Tell Me More // Marama

Here are some beautiful and sobering words from Nina Nawalowalo, the director of Marama, now showing as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. Don’t miss it.

What is Marama about? Why is it important?

Marama is about the impact of deforestation on the indigenous people of the Pacific. My desire to create the piece comes from a profound sense of urgency, necessity and a belief in the vital role that theatre has to play in social change.

For two years I lead an EU funded project, in partnership with The British Council, in the Solomon Islands, setting up a National Women’s Theatre Company. Called ‘Stages of Change’, it was a vehicle to raise awareness about violence against women and girls which has reached epidemic proportions. The women I worked with changed my life and work.

While there I also witnessed scenes of the painful destruction of the landscape through deforestation. In my mind these images joined. Seeing a broken woman’s body or a broken landscape seemed part of the same broken mentality. Where the trees are torn down for profit the cultural roots that link us to the land are ripped out and violence of all kinds prevails. I saw logging boats drive into the beaches of islands, heavy machinery drive off and within days the whole side of a mountain was stripped.

Yet there are still vast areas where the forest exists in its original form. I was moved by its intense beauty. One of the last true untouched places on earth.

Drive one hour out of Honiara and the one road ends, the tarmac runs out, turns to sand and then stops completely. Beyond this are the tracks known only to the locals.

One day, on a local bus, we stopped where there were no signs and a lady stepped off the bus, left the road and walked into the jungle, swiftly disappearing into the trees.

A kind of magic had occurred.

It struck me deeply that this was a powerful metaphor, that the edge of the jungle was like this woman’s reality, a place where worlds meet, from which she steps into the world of ‘the other’ and returns into her own…that the jungle conceals and protects, shelters , like her body,  the inner life hidden from view.

I began to see this in the Pacific women I meet, that in response to the world of others, In a world where so much has been stolen, women have taken their treasures into a deeper place where few know the pathways.

And so I have sought a way to bring this into the theatre.

How have you gone about bringing the work to life? 

To do this I have brought together an extraordinary group of women who are all Marama – high born women – within their own cultural lines – from five different parts of the pacific. I bring these women into Te Ao Marama the world of light, to seek Marama – clarity – to bring the urgent voice of these threatened landscapes onto the world stage.

The women are from Malaita and Makira in the Solomon Islands, Kiribas in Micronesia, Samoa in Polynesia, Fiji and right here in Aotearoa.

Their realities are not remote or exotic, the impact on their culture and resources is driven by a global economy. I am not interested in presenting the spectacle of the last of a dying world – but an urgent call for a sense of shared humanity. The voice of this shared Earth of which supports us all.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the AAF? 

This is a truly great festival – beautifully put together.

For a my children I would have to say Duck Death and The Tulip from little Dog barking !

As a big basket ball fan I’ve got to see the mad ball skills in 360 ALLSTARS!

I’m very interested to see the outcome of the collaboration between Neil Ieremia and Kuik Swee Boon and for a night out at the Spiegeltent you’d be hard pressed to pass up a night with Laughton Kora and Friends.

What are the three most influential plays (for you) that you’ve seen/read?

Slava Polunin’s ‘Snow Show

Nigel Charnock’s ‘Hell Bent

Bolek Polivka – ‘The Jester and The Queen

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” About her love story and collaboration with Robert Mapplethorpe.

What’s your favourite tune of the moment? 

Beyonce’s “Formation” of course…