(Photo caption: Jahra “Rager” Wasasala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. CREDIT: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York .)
For artist Jahra “Rager” Wasasala, winning the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award (PMPYA) for the Arts has been a catalyst for the progression and development of her creative practice.
The prize fund she received after winning the Creative New Zealand Arts and Creativity category has allowed the 26-year-old todevelop techniques and skills she needs to facilitate her own projects successfully and contribute deeply to projects she is involved in, Jahra explains.
“So much of artist development is just having the resources to give you the time and support to deeply engage with your art and take it to other people and places all over the world.
“This global awareness in turn makes a full circle journey as I am able to bring knowledge, skills, and performances back home to my communities and feed back into the environments and people that have supported my work, especially with young emerging artists and students.”
Winning this award has been an incredible affirmation for the young artist, and it has fuelled her ambition, her self-belief and hunger to grow, she adds.
“This award grant redefined my creative pathway last year and allowed me to really develop and grow my artistic practice, as well as allow me some incredible opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.”
Jahra says the funding has supported her endeavours throughout 2017, which she spent developing current work and researching for future works.
During February, she worked on her contemporary dance technique in Adelaide alongside previous Pacific Youth Arts Award 2015 winner Thomas Fonua; and in April, she mentored young people and performed at the Pacific Tongues Festival in Hawai'i, through poet/artists Lyz Soto and Grace Taylor.
“In late July, I collaborated on a performance She Who Dies to Live with Pacific poets Jocelyn Ng, Terisa Siagatonu and Kathy Dede Neien Jetnil-Kijiner under the Smithsonian Museum's 'AE KAI project in Hawai'i, which will tour at the end of 2018.
“In the same month I was invited by Maia Nuku at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) in New York to shadow activation artist Rosanna Raymond, and to take part in research in the MET's Oceanic archives as preparation for a future performance for 2018.”
Towards the end of last year, Jahra developed and performed solo dance work – A World, With Your Wound in It, premiering it at Tempo Dance Festival. It is due to tour again in 2018.
At the same time, she simultaneously performed in Orchids, as a member of Foster Group from choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, a project four years in the making which is set to tour in 2018.
Through the success of these projects Jahra went on to be involved in the Indian/Australian experimental Opera Daughters in November, from Tammy Brennan, Deepan Sivaraman and Anuradha Kapur, which will premiere in India, in late 2018.
Finally, Jahra ended the year with being asked to present a talk and performance at TEDxAuckland 2017.
After such a phenomenal year, Jahra, who is of Fijian heritage, aims to keep gaining momentum as a Pacific artist from New Zealand working on an international stage.
“I want to be more magnified, to continue transforming, reflecting, learning, and fulfilling what I have been called to do, in the many capacities that are offering themselves to me – and to always be an exceptional artist that is kind, unapologetic, open, and never a gatekeeper.”
Pasfika come from a long line of people who moved oceans to be able to afford their sons and daughters incredible opportunities to fulfil their calling, Jahra says.
As the most recent and refined idea Pacific people have to offer to this current world, youths should be taking every opportunity to grow and develop and exchange with others.
“Success isn't in financial gain or in notoriety - it's in the development of your humanity, empathy and ability to allow others spaces to heal and grow themselves … awards like the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards are available to help you do that,” Jahra says.
“So take this opportunity, as well as many others, and work to become fully realised and truly undeniable.”
Applications for the 2018 PMPYA close on Monday, February 12, 8am.
Visit MPP to apply.