Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

13/06/2023 - 14/06/2023

Kia Mau Festival 2023

Production Details

Artistic Director: Sisi’uno Helu
Choreography: Sisi’uno Helu and Daniel Mateo
Music: Sisi’uno Helu and Daniel Mateo

Tautahi (Presented in partnership with Pacific Dance Festival)

HIKULE’O is a work that celebrates the stories and mana of the paramount chieftess of Tonga’s underworld, Pulotu. Hikule’o was responsible for harvesting, fertility and had supreme power over her brothers’ children.
While this work aims at reclaiming and reconnecting with ancient knowledge, the work also recreates ancient sounds and movements.
The work features 2 parts, which brings together ancient sounds of ‘Otuhaka, Me’etu’upaki, chants as well as modern acapella singing. The work also weaves together ancient and modern Tongan choreography and dances as well as spoken words and the recreation of old chants and scales.

VENUE: Te Auaha (Tapere Nui)

DATE RANGE: Tues 13th – Wed 14th June 2023

TIME: 6:30pm

PRICES: $20 – $30

BOOKING DETAILS: To book tickets, please follow this link https://kiamaufestival.org/events/hikuleo/

Sisi’uno Helu
Tamia Mahe
Cia Müller
Molonai Makalio
Mele Taufa Naulu
Clive Ellwood
Tongan Vei

Costume: Virginia Helu

Dance , Pasifika contemporary dance ,

60 Minutes

Stories and movement of Pasifika people not seen often enough

Review by Deija Vukona 14th Jun 2023

As the warm deep red hue fills the stage, Tamia Mehe, Mele Taufa Naulu and Molonai T Makalio begin to move through delicate Tongan gestural movement. With Virginia Helu crafting the costumes, the skirts resemble ta’ovala that hold a less traditional shape, paired with individually textured tops. There is a light aura as the performers move through soft, articulate motions. An early morning fresh start to a day, a clear beginning. They shift into an all-encompassing exploration which holds the same essence but through the entirety of the body. Makalio enters the space again with two sticks, weaving a different element of Tongan dancing into the arc of the piece. 

There is a sudden elevation in the tension of the music by Sisi’uno Helu and Daniel Mateo, as the space shatters apart and we are transported into what could be Pulotu, the place where Hikule’o rules. The whole space has a heaviness, like a blanket has been laid to make the movement and tone appear more resistant. Sisi’uno Helu holds an air of strength and power. A clear intention of how Helu has developed the character of Hikule’o. Spear in her hand, she is knowing and holds the mana in this place we have been transported too. Women are so often told to move delicately, to be smaller and take up less space. Helu consumes all the space and brings all of our attention to her. She shows the power a woman holds when she is not afraid to break boundaries. 

A rumble of feet break through the space as they begin to run together. It is the first we see of powerful unison movement between all four performers. The deep sound moving through the theatre leaves a rumble within us which is an ode to digging deep and staying grounded in our ancestral knowledge and values. So often in our colonized society the values that were once so important to our families can get washed down. There is value in keeping traditions as a community and desperately grasping at the values our culture holds to keep it alive. 

Helu surrenders down with ropes wrapped around her arms like a prisoner. They are gently unwound from her body as she begins to move to the spoken word. As the two women bathe in the warm pools of light with the rope being guided around them, it reminds me of the rope on my family’s Tanoa. The tradition is a time of fellowship, and it represents the resolution of problems and seeking peace. In the piece, this moment is a reflection of coming back to a centre point, an offering of a tradition, something that ties us to our land and people even from far away.

There is an evolution of the movement we have so far seen, as Tamia Mahe responds to the spoken word with an expansive solo drawn from traditional Tongan choreography. Her body moves fluidly through a full bodied reflection of some of the smaller hand gestures from the beginning of the work. The essence of the fluid, liquid smooth quality that is often found in the hands is integrated through the whole body. 

Hikule’o directed by Sisi’uno Helu is a thought provoking, immersive display of Tongan dancing entwined within the chieftainess’ story. It is a fight against the loss of culture through colonization, supported by the story of Hikule’o.  As a Pasifika artist myself, I feel as though not being as immersed in Tongan movement practice hinders me from fully appreciating and understanding this piece. However, there was grace and power in the movement and with only a small cast the performers held the space and brought the audience into a different realm. Sisi’uno Helu has created a piece to share and appreciate the stories and movement of Pasifika people that is not seen often enough within our society.


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