Le Moana’s centennial tour of ‘1918’

Here to perform their international award- winning dance theatre production “1918” is New Zealand-based dance company, Le Moana.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of when the global influenza pandemic came to Samoa in 1918 from New Zealand which killed one fifth of Samoa’s population.

The dance company is in Samoa on an Outreach programme where they will be doing workshops with various groups in Savaii and Upolu. 

Creative Director of Le Moana, Tupe Lualua said to the Samoa Observer that she is excited to start their international tour of 1918 here in Samoa before continuing on to the United States saying that she needed to “check in with her people to make sure that what she is doing is right”.

While many Samoans will be familiar with Le Moana’s production “1918” since the dance company brought the show to Samoa in 2016, Lualua said this time we can expect a “different but same show” having enlisted the help of with international renowned theater Director, Nina Nawalowalo, to develop the production for this year’s centennial tour.  

 “In order to be the best in terms of theatre and dance, I brought in the help of Nina Nawalowalo, who is a senior heritage artist, award recipient for Creative New Zealand and also the artistic director of The Conch, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with her in The White Guitar and Marama."

“She was the game changer. 1918 is the same but different, the setting is the same but the way that it’s told is different. In terms of the embodiment of the character, there’s more texture, more colour, more defined and fuller."

“When all the tricks and things are gone, only the truth remains and that’s why I brought Nina in to help these artists find their artist truth in their practice.”

Asked why it’s important to acknowledge such a painful past for Samoa, Lualua said: “It’s such a tragic period in our history, that story of a whole generation being wiped out in Samoa. During my research, I came across families who still don’t talk about it because it still hurts so much."

“There are many generations who don’t know about it, this tour is about continuing to educate our people but it’s also about empowering our people to realize that when outside forces influences a culture that already exists, it could move in many ways, there are detrimental effects, there are also very positive effects but at the end of the day we will rise, however we decide the most honest and truthful way to honour our culture and keep our culture and people alive.”

Acknowledging the painful past as well as the enduring special relationship between New Zealand and Samoa, Lualua says this exercise is another brushstroke of the story and enduring friendship between Samoa and New Zealand.

“History informs the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we speak, the way we interact with each other." 

"It’s not a blame game, it’s an acknowledgement of the history because a lot of those British colonists and German colonists have families that have been in Samoa for generations and have become the movers and the shakers of modern Samoa."

“It was actually Mike Walsh, the New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner,  who brought to my attention at the end of my last show in 2016 (which the New Zealand High Commission sponsored for us at short notice) that it would be good to bring back 1918 to Samoa on its 100th anniversary and they have been supporting us since.

“It’s not about focusing on the past, it’s about acknowledging history. It’s not a blame game. Empowered people don’t do blame games because empowered people don’t give nobody any power over them.”

The workshops and the live performances are free, Le Moana are delivering a two-week outreach programme in both Savaii and Upolu over the next two weeks that will mainly focus on Kapa Haka but will also include performances in Siva Samoa, Ura Kuki Airani and contemporary Pasifika Dance.

For more information about the programme and public performances please contact Le Moana’s Poducer: [email protected]

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