Reverse chameleon in the Kiwi jungle:Identity construction of Pasifika theatre makers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This research fills a gap in the literature on Pasifika theatre, theatre made by immigrants from the Pacific Islands and their descendants in New Zealand; it addresses a new field and uses a rich set of data, specifically interviews, archives, performances, and plays. The thesis tracks how Pasifika theatre matured, and characterises this in four broad developmental stages. The first Pasifika plays were positioned within a monocultural environment, sharing their initial energy with Maori theatre. The second stage broke away from Maori theatre to have a more specific focus on Pasifika cultural issues. The third stage saw a flourishing of popular Pasifika theatre, with a Pan-Pasifika ideology. While in the first three stages there was a particular focus on migration, the fourth stage has seen a move toward issues that are more contemporary. Topics examined include gender, ethnicity, and the individuality of a community that has increasingly acculturated into New Zealand society. At the moment they are less connected with their ethnic and cultural roots; they are also showing more awareness of their position in New Zealand society. Pasifika theatre makers identified with a larger Pan-Pasifika community, differentiating themselves from the Maori and European populations in New Zealand. At the same time, theatre makers used indigenous traditions, Western realist theatre conventions, and popular cultural references to comment on the socio-economic position of Pasifika people, and to entertain Pasifika audiences. For subsequent generations of Pasifika theatre makers, migration and its aftermath formed the primary master narrative, even though Pasifika people increasingly acculturated to New Zealand society. Consequently, new hybrid identities developed, which have become more prominent in Pasifika plays. Pasifika theatre attracts a growing number of European theatre goers who seek a safe encounter with the Other. Indeed, sixty years after the first waves of migration, Pasifika theatre makers still feel like outsiders in New Zealand’s bicultural framework.