Avia worked on a second collection of poetry and developed a second theatre piece. According to Avia, “My writing has always been around issues that I feel passionately about: the search for and creation of identity, being of mixed heritage, “outsiders,” isolation, nationality and universality, unearthing the past, the views from inside and outside…the uneasy place of those who stand between, the richness and flexibility of Pacific peoples and cultures, the universality of human experience.”

Sima Urale [2004]
The inaugural recipient of the residency, in 2004, was writer and film director Sima Urale, whose award-winning films include O Tamaiti, Velvet Dreams, and Still Life, as well as music videos. Urale is a graduate of the New Zealand Drama School Toi Whakaari, in Wellington, and the Film and Television School of the Victorian College of the Arts, in Melbourne, Australia. Her writing project during the residency was to develop her first full-length feature script, Moana. In addition to working on her screenplay, Urale visited classes, showed and discussed her films, worked with high school students on media projects, and mentored other filmmakers.


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