2002 Arts Pasifika Awards a celebration of Pacific arts
An opera singer, a filmmaker and two visual artists are recipients of the inaugural Arts Pasifika Awards, presented by
the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand at a ceremony in Auckland on Monday, 9 December.
The 2002 Arts Pasifika Awards were presented to Invercargill artist Johnny Penisula (the $6000 Senior Pacific Islands
Artist Award); former Wellington opera singer Benjamin Fifita Makisi (the $6500 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award); Auckland
artist Richard Shortland Cooper (the $5000 Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award); and former Porirua filmmaker Peter
Panoa (the $3000 Emerging Pacific Islands Artist Award).
The annual Arts Pasifika Awards, established this year by the Pacific Arts Committee, are the only awards in New Zealand
aimed at professional Pacific artists across a range of artforms.
Chair of the Pacific Arts Committee Marilyn Kohlhase said the Awards celebrated the valuable contribution of Pacific
arts to the richness and diversity of the arts in New Zealand, to the country's international reputation and to its
appeal as a tourist destination.
"These Awards acknowledge both emerging and established Pacific artists, as well as recognising the importance of
excellence and innovation," she said. "We are also delighted to present the inaugural Iosefa Enari Memorial Award in
memory of a man who made an enormous contribution to New Zealand, to Pacific arts and to opera."
An opera icon in New Zealand and Samoa, baritone singer Iosefa Enari died suddenly in 2000 at the 8th Festival of
Pacific Arts in Noumea.
Benjamin Fifita Makisi, the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award:
Samoan-Tongan tenor Benjamin Fifita Makisi, who recently completed a Master of Music Performance at the Sydney
Conservatorium of Music, won the 2002 McDonald's Operatic Aria competition in Australia, worth A$38,000. He also won the
2001 Lockwood Aria in Rotorua, worth $15,000.
A graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, Makisi performed in Classical Polynesia, a work created and directed
by the late Iosefa Enari. It was premiered at the 1998 International Festival of the Arts in Wellington to critical
"I am honoured to be the first recipient of this award," Makisi said. "Iosefa helped me find my feet and was a mentor
to me. He understood what it was like to encompass two worlds, combining Pacific Island cultural values with Western
ideals and the principles of being an opera singer."
Makisi is one of the principal singers in the NBR NZ Opera's Winter 2003 Tour of The Barber of Seville, which is
touring to nine centres in partnership with Class Act Opera in May and June next year.
Johnny Penisula, the Senior Pacific Islands Artist Award:
At the age of 13, senior artist Johnny Penisula painted his first mural in a church in his Samoan village. He celebrated
his 21st birthday on a banana boat between Apia and Fiji before flying to New Zealand to live in 1962. After three
months in Auckland, he settled in Invercargill where he has practised his art for 30 years.
Combining traditional Samoan symbols with contemporary techniques and tools, he works with a range of materials -
stone, bone, steel, fibre glass, wood. "Whatever's available," he said. His work can be found in private and public
collections in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and England.
"My main aim is to promote Pacific art. In particular, I want to inspire our youngsters to learn about their artistic
heritage," Penisula said. "There's a lot of talent out there and hopefully, I can find a way to point them in the right
As a part-time tutor at the Southland Institute of Technology since 1989, he has encouraged and worked with hundreds of
Richard Shortland Cooper, the Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award:
Richard Shortland Cooper lives in Papatoetoe, Auckland and is completing a Doctorate in Fine Arts at Elam. His
art-making has won numerous awards, including a National Award for Excellence for his millennium public sculpture, He
Täonga Hiranga Whakanui Whanau, in Manukau.
Of Cook Islands descent, Cooper was the first New Zealand sculptor to be invited to the 2001 International Sculpture
Competition in France. His work has been exhibited throughout New Zealand, in the United States, France, Australia and
the Pacific region.
A book on his art, My Journey, was published in 2001 to coincide with a solo exhibition at the Studio of Contemporary
Art Gallery in New Market, Auckland. It author, John Daly-Peoples, says: "Richard's work is constantly pushing
boundaries, using new technologies and materials to re-examine Mäori and Pacific symbols and stories."
Cooper says he hopes to complete his doctorate early next year and will then prepare for a solo exhibition.
Peter Panoa, the $3000 Emerging Pacific Islands Artist Award:
Peter Panoa is a cinematographer, director, writer and producer in film. Born in 1969, he grew up in Porirua and
attended Porirua College. He was the first Samoan New Zealander to be accepted into the Australian Film Television and
Radio School to study cinematography, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in film and television in 1994.
Now the Head of the Cinematography Department at the School of Visual Arts in Sydney, Peter Panoa shares his knowledge
of filmmaking in New Zealand, Indonesia and Australia by running cinematography workshops for people from minority
He plans to return to New Zealand next year to run a second lighting workshop (the first was in 2000) at Whitireia
Polytechnic in Porirua.
"I want to encourage others to express their creative energy and develop a career in the arts," he said. "I've been
working in film since 1994 and haven't come across any other Pacific filmmakers. I believe there are one or two in New
Zealand and I'd like to meet up with them."
Panoa says that he will use the money he's received from the award to help fund a short film, set in Western Samoa and
New Zealand. At the moment, he's writing the film script and trying to attract funding to produce the film in New
The 2002 Arts Pasifika Awards were held at the Pacific Business Trust's South Markets venue and were attended by
approximately 150 guests.
Nominations to the 2003 Arts Pasifika Awards close at 5pm 28 February 2003. Nomination forms are available from Anton
Carter, Arts Adviser, Pacific Islands Arts at Creative New Zealand (Tel: 04-498 0729 Email: email@example.com).