Meet the Makers - Takurua - Ti'iti'i Sacred Knowledge

Published: Tuesday 25 July, 2023

In the lead up to the coming season of Takurua – Ti’iti’i Sacred Knowledge, we caught up with Chef and Artistic Director Tausani Simei-Papali’i  (Mudbrick Restaurant) and actor/producer Kolopa Simei-Barton and asked them about this year’s event bringing together theatre, fine dining and the ancient tradition of Takurua.

Read on to learn more about these two very talented creatives and how they’ve created a space for feasting and celebrating Pasifika arts.

Don’t miss this miss this showcase of Pasifika excellence at the highest level on at the Viaduct Events Centre from Friday 4 – Sunday 6 August.


Book Now


Kolopa Simei-Barton – Producer

Photo Credit: Paul Simei-Barton

This year you’re moving from the stage to working behind the scenes as a producer. What inspired you to make that change?
I love the theatre and if there is an opportunity for me to be involved in a theatre project, I'll do my best to be a part of it. My work in hospitality management made me think that it would be a simple transferring of the same skill set into a different industry. There are a few similarities, rostering/schedules, budgets/managing costs, building and maintaining relationships, but it has definitely been a huge learning curve realising what actually goes into producing a show! I don't know if I can say I was "inspired" to make the change... I had a curiosity about moving behind the scenes and then kind of fell into it headfirst guns blazing.

Tell us about your dreams and aspirations going forward as a Pasifika woman in the producing space.
To continue to tell our own stories. The Pasifika theatre/arts community is growing and there are so many more brown faces telling brown stories, reshaping the narrative and stereotypes of what it means to be a pacific person in Aotearoa. I want to be a part of that.
I've been lucky enough to witness Pasifika women like my mum (Justine Simei-Barton), Tanya Muagututi'a, Michelle Johansson, Charlene Tedrow and Lisa Taouma work for years, decades even, to forge a pathway for young Pasifika artists to tell their own stories. I've learnt from them that we don't need a "seat at the table" to be able to tell our stories, we just make our own table, and we make it big enough that everyone can feast. I guess my aspirations in the producing space as a Pasifika woman is to continue the work that wahine toa before me have started and help create opportunities for my friends and I to tell our stories, our way. And the dream is to get enough funding to kill the "struggling artist" trope and pay our people what they deserve. 

I've learnt from them that we don't need a "seat at the table" to be able to tell our stories, we just make our own table, and we make it big enough that everyone can feast.

Takurua is a real family affair. What does that bring to the experience of creating this show?
It brings a lot of things to the experience... and I'm still processing it all.
I would love to put this question to our team, the cast and crew. I'd like to think that Takurua is a family affair regardless of our little family. Pasifika people are all about the collective and this show really focuses on the ensemble. I think that seeing Takurua as a village, a family in its own way really elevates the experience of creating this show.
I think with this being a production that brings the ancient Pasifika practice of feasting and storytelling into a contemporary context, working with family has enhanced the experience.
As a Samoan I've always understood my role in the family as a daughter and younger sister and what that entails, and it's been a crazy journey discovering how the dynamic changes in the creating of the show. We're finding the balance of honouring our roles in the family hierarchy and respecting each other as professionals. It's been a huge learning curve for me to realise that my family are more than 'just' my mum/dad/sister-in-law/brother, apparently, they are just as multi-faceted and complex as I am, haha. 

What can the audience expect at Takurua - Ti’iti’i Sacred Knowledge?
Everything. I mean literally everything...
The show itself is full of music, chanting, dance, you can expect to have moments of full on hyena-cackling laughter and moments of heartache and tears. Then we layer on a five-course meal with wine and a cocktail, you can expect a Pasifika menu, fine dining experience. And on top of that we have a pre-show market where we show case Pasifika small business owners, you can expect to see the best quality art, jewellery, produce and more.
When we say Takurua is a full experience of Pasifika excellence, we mean it. 


Photo Credit: Māhia Te Kore

Tausani Simei-Papali’i  - Chef and Artistic Director

How do you decide on the story you want to create the experience around and why did you choose this year’s story of Ti’iti’i?
I've always loved the story within stories. I chose this story because for me it represented knowledge as power. Knowing how to create is more powerful than knowing how to use.

You’ve noted the concept of Takurua is ancient. How do you bring or adapted this ancient tradition for a modern audience in 2023?
The only thing I've adapted is a modern setting. The concept, celebration and reason is ancient and still remains.

What will the audience experience at Takurua - Ti’iti’i Sacred Knowledge?
Expect to ask yourself some real truths. To leave Takurua with a renewed mentality of achieving greatness. 

What do you hope audiences take away from this experience?
I honestly expect them to experience the greatest dining experience the world has to offer. I challenge any restaurant in the world to do better.

What does it mean to you personally and professionally to bring traditional dishes from Moana-nui like Palusami and Koko Samoa and turn them into a five-course fine dining menu?
It's a moment filled with pride. Our food, our produce and our people are at the highest possible level of hospitality. 

Our food, our produce and our people are at the highest possible level of hospitality ... I challenge any restaurant in the world to do better.

Book your tickets now to Takurua - Ti'iTi'i Sacred Knowledge

Be the first to know about live events in Auckland!