Humans of the Islands

HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - JJ4K

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is JJ4K. I was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland. Specifically, I spent
my early years in Boondall and Zillmere (4034), and the other half of my adolescence
in Inala (4077). My ethnicity is Samoan and Tongan, but spent all my years around
my Samoan half. Currently, I’m aspiring to be an artist, trying to become one of the
best lyricists in the Australian/New Zealand scene.

Have you always wanted to become an artist? What was your journey into music like?

From very early, I figured out I wanted to be a performer in music. I was never NOT
dancing. My first mentor was my uncle, he always put me onto any music that was
either new or a must-know classic. The sound eventually took over and younger me
started picking up sticks to hit things and I was hooked from then on. At the age of 8,
the first real instrument was the drums, soon after (while scouring YouTube) I picked
up the guitar.…more


Humans of the Islands

Thomas Pa’a Sibbett - Humans of the Islands

Thomas Pa'a Sibbett: Nurturing Polynesian Voices Through Film and Resilience

In a candid and insightful conversation, Thomas Pa'a Sibbett or Pa’a Sibbett - as he laughingly shared. “When I first started writing, I thought I needed a professional sounding name so that’s where Thomas came from but most people call me Pa’a.” The Co-writer of Aquaman shares his unique journey of self-discovery, cultural pride, and the pursuit of his voice as a screenwriter. 

Hailing from Hawaii before immigrating to Washington, Sibbett's experiences have not only shaped his identity but also fueled his passion for storytelling, particularly through the lens of his Polynesian culture.

Sibbett begins by reflecting on his childhood. Moving from Hawaii to Washington as his family were “Priced out of Paradise” as most indigenous Hawaiians are experiencing sadly. He shares that although they lived away from their island, they still remained very much connected to their culture through art & dance.

Sibbett recalls times where he and his family would use culture to keep kids out of trouble in their neighborhood.

“We also did anti-gang work.…more


Humans of the Islands

WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - Wendy Mocke

Multidisciplinary Artist Wendy Mocke gave us a glimpse into her life. 

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am a Papua New Guinean actor, playwright, screenwriter, chauffeur to my daughter and personal chef to my daughter's pet cat. In terms of my heritage, my father’s people are from Usino Bundi in Madang Province and my mother’s people are from Simbu province. I grew up in beautiful Madang so it will always be home to me. When I was 12 years old, my parents sent me to Cairns, Australia. I went to a boarding run by Irish Catholic nuns who were equal parts scary and incredible. They helped shape my life. So I also like to say that far north QLD holds a very soft gooey space in my heart.

Have you always wanted to become an artist?

I have this very clear memory in my head. When I was eight years old, I said to my father: ‘Dad, when I grow up, I want to be an artist’.…more


Humans of the Islands

WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - NATASHA VAAELUA

"For us as Pasifika, as Samoans this is the only way we can share our stories: through storytelling."

Samoan Author Natasha Vaaelua has soft launched her very first children’s book named “Leilani's Shop” or “O Leilani ma Iona Fale'oloa”

It’s an English and Samoan bilingual storybook about a young girl making her dream of owning a shop a reality by building her very own fale’oloa out of cardboard.

Natasha Vaaelua’s passion for Teaching began in Samoa where she taught as a Primary School teacher at Peace Chapel Primary School before moving to Aotearoa in 2007.  

Now a seasoned early childhood education teacher with 30 years of experience, she has embarked on a remarkable journey during the challenging times of lockdown. 

With a passion for teaching and love for children, Vaaelua found herself deeply moved during the challenges of Covid-19. As domestic violence peaked and families faced unprecedented pressures during lockdown, she couldn’t ignore the children bearing the brunt of these stresses. Driven by compassion, she felt the need to do more.…more


Humans of the Islands

HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - LEON HENRY

LEON HENRY

PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER / PROPERTY MANAGER

SAMOAN, NIUEAN, COOK ISLANDER

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Leon Henry is a professional basketball player turned property and events manager, he shares his story with us here, from his upbringing in 'South Central Auckland,' to the highs of the basketball court to how the generations before him influence the work he does post-professional sport.

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Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Samoan, Niuean, Cook Island decent & hail from what I like to call "South Central Auckland" I had my early childhood years in Central then moved back South where my grandparents first migrated to when they arrived from the islands in the late 1960s.

You've had a long career in professional basketball - can you tell us about a highlight of your career that stands out to you as well as a time that you found challenging?

