One is an age-old Pacific language art used in customary events and negotiations; the other is urban music which originated in 1970s' New York.

Now South Auckland music producer Anonymouz is bringing both Samoan oratory (lauga) and hip-hop music together in a ground-breaking performance as part of the Auckland Arts Festival's Whanui programme.

Whanui is designed to get Aucklanders making art as well as watching it. After a successful start last year, it's returned for 2018 with the theme of bridging generational gaps. This year, communities in Glen Innes, Flat Bush, Albany, Mangere and Blockhouse Bay take part with Anonymouz — aka Matthew Faiumu Salapu — working out of the Mangere Arts Centre.

He leads 4 Tha Lumana'I , a performance which will highlight the similarities between traditional Samoan oratory customs and contemporary hip-hop using a cast of Samoan tulafale orator chiefs, rappers, poets and community performers.


It's being described as living conversation between the past, present and future and has its roots in a visit the recording artist made to Samoa in 2012 to mark its 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand.

Tasked to make a contribution to the event, he recorded everyday sounds from the local environment and turned them into beats. He says that saw him move away from using old New York beats in his music and start thinking more about traditional culture and customs.

It wasn't long before he was keeping a keen ear out for the ways in which lauga are structured and delivered. Anonymouz saw parallels between the way in which both lauga and — especially in battle raps — seek to persuade and influence.

Having now seen a "battle" between a rapper and tulafale orator chief, he says 4 Tha Lumana'I will highlight to all involved the likeness between the two apparently disparate language arts and also helps them understand the skills needed in both forms.

"It's hard to have an appreciation of something you don't understand," says Anonymouz, "but this shows the older people why hip-hop is popular and the younger ones learn something about customs and traditions."

Theatre-maker Alice Canton at work at Ormiston Junior College.
Theatre-maker Alice Canton at work at Ormiston Junior College.

Across Auckland at Ormiston Junior College in Flat Bush, theatre-maker Alice Canton is getting first-hand experience that kids really do say the darnedest things. Last year Canton's show Other [Chinese] brought together actors and non-actors, from various Chinese communities, to explore what it means to be Chinese in Auckland.

It won top honours at the Auckland Theatre Awards and has seen Canton working on a similar documentary project for Whanui. She describes Children Talk About as creating space for young people to have courageous conversations about living and ageing.

"Where we've arrived at is that we're helping the kids or giving them the skills to be courageous and have conversations which might require them to be brave."


Twelve 10 — 12 year olds have spent time interviewing older people in their community then sharing with one another the findings. Their "complex and curious" stories will be shared during two performances which show how the very young think about the very old.

Some thoughts they've had so far? Canton says at the same time as seeming simple, they're often quite profound:

"The hardest part about getting old is knowing you are going to die soon."
"We wish old people would make young people understand that life is short."
"Old people always talk about the olden days."
"We wish old people could live more life."

Imagine the Land, an installation of hundreds of clay bowls made from local soil, has already taken place. Lynfield College students worked with artist Ekarasa Doblanovic and older people in the neighbourhood, sharing stories as they crafted. Whanui projects still to come are:

Children Talk About, Thursday and Friday, Ormiston Junior College Theatre

Tuhono, from Thursday (outside of school hours), Upper Harbour North Primary School: Led by urban contemporary artists Charles & Janine Williams, school pupils are creating a large-scale outdoor mural. It connects them with the stories of their grandparents and elders, preserving the stories of yesterday for the generations of tomorrow.

Home Fires, March 21 — 24, Fenchurch Street, Glen Innes: A four-day "artivist" project in the backyards and open spaces of Glen Innes explores the impact of housing redevelopment in the Tamaki area.

4 Tha Lumana'i, March 23 & 24, Mangere Arts Centre