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Nesian Siva: Transformative Dance Project Breaks Barriers and Ignites Dreams

  • Publication Date:

    24 April 2024

  • Author:

    Meghan Parr

  • Area:

    Addiction, Disability, Mental Health
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In 2022, PHAB Pasifika, in collaboration with Pacific Dance Trust, embarked on a groundbreaking journey that would redefine possibilities for young individuals through the Nesian Siva project. The project was funded through Te Pou’s Consumer Leadership Development Grant and sought to create an all-abilities dance and cultural group, fostering a sense of connection, empowerment, and identity for young disabled people.

The project was led by Lavinia Lovo, an experienced Pasifika mentor and lead youth facilitator with lived experience of disability. Lavinia recognised that creative arts could be the catalyst for change, drawing participants into a space where their talents and capabilities surpassed their own expectations. The project not only provided an avenue for artistic expression but also became a lifeline for those who had felt isolated, especially during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individual participants were matched with mentors from the Pacific creative arts sector depending on what particular avenue they wanted to explore. The participants had significant control over their involvement, with some choosing not to perform on stage but remaining actively engaged behind the scenes, fostering a sense of achievement and pride for everyone.

“Creative arts was the pathway to get people into the room, but the biggest impacts were really about the connection and empowerment, sense of identity and sense of belonging.”

Miranda Davis, the project’s Funding Manager, highlighted the story of a participant who believed he could never be a musician due to his inability to read music. Through one-on-one mentorship, the barriers were dismantled, illustrating the transformative power of personalised support.

Lavinia recounts how apologetic the participants were when they first joined the group. Many of their young people saw themselves as a burden, and were grateful for whatever came. Lavinia worked hard at changing that narrative, encouraging them to dream bigger, want and ask for more.

The young people’s talents and resilience were showcased in June 2023 when the group successfully performed at the Moana Pacific Dance Festival.

Lavinia's emotional recounting of the journey underscores the immense challenges faced and conquered. The performance's impact reached beyond the stage, with participants discovering talents they never knew they possessed. The project served as a catalyst for dialogue on cultural identity, breaking down stereotypes and fostering a sense of community and belonging.

In October 2023, Lavinia won the Pacific Toa Awards at the Creative NZ Arts Pasifika Awards in recognition of her contribution as a Pasifika artist with lived experience of disability, including her work on this project.

As Nesian Siva paves the way for a brighter future, it stands as a testament to the power of inclusive initiatives, transforming lives one dance step at a time. We wish them all the best in their continuation of this wonderful initiative.

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