Creative New Zealand’s Senior Manager, Pacific Arts, Vaosa ole Tagaloa Makerita Urale was recently made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the New Year’s Honours for services to Pacific arts, a sector she has been involved in as a writer, documentary director and arts producer for the past two decades.
Having already made a positive impression on Pacific Aotearoa, Makerita believes there is much more to be done to empower the Pacific arts community in New Zealand.
“I was born in Savai’i and my father was a man of the land and the moana,” Makerita says.
“My parents left our village and ‘aiga in Savai’i for more opportunities in Aotearoa, so accepting the MNZM was to honour my parents’ dream for their six children in our new home and life here.”
Also making her ‘aiga proud is Makerita’s brother Bill, aka musician King Kapisi, who also received an honour last year but missed the ceremony as he was gigging somewhere around the country, she says.
“We are planning to do our presentation ceremony jointly, so more of our family can attend, while also celebrating our mother turning 85 last year.”
Makerita, who joined Creative New Zealand in 2011 following a Fulbright Creative NZ Pacific Writer’s Residency at the University of Hawai’i in 2010, says a highlight of her career is having the privilege of having a dream and to see it realised on the stage and screen alongside her creative arts ‘aiga and community.
Her play Frangipani Perfume (1998) was the first Pacific play written by a woman with an all-female cast and was listed in the Top 10 Plays of the Decade by the New Zealand Listener.
This play became a key text in theatre studies and toured nationally and internationally to Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
She also directed Children of the Revolution, a political documentary which explored the 1970s and 1980s protest movement, following six key activists and their children, and directed and produced Savage Symbols (2002), which looked at the traditional art of Samoan tattooing (pe’a) for men.
The arts practitioner and advocate says Aotearoa is abundant with talented Pacific artists.
“Pacific arts present a worldview unique in our part of the world, the Moana Nui a Kiva and for us who also have our homes in Aotearoa,” she says.
“We have some of the most significant global artists with talent that crosses physical boundaries such as Parris Goebel, Neil Ieremia, Yuki Kihara, Fafswag and many, many more.”
Currently, Makerita leads Creative New Zealand’s strategic work for Pacific Arts to make an effective long-term impact on the lives of artists and creatives, change that makes a real impact for society.
She has led and initiated numerous new strategic partnerships and collaborations with external stakeholders including government agencies, global and international partners, private sector, and arts organisations.
Her work focuses on empowerment, growth, investment and talanoa around how to improve the Pacific art community.
There is still plenty of work to be done in these areas, but Makerita says change can be made if we live by deep human values, making it a better world for everyone.
“We need to have the courage to address inequities, unfairness and injustices and believe each of us can make a positive difference in the lives of others and our communities through tautua, alofa and integrity.”
Makerita was bestowed the matai title Vaosa ole Tagaloa (Sacred Forest of Tagaloa) by her family from Safune, Savai’i where her filmmaker sister Sima Urale, also holds a family matai name Vaele.
Her brother Tati Urale, Senior Producer of TVNZ 6pm News, was bestowed the family title Fa’amoe from their father’s village Fagamalo in Savai’i.