5 August, 2010
It is a minor miracle in this day of contracted attention spans, texting and information mobility, online chats, instant messaging and twittering to hold the attention of hundreds of teenagers for even a few minutes, let alone for a performance that lasted for two hours.
But that's what happened today at a packed, standing room only Queen Salote College Hall as the visiting dance and drama group from the USP campus in Suva, together with their fellow students from the USP Tonga campus and Tupou High School put on a mesmerizing show that entertained, challenged as well as educated the audience on the complexity and heart breaking consequences of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.
In the presence of guest of honour, ‘Eiki Salote Lupepau'u Salamasina Purea Vahine Arii ‘o e Hau Tuita, together with hundreds of senior high school students, the story, ‘ A Love for Life - Silence and HIV', is told of Mele who left an abusive husband and found love again with Maika.
But what should have been a moment of purest joy, as
Mele and Maika found out from their doctor that she is with child in her
new marriage, turned out to be one of utter despair when she was also
informed that she is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.
How Mele copes with the news of her having HIV and managing her relationship with her mother, two daughters, ‘Ofa and Moana, her new husband and a gossiping, finger pointing and mocking community makes for a most riveting and absorbing drama.
Interlaced with the intensely serious and emotionally charged episodes are the dancers that seem to occupy a parallel universe, a spiritual plateau that provides the backdrop for enacting or perhaps manipulating in heaven, the conflicts in the affairs of humans on earth.
The dancing together with a recurring sound track theme of crashing waves and the sound of drums puts the action in the context of an island setting, an eerie reminder that not all is well in paradise, and there better be more understanding, love and tolerance in our families and communities.
Although the spiritual and the temporal may exist in parallel, they converge, in this performance, on Moana, the younger daughter of Mele and her first husband. Moana is hearing voices in her head, and has conversations with three beings, Fonua, Langi and Tahi from the spiritual world.
As good English literature students in the audience soon noted, they first encountered a similar device in their study of Macbeth with the three witches under Hecate. The "witches" provide a break in the tension, and move the plot forward with predictions about Moana and her family.
But instead of chanting "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.", as in the play by Shakespeare, the spirits torment Moana with their riddles and claims.
Whilst Moana is having her own internal conflicts, big sister ‘Ofa, a student at the local USP campus has to deal with the gossiping and the mocking of her peers.
of mala and her mother's alleged promiscuity are just too hard to bear.
‘Ofa's anguish and feelings of shame reached unbearable heights with
the revelation that it was Sione, her father, that gave her mother the
With this production, advocates for the prevention of the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus have found a new and powerful tool to communicate their message to the vulnerable youthful segment of the population.
The communication was well scripted, passionately delivered and tightly choreographed. And when the students rocked the stage at the end in a random act of sheer youthful exuberance, it was clear that the performance has connected with them in a special way.
In his words of welcome to the guest of honour, the Director of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture, Dr. Viliami Fukofuka, paid tribute to the "team from Fiji from the USP, welcome to this hall for this event, welcome to Tonga. For we are not only welcoming you as a team, and a very significant one at that, but also welcoming this real movement, telling us that art is much more than what we think. We can use it for enjoyment, but we can also use it as a kind of media."
The cast and creative directors and managers of ‘ A Love for Life - Silence and HIV' should be congratulated for putting together a brilliant and engaging production that cuts through the barriers in communicating such an important and culturally sensitive subject.
The production of 'A Love for Life-Silence and HIV' was staged in association with the Kava Kuo Heka festival, an event organised to celebrate Cultural Diversity in Tonga, and the UN International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures.
Directed and Produced by Allan Alo & Frances. C. Koya
Music by Calvin Rore & Damiano Logaivau
Oceania Dance Theater
Tupou High School & USP Tonga Campus Choir
UNAIDS & UNFPA, Kava Palm Guesthouse, TCC, SPC, CPS, Sunrise Poultry, PIAF, Tonga Leiti Association, Avis, Star Printers, Tupou High School, Tonga National Cultural Center, Tonga Family Health Association, Adiloa's, Tonga Water Board, Ministry of Health, Asia Pacific Leader's Forum, Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture.
Issued by the: Ministry of Education, Women Affairs and Culture, Nuku'alofa, 2010