Nina Nawalowalo is a Wellington theatre director with a reputation for making memorable pieces of theatre that reflect her Fijian whakapapa and European theatre training – like the internationally acclaimed Vula and Masi, last year’s breakout success The White Guitar, and the more recent Marama. She spoke to Dale about her drive to create Pacific theatre, and the path that led to her becoming the first female Melanesian theatre director in the world.
I understand that you have a Fijian dad and an English mum, and that, I imagine, would’ve made for an interesting upbringing. I wonder how that came about.
My father, Ratu Noa Nawalowalo, came over to New Zealand in the 1950s. He was part of that early group of Pacific Island men who came to New Zealand for education. Albert Wendt was another one at university at the same time.
Dad was the first Fijian-born barrister to graduate from Victoria University. My mum was a nurse, and she’d come from England for a working holiday. Mary Tancock was her name. She was from Oxford, and the daughter of Cambridge-educated public schoolmasters.
They met in Wellington — at the Wellington Chess Club, as a matter of fact. That’s where it all started. Big love affair.