The multi-talented Oscar Vai To'elau Kightley has been awarded this year’s Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency at the University of Hawai’i.
Born in Apia, Samoa, Oscar immigrated to New Zealand with his mother when he was four years old, and was raised in West Auckland.
In 2006, the award-winning journalist, writer, playwright, actor, presenter and director was an Arts Foundation Laureate Award winner; and three years later, he was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre and television.
As part of the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency he will network with the local creative community through writing and lectures, undertake research within the Samoan community in Hawai’i, and work on a new screenplay.
Arts Council Deputy Chair Caren Rangi says as an accomplished artist Oscar is a fantastic recipient of the prestigious award and well-placed to continue to tell the unique stories of Pacific peoples from Aotearoa.
“Creative New Zealand is proud to partner with Fulbright New Zealand for this wonderful annual opportunity for Pasifika writers to work on a project at the University of Hawai’i,” Caren says.
The partnership arrangement is a key contributor to Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Strategy 2018 – 2023, for a thriving Pacific arts community.
Oscar spent one week as an artist resident at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa in 2007, shortly after the hit movie Sione’s Wedding, which he co-wrote and acted in, was released.
He is looking forward to reconnecting with the writers and community in Hawai’i next year.
“Those networks are still there and I would be looking to reconnect and deepen not only those links, but I’d like to encourage collaboration with writers from different mediums,” Oscar says.
Oscar co-founded Pacific Underground and the Island Players theatre company and won the Bruce Mason playwrights’ award in 1998.
His plays include Romeo & Tusi, Dawn Raids, A Frigate Bird Sings, Fresh off the Boat and Niu Sila.
Oscar was a founding member of The Naked Samoans, and has worked as a performer and writer for a number of television shows.
Bro’ Town, which he co-wrote, won Best Comedy at the New Zealand Screen Awards 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In 2013, Oscar wrote and directed his first dramatic short, Tom's Diary which won best short at a film festival in Belize; and also wrote for the gritty television police drama Harry, in which he played the dramatic lead.
“As a Pasifika writer, director and storyteller I am lucky to live in a country like New Zealand whose institutions have helped grow and develop Pasifika storytelling,” he says.
“I’ve been able to enjoy a long career during which I’ve written for the stage, small and big screens.
“While in Hawai’i I would like to attend and give talks in which I can draw on my professional experience, to help indigenous writers based in Hawai’i, in any small way that I can.”
Oscar will be based at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, for three months early next year.
Hawai‘i has been identified as a strategic location for artists and is considered the hub of Pacific writing with numerous universities, library resources, networks, writers’ forums and publishers.
It is also an important link to the mainland United States and has a strong indigenous culture.
Oscar and the other 2019 Fulbright Grantees will be honoured at the annual Fulbright New Zealand Awards Ceremony at Parliament on June 17, hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Rt. Hon Winston Peters.