Humans of the Islands

HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - Spencer Papali'i

PIPA Student 
I'm currently a 3rd year degree student at PIPA (The Pacific Institute of Performing Arts)  I grew up in west Auckland and went to local primary and intermediate then attended Avondale College. I'm the eldest of 5 boys. My father is of Samoan descent and my mother is of Fijian descent. Both were born in their mother land and moved to New Zealand at a young age. 
You're currently preparing for your solo show O A'u - can you tell us a bit about it?
O A'u is all about me. It explores the ideas of culture, religion, and even sexuality. 
You said in another interview that you created your drag persona to help deal with past struggles - can you tell us some of the struggles you've experienced? 
One of the few things that I experienced and struggled with growing up was bullying.  It wasn't that I got beaten up or physically harmed, it was the words that hit me the most.…more

Humans of the Islands


Lila Taulapiu

Founder of TAMĀ - Pacific Scripter Word Art Business 



My name is Lila Taulapiu, I am married with 4 children and I’m a grandmother of 1, soon to be 3. I worked in tertiary education holding various roles for 12 years and made a transition into HR, which I'm currently doing on a contract basis alongside my own business, TAMĀ. My mother is from the village of Savaia Lefagā and my father is from Samatau - my Samoan heritage I am very proud of.

TAMĀ, what inspired you to start it? 

I've always enjoyed the idea of business. I think one of the things that intrigued me about it was the possibility of a role that allows me to be balance family needs as a mother and invest in something I’m passionate about. For myself as a Christian, I really feel the drive for this is a faith calling from my heavenly dad hence the name TAMĀ, which also inspired my Dad, Mutimuti, who was very much an entrepreneur and determined soul.…more

Humans of the Islands



Miss Fa'afafine 2017 & Marketing Executive at Digicel 


My name is Charlize Leo. I am the youngest out of 8 children, I’m 27, I grew up in To’omatagi, I’m a marketing executive at Digicel, and I love watching movies. Everything that I like has something to do with Hollywood. My favourite movie overall is ‘The Hours’ with Nicole Kidman and Merryl Streep, Julianne Moore. Yeah, I just love that movie.


Congratulations of winning the Miss Fa’afafine Pageant 2017!  What was that whole experience like for you?

Well, it really took 7 years in the making of course.  Last time I competed was 7 years ago and the experience was umm, I guess my focus was on winning. But not to forget that at the end of the day we’re human beings so, the thing about the contestants is that you know I’m always available to help out and they were much younger than me, and some were older but a lot more experienced.…more

Humans of the Islands


Will Hafu 

Owns/Runs Hafu's House & Co Manager/Coach of the Sports Academy Tonga 

Kingdom of Tonga  

I’m Kiwi born and bred out in West Auckland and both my parents are from Tonga. In the last two years I came back (to Tonga) for the 7’s, originally to help coach, but when I got here I played for a little bit too. 

I was coaching by myself at first, helping the local teams, then was approached by a New Zealand company (CSM) to start up the Tongan side of the academy, helping kids get scholarships into NZ teams. We work throughout the schools and take the elite kids and help with coaching etc.

We go and video the rugby games, pick the guys that we want and do highlights. We train them separately from the other kids and from there we try to get contracts and pair them up to other schools in New Zealand. It gives them a chance to better their education and to do rugby.…more

Humans of the Islands


Rose Fangupo 

Fitness Trainer & Owner of 'Coffee Post' in Nuku'alofa 



Originally born and bred in South Auckland, my family (husband and kids) have been in Tonga for the last 8 years.  I’m a mother of five.  We came here for our 10th wedding anniversary and were supposed to only be here for a year but we’re still here 8 years on.  My Mum and Dad are also both from Tonga.  I'm from a family of 8 and am a middle child.  My family have been really supportive of me and my husband, without them we would not have made it this far.


Running Fitness Training programmes in Tonga

I started doing training because it was something I loved and got paid to do.   

While I was having babies I was training. I’ve always been health conscious. My aunty who brought me up had breast cancer and my family has high obesity, diabetes and cancer.

