Writing Pasifika artists into today’s ‘history books’

17 Mar 2022

This content is tagged as Pacific arts .

NEWS

The logo of the website Wikipedia against a white background.
Pacific Arts Wikipedian in Residency artists (clockwise), Sophia Coghini, Kasi Valu and Leilani A Sio*.

You’ll increasingly find biographies of notable Pasifika artists on Wikipedia, due in part to the work of three Pasifika artists training as editors, with support through Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Strategy.

The Pacific Arts Wikipedian in Residency pilot programme is part of our #DigitalMoana response to the impacts of COVID-19. We’re supporting three Pasifika artists to be part of the Pacific Arts Aotearoa Wikiproject, documenting the stories of Arts Pasifika Award winners and other notable Pasifika artists living in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The three Pasifika artist residents are:

  • Sophia Coghini, an interdisciplinary Pasifika artist, of Niuean (Alofi, Hikutavake), Tahitian, Māori (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi), Italian and Hungarian descent
  • Kasi Valu, multidisciplinary performer, playwright and poet, New Zealand-born of Tongan (Mau’ufanga, Lapaha) descent
  • Leilani A Sio, alter ego DJ Panda, interdisciplinary artist born in Tamaki, raised on Motu Kairangi (Strathmore, Te Whanganui a Tara), descendent from the Samoan villages of Safune, Lano, Leauva'a, and Lotofaga (Matatufu).

Leilani says, “I think this is only the beginning, I would like to continue to improve the five articles that I chose to do for the project, and beyond that get better at being a Wikipedian and stay within the realm of Oceania. I am an avid user of Wikipedia, and most of my reading has been through music and film deep dives over the years so it's nice to experience Wikipedia from this perspective as a contributor." 

Kasi says, “Looking deeper into the future I hope we begin to build frameworks outside of Wikipedia, a database that best reflects our lens and cultural practices that is true to the way we catalogue information from our ancestral practices deeply rooted in oratory.” 

Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Manager Kawika Aipa says, “The residency is part of our strategy to grow Pasifika leadership in all facets of the creative sector, including the pages of Wikipedia. It’s also about improving the representation of Pasifika artists in the digital space, amplifying their profiles in Aotearoa and globally, so more people know about their work and the valuable contribution they make.”

The trio is being coached by arts practitioner and Wikipedia editor Lisa Maule, who is also coordinating the wider Pacific Arts Aotearoa Wikiproject project. Lisa was last year funded by the Wikimedia Foundation to run a performing arts project that led to this project.

Lisa says, “The residency increases the number of Pasifika voices within the volunteer Wikipedia editing community in Aotearoa. Discussions about representation are part of the process as the participants learn alongside each other.”

“While the new editors might know something about a person, it can take time to find a way to verify it to the level required by Wikipedia. But it’s worth it, as quality in Wikipedia brings more views. The newly-trained editors are also discovering once they work on articles it generates other editors to also expand and improve.”

The Pacific Arts Wikipedian in Residency focuses on the art and material culture of Pacific peoples living in New Zealand and is helping build a network of support, including Rachel Yates, the Curator Pacific Cultures at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Recent activity:

Lisa and Kasi represented the residency pilot at the 2022 National Digital Forum in February.
Kasi and Sophia joined a two-day Edit-a-thon for International Women's Day Aotearoa, where 16 editors added more than 100,000 words to Wikipedia and Wikidata and created 39 new articles. 

The residency pilot began in December and runs through to late March 2022.

During the residency the trio had articles published for:

Edith Amituanai
Ema Tavola
Jasmine Togo-Brisby
Kulimoe'anga Stone Maka
Kaetaeta Watson
Lusi Faiva
Pati Solomona Tyrell
Suli Moa
Cora-Allan Wickliffe
Amanaki Prescott-Faletauu

MORE INFO:

Read more about the Wikipedia: WikiProject New Zealand/Pacific Arts Aotearoa project on Wikipedia. This page is regularly updated with progress and outcomes.

*Photos: Cheska Brown, supplied, supplied