In an active act of remembrance and an expression of the potential of innovation in tradition, choreographer and dancer Amrita Hepi and the Pasefika Victoria Choir return to the Waiata, Po Atarau.
Po Atarau is a Waiata (Māori folksong) of contested origin – believed to be written by many people, and there is still debate happening over its source today even as it is disappearing and sung less. It was used to send people to war, and as a way to bid farewell to loved ones.
Combining the voice and the body as a form for resistance, the collaboration is an active acknowledgment of the disappearance of oceanic knowledge and a dialogue of the prevailing effects of diaspora.
The physical and vocal partnership of dancer and choir is further animated by the accompaniment of original score by contemporary musician Marcus Whale, creating a contemporary song celebrating cultural resistance.
Choreographer / Dancer: Amrita Hepi
Vocals: Pasefika Victoria Choir
Producer: Zoe Theodore
Music Producer: Marcus Whale
Amrita Hepi is a dancer and choreographer working in performance, video and installation. A Bundjulung and Ngapuhi woman, her practice at present is interested in probing intersecting ideas of authenticity, the perpetuation of culture, tradition, and a ‘decolonial imagination’ – and questioning where this now resides within a contemporary framework. Her work has taken many forms but always begins from working with the body as a point of archive, memory and resistance. Amrita trained at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) dance college, NSW, and Alvin Ailey American Dance School, New York. She has exhibited and performed at Sydney Opera House, Sydney; Next Wave Festival, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Carriageworks, Sydney; TEDX; Banff Centre Canada; Art Central Hong Kong; Art Basel HK; Underbelly arts festival; and DARK MOFO.
In April 2016, Pacific Island Creative Arts Australia (PICAA) made a call-out for interested singers wanting to promote Pasefika music in Melbourne. The call was answered by 17 Pasefika singers, and thus Pasefika Vitoria Choir was born. The choir performs a mix of Pasefika songs and medleys that embody Samoan, Tongan, Rarotongan, Māori and Tokelauan languages – with many other Pasefika language songs to come in future performances.