WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS: COCO SOLID
I'm Coco Solid, I'm a writer, musician, visual artist and general media-maker. My real name's Jessica Hansell and I'm Māori (Ngāpuhi) on my mothers side, and Samoan German on my fathers side. My German Samoan grandfather came to Auckland from Apia in the 1940's, the same time as my grandmother migrated from Rarotonga - although she was Samoan she was raised there. So I'm blessed to be a mixed Polynesian bag.
You're a prolific multi-disciplinary artist - what has the journey been like navigating these various creative fields?
All the mediums I work in, engage with a genuine part of my personality - I also feel all forms of artistry are coming from the same place too. I definitely enjoy change and rotating hats. And I dig amateurism over expertise, identifying as a learner and a beginner especially as I grow and master certain things. It's really just about exploring new dimensions to yourself, I never tire of that.
Both of my parents came from pretty humble backgrounds where working in the arts was more of an indulgence or a privilege. So to be able to have an artistic life is something I never take for granted and when I chose my path, I knew I wanted to try everything.
How does your Māori/Pasifika heritage inform your storytelling?
I think I wouldn't be a storyteller if it weren't for my Māori and Samoan backgrounds. I'm definitely from oratory stock, let's just say the speeches, birthday cards and pre-dinner incantations run long in my family. Having a connection to your cultures, I feel I have more lenses and depth in which to perceive things than the monocultural norm. We can tap into a whole other style, a whole other planet of reality every time we tell a story. For it to be second-nature to me, I feel so spoilt to have the worldy ancestors I do.
You were awarded the 2018 Fulbright-Creative NZ Pacific Writer's Residency - What will this entail?
I'm at the University of Hawai'i in Manoa, hosted by the Center of Pacific Island Studies. The CIPS is a faculty dedicated to academic research and scholarship from all around the Pacific. I have access to the Pacific Collections at the University library and I have my own studio space at the East West Center across the road. I have been here for a month and it is nerd paradise.
A piece of advice for rising Pasifika/Māori creatives?
You have one life so live in your truth. Take your meal-size ambitions one snack bite at a time. Most importantly trust your gut - we have an ancestral hotline with better reception than most!
Header photo & Photo 3 - Milana Radojcic
Photo 1 - Pati Solomona Tyrell
Photo 2 - supplied by Coco Solid