Wellington-based but Grey Lynn born and raised, Kasi Valu is a Tongan (Mau’ufanga, Lapaha) multidisciplinary performer, playwright and poet - and one of Tautai’s Fale-ship recipients for 2021. The Toi Whakaari acting student explains to The Big Idea what he expected from this unique residency - and its reality.
I was sitting in our kitchen - waiting to hop in a zoom session for school - and the email notification popped up. I read the first few sentences and screamed.
My brothers that I live with told me to shut up, then when I told them they began screaming with me.
I had been selected as one of 10 Pasifika artists for Tautai’s Fale-ship residencies. I had only applied the night before the application deadline - with a random urge to make something - so to be granted the opportunity really surprised me.
The Tautai Fale-ship residencies offer an opportunity to Pasifika artists to make work within and not against the restrictions of Covid over the span of two weeks.
Many would think that working in the comfort of your own Fale is a blessing.
If I’m honest about what I expected from the Fale-ship, it was for it to be an easeful process. But it wasn’t.
The perils of working at home means that the boundaries of creativity and comfort seem to melt into each other. I cannot count the times I had begun writing, or sketching and 20 minutes later I would end up in the kitchen, scavenging through the fridge with the same shaved ham and the cupboards with untouched bottles of vinegar and baking soda.
What I began to realise as the sun rose and set each day, was the plans I had initially set to follow.
Kasi Valu. Photo: Supplied.
As each day passed, my hopes and ambitions to follow a strict plan of writing and meeting deadlines slowly began to diminish. Even as I write this piece, I seem to push at the edges of patience.
Setting rigid systems and structures to format one’s creative practice suffocates the freedom of the artist to truly explore what they wish to express. I’ve learned that I prefer to work under pressure and I enjoy the process more this way.
My mentor Tupe Lualua has taught me that “Process is everything.” It is in the season of planting, nurturing and tending to your garden that matters most. If the process is suspended in an authentic way to the artist, then the product that emerges will be a mere reflection of the way things went.
If the process does not adhere to what is true to the artist, it can sometimes feel like we are making work just to fulfill a criteria and tick boxes. Writing for me is not just about meeting deadlines and ticking boxes. It’s a reflection of how you wish to echo the voices of humanity in ways that push at the conventional edges of our imagination and empathy.
What I will take from this experience is that juggling is important. Learning to wear different hats and switch between roles is imperative.
Kasi Valu performing as Castor in Brown Crown, Written & Directed by Sarai Perenise-Ropeti. Photo: Gideon Tanielu Smith.
Don’t get me wrong - while this wasn’t an easy process - it didn’t leave me drained, it actually kept fueling me. It was something to look forward to. In my eyes, these kinds of opportunities are ones that you take after you have graduated - not while you are studying. What it did open my eyes to was the plethora of possibilities that lie within writing. That writing can be shared in countless ways.
What is unique about this experience is that it is an ever-changing Fale-ship that adapts and responds to the multi-faceted people of Te Moana-Nui A Kiwa. Because the outreach is specifically tied to championing Pasifika local artists, the investment and therefore the return will always come back to the community. That is what is intrinsic about our people. We reciprocate and give back to our villages in new ways. However, the fact that it is a unique experience is a call for action. There needs to be more opportunities and platforms that act as an echo chamber for our people.
The Big Idea is a proud ambassador of Tautai's Fale-ship residencies. To find out more and view the mahi of these rising Pasifika talents, click here.