Emele Ugavule named as 2024 Emerging Pasifika Writer in Residence at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University

9 July 2024

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) is delighted to announce Tokelauan Fijian storyteller Emele Ugavule as the 2024 Emerging Pasifika Writer in Residence.

Emele will receive a stipend of $15,000 from Creative New Zealand to work on a play for 3 months. She will also be supported by a mentor, funded by the University.  

Born in Takapuna and raised on Bindjareb Boodja in Australia, Emele is the founder of the Indigenous-led arts collective Studio Kiin which was established between Bindjareb Boodja, Whadjuk Boodja, and Aotearoa. She is now based in Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai (Lower Hutt).

Emele is a published poet and her plays have been performed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Arts House Melbourne. She runs the podcasts Unravel and Solwata Kin. Emele is also a senior tutor in Craft and Creative Practice at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

Emele says she is excited by the opportunity to develop her play ‘Ancestor Incarnate’, which she describes as “an intercultural Melafuturist work that unpacks the relationship between native cases against the British Crown, food sovereignty, and climate change in Oceania.”

“I am deeply humbled and honoured to join the incredible legacy of Pasifika writers who have undertaken this residency before me,” Emele says. “Having dedicated time and resources to commit to building the world of my play has immeasurable value to me as mum and custodian of story. This iTaukei proverb, ‘Dui mate ga e na nona ucu ni vatu’ meaning ‘each person is ready to die defending their home territory’ encapsulates why I do what I do. This residency is an extension of my service to the mana of my Vanua and the kin-ways that connect Indigenous fights for liberation across Black Oceania.“

Professor Damien Wilkins, Director of the IIML, says, “Emele’s application shone in a strong field of applicants. This is an exciting project and she has a proven track record in innovative theatre works. Emele is also the first writer from Melanesia to receive this residency.“

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