Manuha'apai (Manu) Vaeatangitau says being this year’s recipient of the Arts and Creativity category at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards means many things.
“I guess it could mean validation maybe, or strength,” Manu says.
“I think though, it signifies the closing of one door and the opening of another and being this year's recipient means I have a new beginning to look forward to.”
The 21-year-old of Tongan descent took out the Arts and Creativity Award valued at $10,000 and sponsored by Creative New Zealand and Massey University.
This award recognises a young person who has demonstrated a significant level of achievement in the arts or creative fields or has used the arts or creativity to effect change in their community.
As a Pacific Island Queer person living in South Auckland, Manu has been a member of Queer Moana Oceanic arts collective FAFSWAG since 2016.
The collective has seen many artists collaborate and create dialogue in the Pacific arts community.
Alongside fellow collective artists Pati Solomona Tyrell and Sione Monu, Manu has re-instated queer Pacific identities (fakaleiti, fa’afafine, akava’ine) into his social/cultural canons.
This has provided opportunities to exhibit and perform both nationally and internationally (most recently in Las Vegas).
Manu plans to use his award and the resources which come with it to document and hold space for the sharing of knowledge and experience, and particularly that which is already abundant in his family, he says.
“The documentation and immortalisation of these will be my way of giving back to the Pacific community, by way of honouring their methodologies and the experiences that inform them.”
Looking ahead, Manu hopes to one day become a lecturer and help other Pacific peoples, specifically those within the Queer Pacific community.