Loose Canons: Anapela Polata'ivao

Iconic Auckland performer and director Anapela Polata'ivao drops by to share what inspires her.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Born in Samoa, raised in South Auckland, Anapela Polata’ivao was a founding member, with her partner Vela Manusaute, of the South Auckland theatre company Kila Kokonut Krew, which won them a New Generation Arts Laureate award in 2014. Her acting credits include Victor Rodger's My Name Is Gary Cooper, Sia Figel's Where We Once Belonged and Tusiata Avia’s Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, for which she won Actress of the Year at the Wellington Theatre Awards 2018 and Best Director at the Auckland Theatre Awards 2016. Additional awards include Best Actress at the Fresh Shorts Awards 2012 for her work in Zia Mandviwalla's Night Shift, as well as Best Actress at the International Short Film Festival in Spain. She is a graduate of Toi Whakaari.


Wild Dogs landed in my lap in my 40s. With life experience and understanding a bit of how it works, I continue to embrace the importance of staying true to the writer’s wishes inside whatever work I embark upon.


The figure that is sometimes classed in society as the outsider, or misunderstood or demonised, or the whore who is not all there, ie, Teine Sa in Wild Dogs. In this piece I am inspired by her stark humanness – what you see is what you get and she makes no apologies for her power, her fierceness, her grace, her ugliness, her scars, her beauty, her sensitivity, her strength, her body.


Presence. My children expect me to be present with them at all times and they know when I’m not. When my youngest was three, he would turn my head to face him directly and his eyes forced me to stay with him. He would ask, “Did you hear me?” Naturally, I’d say yes. Then he would repeat the question until he believed I had arrived to him. He felt it. My kids return me to me.


They remind me I am not a child floating with no roots, that I am a child anchored into the earth of Samoa and my gafa. The old line “my parents came here for a better life” is etched in my veins. Just yesterday I had a moment, a very real moment of understanding and accepting my accomplishments since arriving in Aotearoa and that old line resurfaced, “my parents came here for a better life,” leaving me smiling through tears.


To me, there can only be one Wonder Woman and that is Linda Carter. As a kid I would spin around, arms wide out, for days, under clothes lines, in bathrooms, toilets, libraries, corners of rooms, in the hope of transforming into this super heroine. And then I would stop, my vision would settle and I would look down my body and see, nothing had changed. What a crack up!

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt runs from March 5 to 11 at Q Theatre. Tickets available here.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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