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6 Waiheke Weekender
easy with putting themselves forward, she says.
“Talking about ourselves isn’t a Pacifc thing and
the boys fnd it really hard.
“Pacifc people interview the worst of all. It
isn't a valued quality." Nor is 'talking up' the
children. It’s something she does herself but
found confusing when she was young and listen-
ing to her mother's generation talking.
“It was a long time before I realised my
mother was really proud of me."
Which is one reason she may have taken
theatre doyen Nathaniel Lee's advice to never
step on stage again as an actor. Apart from
"not wanting to be someone else," however, she
loves speaking and her lecture work and says the
scripts for her work fow because she can hear
her characters in her head. “I have always written
because I can hear it in someone else’s voice –
often [Black Friar] Lauie Sila's," she says.
Nor is she at all retiring when it comes to
defending the South Auckland Polynesian culture
and the theatre, including the Pasifka Festival,
which she sees as a key to honouring the entirety
of the Pacifc culture.
When Dr Linita Manu'atu, was quoted
deploring the Pasifka festival in 2008 as hiding
a grimmer truth, Johannson says she found
herself sitting by a footpath in Mangere penning
an 'extremely forthright' letter to the academic
for condemning her fellow Pacifc Islanders to
outdated – and unfair – stereotypes.
“In playtexts that are studied in schools, there
is a lack of real role models. It’s that idea of the
characters being awful and stereotypical - not
actual Pasifka people. They really do damage,”
says Johansson, whose thesis addressed the
stereotyping of racial characteristics.
She regularly uses 'brown people' as a useful
term for Polynesian races and says the ruthless
characterisation of them as drunkards, wastrels
and criminals "misses everything; that every-
body is human," she says.
“It’s all about boxes; ftting in boxes . . . ‘in
"Artists are responsible to their communities,
particularly if they form the juice of that artist's
work. If not, there is a price that the artist should
be responsible for."
In such a performance, “a captured audience
comes and they are only given fries. It’s junk,”
she says. "They dodge the question and the
(Wesley) boys were always angry about that at
school. None of it is funny."
“In Polynesian culture, the give and take is
"South Auckland is still a beautiful place.
The escalation of violence is real and it needs
to be dealt with but for the media to focus only
on this and not give any kudos to the wonder-
ful people working so amazingly hard to make
better lives for their people, their families, their
aiga; that’s just wrong. It devalues what so many
good people are trying to do," she says.
It will be a shame if, in the new Supercity,
the prevailing sense of community and family
that exists in South Auckland is swallowed and
up and rendered comparatively inconsequential,
"This will be a real shame, losing that unique
small town feeling that New Zealand still has,
and that you can still feel somewhere in most
Bookings for the one-night-only Three Men in
a Box at Artworks Theatre on Saturday 6 October
can be made with the theatre on 372 2941 (msg)
or at ArtworksTheatre@gmail.com. For more
information on the Black Friars company, go to
www.blackfriarscompany.blogspot.com or email
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Michelle Johansson: "I have always written because I can hear it in
someone else's voice -- often Lauie's."
Black Friar Lauie Sila.
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