When we came here, there was nothing running at the time. There were fitness classes, but there weren’t group classes and boot camps.…more

Humans of the Islands


Artist & Passionate Weaver 
We first caught up with Maryann about a year ago after she'd taken her One Million Stars to end Violence project home to Samoa.  At that point she'd received almost 600,000 stars sent in from different communities around the world.  A year later she's reached her goal!! 
Who taught you the art of weaving and where did your love for the art form grow?
My first experience of weaving was as a child, growing up in Auckland, at Owairaka Primary School, some 30 years ago. I was taught how to weave fish as part of the creative learning there.
The next time I wove was with a Master Weaver from Mapuru (Elcho Island), aunty Roslyn Malngumba at Selling Yarns, an Indigenous Weaving conference in Canberra 2009. That experience activated something very deep and meaningful for me. I knew I was meant to weave. It felt like my hands and my heart woke up.…more

Humans of the Islands


Sarah Roopinia 

Founder of Ono'u Tahiti 



I’m 28 years old and I was born on the island of Raiatea.  I grew up in Tahiti until I was 16, then I left to do my studies abroad, first in France where I studied political science and international relations.  I then did my Bachelors in the US at Berkeley, then I went back to Paris where I did my Masters in Economics and Project Management.  I worked as an Energy Consultant for a while, then as the EU Representative of French Polynesia, in Paris.

At the moment, I still work as a consultant in communications.  I have my own consultancy company and basically I work for a leading bank in French Polynesia where I handle their Communication Marketing, this is what I do for a living.

My passion is what we created four years ago with ONO’U , which is an international graffiti and street art festival that takes place every year in Tahiti, and now in other islands.…more

Humans of the Islands

HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - Amberley Jo Aumua, Filmmaker

Introducing young filmmaker blazing the scene at the moment... Amberley Jo Aumua!

Kia ora Whanau, Malo ‘aiga my name is Amberley Jo Aumua. I’m 22 years old of Samoan/Maori descent and I’m a storyteller. I grew up in Manurewa , South Auckland and I’m the middle child of 5 siblings.

I directed a short film written by Samuel Kamu called “Waiting.” It’s about two boys who wait outside a dairy for a phone-call. It was chosen as one of six finalists for Best Shorts NZIFF 2017 and took away the jury prize for Best Short Film in New Zealand at NZIFF 2017. It has also been selected to screen at Toronto International Film Festival 2017 next month.

This past year I’ve worked on and supported many projects that I believe in such as Vela Manusaute’s  short film “The Messiah,” Rachel House & Tweedie Waititi’s “Moana (Te Reo Maori)”, and Hanelle Harris’& Mia Marama’s “Baby Mama’s Club” Web series

How did you end up on this path in film?

I’ve always been introverted and in my own world.…more

Humans of the Islands

Humans of the Islands - Sesalina Simonetti


Hair Braider at King Fadez (Kingsland)



Tell us a bit about yourself - What you do / Where you're from / Your Pacific heritage.

I was born and raised on the North Shore, Auckland. My parents are from Tonga - Dad is also of French/italian heritage and born in Fungamisi Neiafu Vavau Lahi.  My Mum is fromTatakamoTonga / Kolomotua Nukualofa Tonga.  They now live in Auckland.

Before getting this job – I was volunteering for church groups and second hand stores. I’m a full time mother of three kids (7,6 & 3yrs).  Now I’m working here at King Fadez as a full time member doing braids.

Its always been a hobby, something I always enjoyed especially back in high school, when we used to be rocking corn braids for dancing competitions. Then I thought I would start it up at home, so as a part time gig on the side, I was doing corn braids.…more

Humans of the Islands

Humans of the Islands - Anne Christine Dunn

Anne Christine Dunn

Paralegal preparing to pass the bar & reigning Miss Hibiscus, Miss Fiji & Miss Pacific Islands 



Tell us a bit about yourself and your Pacific Island heritage.

I’m full Fijian. My Dad is from Namosi, and my mum is from Nadroga. So usually when I introduce myself, I say I’m from Namosi, vasu i Nadroga. I come from a family of two – there’s just my brother (Amos) and I, who’s 12 years older, and he has three beautiful children.

After living in the United States for so long, what brought you back to Fiji?

After elementary and high school in California, I graduated then moved to Fiji to be with my Dad. The most defining experience for me was definitely moving to Fiji. I don’t think people realise how different life is to what people perceive it to be in America. People think you have “the life” when you’re brought up overseas, but in reality, I didn’t have that, and I was raised by a single mother.more