Recognising creative talent in the Pacific Island diaspora

Ebonie Fifita November 5, 2009

I was born in Whangarei , NZ and moved to the Vava’u Islands in Tonga (where Dad is from) when I was almost 2 . We lived with my Dads side of the family for about 6 years- before moving to the Ha’apai Islands to grow vegetables with an uncle there. My earliest memories of discovering of the joys of art include sitting next to my grandmother while she wove mats and painted tapa, being told off for colouring an apple purple with polka dots in 2nd grade and dancing with cousins at family and village gatherings.

Since then – I have lived in NZ for another 6 Years ( where Mum is from)- moving through Taupo, Hamilton, Auckland and Great Barrier Island-before returning to Tonga- where I now live and work as an artist, and youth leader co-ordinating the local NGO – ON THE SPOT.

ON THE SPOT is a not-for-profit, membership & community-focused organization. Based in Tonga, ON THE SPOT is developed by youth, for youth. Initiatives address local issues of global importance such as environmental sustainability, healthy lifestyles, respect & understanding & human rights.The group is founded upon the dynamic & creative potential of performing & visual arts for empowerment & education. Projects inform, inspire & involve young people in youth led initiatives for community development & wellbeing.

As a part of this organisation – I am involved in supporting young artist, organising opportunities and developing youth initiatives such as

STAGE FRIGHT – a free 2 hour family show by young people and sponsored by local companies that celebrates and promotes performing arts in the community.


a fundraising fashion shows in collaboration with local designers and youth   that  reflects on themes from traditional legends for community empowerment.  Y.E.Y.A. Workshops ( Youth Empowering Youth Action) – including contemporary dance, drama and theatre skills, music, cultural exchange workshops, childrens art workshops, etc

My artwork draws on Tongan and Pacific Themes, Images, Identity and Traditional Patterns- to express my respect for the extroaodinary environment we live in, to show the vibrance , passion and energy of the Pacific and to celebrate creation and the unity and power that moves us forward.

HARD AT WORK: Ebonie Fifita, Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus Vice-Chair

Suffice to say that Tonga’s representative for the CYP South Pacific Regional Youth Caucus, 24-year-old Ebonie Fifita, is a busy young woman.

Ebonie works part-time at an international school in Nuku’alofa, teaching primary level art and secondary drama and art and co-ordinating the performing arts team.

She is working toward the Commonwealth Youth Programme Diploma in Youth and Development.

She co-founded and now co-ordinates youth NGO, On the Spot, which involves leading rehearsals and training with youth drama, dance and music groups, who perform locally and internationally (the group recently represented Tonga at the 10th Pacific Arts Festival in Samoa), and advocating for youth empowerment through arts and media.

Ebonie is Baha’i, and helps her community out with literacy programmes, environmental projects, study circles and social activities for junior youth groups.

It’s comes as no surprise, that Ebonie is very passionate about what she does.

“My passion for working with and for young people lies in the fact that in our youth we stand as one of the most vulnerable groups of society, and yet we hold a wealth potential and the responsibility to create positive change.

“In today’s world of rapid developments, global climate crisis, unsustainable environmental practices, economic extremes, increasing populations, war, famine, oppression, racism, greed, we – the youth – must realise that it is us who will be affected by today’s decisions; it is our dreams, hopes and ideas that can shape the future; and we have the energy, talent, time and confidence to learn from yesterday, challenge today’s world and build a better tomorrow.”

Key to young people – all people – being everything they can be, says Ebonie, is effective communication.

“Because who we are, how we express ourselves, what we feel, what we do, how we interact with others and how we perceive our world is largely a result of messages we have seen, heard and learned to interpret.

“Effective communication to me is a starting point for awareness and sustainable development in all areas. This issue to me touches all aspect of our human lives in so many forms – pictures, language, music, movement, colour, shape, sound, technology, fashion, business, media. It challenges us reach out and connect with people, to listen, to observe and to respond with respect and truthfulness.

“So I am really fired up about developing initiatives that promote and build effective communication skills for understanding, equality, justice and freedom for all.”

Ebonie first came across the Regional Youth Caucus through Elaine Howard, former rep for Tonga.

“She was advisor, mentor and supportive friend to me and my team when we initially implemented our own youth project in 2006, a local radio show called On the Spot promoting awareness of the millennium development goals actions being taken to achieve them.

“Later, in 2007, I was invited to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Uganda, where I had the pleasure of meeting and working with outstanding young people from across the Commonwealth to develop our recommendations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It was here that I met existing RYC and saw Elaine in action,” explains Ebonie.

So when the opportunity to represent Tonga came up, Ebonie leapt at the chance.

“I hope to get a better understanding of regional and Commonwealth issues and what’s happening so I can contribute effectively. I want experience, networks and opportunities to work together with and learn from passionate young people.”

Ebonie is especially proud to be working for the Pacific.

“The South Pacific is unique, precious, fragile and, sadly, an under-represented voice in the world. This opportunity is a chance for me to gain new skills from the rest of the Commonwealth and to raise the voice of Pacific young people.

“Our islands may appear small and spread far apart, but our hearts are big, our families even bigger and our ocean, the biggest of all.

“Like the our ancestors who conquered the Pacific ocean and the present-day residents who struggle day-to-day with undaunted faith and contagious smiles, I’m proud to face challenges that may appear too big for me because I know I’m not the only one. I am merely one wave, drawing strength from the ocean.”

Original article © Copyright Commonwealth Secretariat, to view click here.


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