I think for me the NZ Breakers Three Peat, people don't speak of this much anymore but we were the first professional sporting organization to win in an Australian competition.…more


Humans of the Islands

HUMANS OF THE ISLANDS - LEOTA MAUNU SINAUMEA TAUFAO

LEOTA MAUNU SINAUMEA TAUFAO

LAW FIRM DIRECTOR & LAWYER - WT Compensation Lawyers

SAMOAN 

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My name is Leota Maunu Sinaumea Taufao and I am a Samoan-born Personal Injury Law Firm Director and Lawyer. I come from the villages of Tiavea, Magiagi, Faleasiu and Salamumu and currently live in Brisbane, Australia.

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You are the Director and Lawyer of your own law firm WT Compensation Lawyers - What were the pathways that led you to what you are doing now?

My journey to where I am now was not your conventional one. In fact, after High School, I studied Business, majoring in Sports Management at Griffith University. My goal was to work in the Sporting Industry – the idea was if I was not able to make a professional rugby team, then I work in an industry that would allow me to be around a professional rugby team. However, after completing my business degree and working in the Sporting industry, I quickly came to the realisation that I was not fulfilled and my heart yearned for something else.…more


Humans of the Islands

WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - MORGAN HOGG

MORGAN HOGG

MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST 

COOK ISLANDS

Morgan Hogg is an emerging artist of Cook Island-Australian descent. Drawing from her Kūki Airani heritage, Morgan employs installation and performance as means to visually convey her personal journey of grappling with cultural dislocation and self-identity.

Selected from six finalists, Morgan was awarded the 2023 NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) and will use the pretigious $30,000 Fellowship to undertake a self-directed programme to develop her professional practice. 

Developed and curated by Artspace, Sydney, works by all six shortlisted artists are featured in the 2023 Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) exhibition. The long-running exhibition has earned a reputation as a highlight in the NSW visual arts calendar, showcasing the diverse and exciting talent of a new generation of artists, and helping to launch many careers.

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Kia orana Morgan, tell us about yourself

I am a Cook Island-Australian emerging artist living and working on unceded Wangal and Gadigal lands. I utilise installation and performance as visual representations of my own exploration of cultural displacement and identity.…more


Humans of the Islands

WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - MAUI DANIEL

MAUI DANIEL 

REGISTERED NURSE 

COOK ISLANDS 

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Ko Maui Daniel toku ingoa

Ko Takitumu toku vaka taunga

Ko Pa ma Kainuku toku nga ariki

Ko ngati kainuku toku matakeinanga

Ko turangi manga mataiapo toku tapere

Ko te kou toku maunga

Ko te avarau toku ava

Kia Orana from the Cook Islands.

My name is Maui and I am named after my late grandmother Mama Maui Short (nee Cowan). I was born on the island of Penryn, and raised in Rarotonga in the village of Ngatangiia, Muri.  I am the eldest of three, however I have two older siblings before me.

I am the mother of one handsome young man of 20 years old, who is my life and my strength.

My father Dr Roro Daniel was born on the island of Aitutaki that is well known for its beautiful Lagoon. I have family connections to Palmeston and Penryn.

My mother, the late Akaiti Daniel (nee Short) is from Rarotonga with strong ties to Atiu.…more


Humans of the Islands

WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - GINA COLE

GINA COLE

AUTHOR

FIJIAN

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Decorated Fijian Writer and Lawyer Gina Cole will be spending three months at the University of Hawai’i, working on the second book in her 'Turukawa Trilogy', after being awarded the 2023 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer's Residency.

After achieving her Masters in Creative Writing at Auckland University, Cole went on to publish her debut collection Black Ice Matter, which then went on to win the First Best Book Of Fiction at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, all while being an Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa.

Cole shares her love for science fiction, the Pasifika Writing Community and the involvement of Pacific queer, transgender and gender non-conforming characters in stories.

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Tell us about yourself

My mother is Fijian from Culanuku, Serua on her mother’s side in the confederacy of Burebasaga, and Lovoni, Ono-i-Lau on her father’s side in the confederacy of Tovata. My father is Pākehā from the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh on his mother’s side and Langollen, Wales on his father’s side.more


Humans of the Islands

Humans Of The Islands - Clarence Dass

Clarence Dass is a cartoonist and author based in Fiji, on social media as @nerdwala. Active in Fiji media since 2002, Dass has worked as a music journalist, radio presenter and television producer.

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I'm a self-taught cartoonist from Fiji. I used to be a musician in a punk band, a radio DJ, a TV host and then a TV producer, a film maker and now I edit videos for The University of the South Pacific. Though I love music and films, I really enjoy making comics, but my passion throughout is story telling.

Where did your passion for story-telling come from? and how did you start off?

I've always been drawing. Even as a kid, I'd make comic books out of A4 paper, folding them and stapling them together. I even had my own characters. So I guess my passion started from comic books and 80s Saturday morning cartoons. The Ninja Turtles were probably my first big craze and old Hana Babera heroes like Space Ghost and Mightor.…more