"As a maker, mentor and teacher she is passionate about bringing untold stories into the light and using theatre as a vehicle for social change. She is one of our country’s master artists." - 2021 Selection Panel
2021 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Theresa Gattung Female Arts Practitioners Award
Artistic Director and Co-founder of Wellington-based theatre company The Conch, Nina Nawalowalo ONZM is a performer, mentor and teacher who has presented at over 40 international festivals, including the London International Mime Festival, British Festival of Visual Theatre, and the Moscow Arts Festival. From her groundbreaking Vula (2002) – which toured for 7 years including a 3 week season at The Sydney opera House and a sold out season at London’s Barbican Centre – to Masi (2012), and her unforgettable direction of the work of others such as Hone Kouka’s The Prophet (2004) and Edinburgh festival award winning Duck death and the Tulip (2014), Nina is renowned for her powerful visual and magical work exploring Pacific themes.
She is passionately committed to bringing untold stories into the light, and for using theatre as a vehicle to affect social change. In 2013 She established the Solomon Islands National Women’s Theatre Company Stages of Change in order to address violence against women and girls. The 15 strong company of women performed at the Melanesian Arts Festival in Papua New Guinea and at the EU Parliament in Brussels.
Acclaimed work The White Guitar (2015) tells the powerful story of The Luafutu Family; Father John, and sons Matthias and Malo – also known as the renowned hip hop artist Scribe. Told by the Luafutu family themselves, the sold-out show was lauded by critics. “If there’s any show that you’re going to see in the next decade, this has to be it.” (RNZ National). It was described by The Press as “a seminal moment in New Zealand theatre history.”
A Boy Called Piano (2019) by Fa’amoana John Luafutu, the sequel to this groundbreaking work, tells the untold story of thousands of Māori and Pacific children made wards of state in the 1960’s. In 2017, Nina received the CNZ Senior Pacific Artist Award and in 2018 was made ONZM in the Queens birthday honours.
“We know that our success, as Pacific women, means something different. For us, to achieve visibility, recognition and economic equality carries with it a political dimension. For us to stand on the ground of success means that we have had to change not only ourselves, but the world around us.”