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Source: University Of Auckland

Embracing the different facets of her cultural identity has been the driving force behind the University of Auckland postgraduate research of New Zealand-born Samoan Ufitia Sagapolutele.

The twenty-four year-old dancer, choreographer, and artist was capped this week at Spring Graduation with a Masters of Dance Studies degree from the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries.

Her research entitled Teine Samoa | Teine Niu Sila – Being a New Zealand-born Samoan woman, navigating cultural identity and loss in the 21st century: A Hybrid Choreographic Exploration, focuses on the integration of her culture and practice and how the two form personal identity.

The youngest of five, Ufitia started dancing at a young age. Recognising that she loved the performing arts, her parents encouraged her to take classes in drama, music and dance.

She joined her first dance group while at James Cook High School, before going on to complete a Bachelor of Creative Arts at MIT.

During this time she had lost her mum and decided to take a year off from her studies. She knew she wanted to be an artist but was unsure of the direction to take.

“Being New Zealand-born, I didn’t learn that much about my Samoan culture. I now understand that being a New Zealand Samoan is a culture between the two. I wanted to create work that strengthened my understanding of both cultures – Samoan and New Zealand – and also investigated my extended family,” she says.

She enrolled in the Dance Studies Programme at the University and began incorporating her love for hip-hop dance with Siva Samoa and contemporary dance.

A previous work AVE, which means ‘take’ in Samoan, was performed as part of the Wahine Toa show at the Pacific Dance Festival last year. It featured six Samoan women expressing their views on the aftermath of colonisation.

Next month, her work will feature as part of the Tempo Dance Festival’s FRESH choreographers’ showcase at Q Theatre. Ufitia is currently working at Dance Aotearoa New Zealand. Eventually she hopes to begin her PhD, but for now, her focus is helping the next generation of Pacific dancers.

“I want to be a voice for people from South Auckland and the Pasifika community. We have all faced hardship in our lives, big or small, and during these battles, your dreams and goals may feel impossible to achieve. I want others to know that these battles are temporary and to keep pushing and fighting for what they love and believe in. At one point in my life, I was financially stressed and felt alone as ever. But I know when I walk in the graduation parade, I will not walk alone, but with a village behind me”.

Miranda Playfair | Media Advisor
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