Lemi Ponifasio

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Salā Lemi Ponifasio (born 1964) is a Samoan and New Zealand choreographer, dancer, stage director, designer and artist.

Early life[edit]

Ponifasio was born in Lano, Samoa. He studied philosophy and politics at the University of Auckland.[1]


In 1995 Ponifasio founded Mau dance company in Auckland, New Zealand, working with communities and artists from all over the world. Mau is a Samoan word that means a declaration to the truth of a matter.

In 2014, The Guardian reviewed the Mau company's performance of "I AM" at the Edinburgh Festival as "a juggernaut of a piece, walk-of-the-dead slow in parts, genuinely chilling in others, its black heart pulsing to the sound of a thunderous, nuclear undertow."[2]

In 2014 the Mau Company performed "Birds With Skymirrors", a piece on climate change, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The New York Times reported that Ponifasio "conceived of 'Birds With Skymirrors' not as a political rant but as a meditation on the end, an examination of the threshold between life and death."[3] When the piece was performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival, The Guardian called it "physically extraordinary and imaginatively charged."[4]

In 2016, UNESCO invited Ponifasio to write the official message for International Dance Day.[5]

Lemi Ponifasio’s most recent works include Lagimoana (2015) for the Venice Biennale 56th Visual Arts Exhibition;[6] Apocalypsis (2015) with music of R. Murray Schafer at the Luminato Festival, Toronto;[7] I AM: Mapuche (2015) and Ceremony of Memories (2016) [8] with MAU Mapuche the indigenous people of Chile; and I AM (2014) for the 100th Anniversary of WW1, which premiered at the Avignon Festival [9] followed by seasons at such places as the Edinburgh International Festival [10] and the Ruhrtriennale, Germany.[11] His other creations include The Crimson House (2014) [12] probing the nature of power and a world that sees all and no longer forgets; Stones In Her Mouth (2013),[13] a work with Maori women as transmitters of a life force through oratory and ancient chants; the opera Prometheus (2012) by Carl Orff for the Ruhrtriennale;[14] Le Savali: Berlin (2011) [15] confronting the imperial City of Berlin with its own communities of immigrant families in search of belonging and constrained by threat of deportation; Birds With Skymirrors (2010) [16] responding to the disappearing Pacific Islands, homelands to most of his performers and devastated by climate change; and Tempest: Without A Body (2008) [17] concerning power and terror and the unlawful use of state power post 9/11.


  1. ^ Herrick, Linda (25 April 2015). "Lemi Ponifasio: How the world moves". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  2. ^ Bain, Alice (18 August 2014). "Edinburgh festival 2014 review – Lemi Ponifasio's I AM is a nightmare". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Burke, Siobhan (20 November 2014). "Lemi Ponifasio's Mau Company at Brooklyn Academy of Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  4. ^ Bain, Alice (19 August 2010). "Birds with Skymirrors | Dance review". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "Samoan NZer to deliver International Dance Day msg". 13 April 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "La Biennale di Venezia - Artists: Lemi Ponifasio". Labiennale.org. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Apocalypsis - Luminato". Luminatofestival.com. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  8. ^ "MAU Mapuche busca que "aparezca un pueblo que ha sido oprimido, pero que aún existe y que tiene cosas que aportar al mundo" | Fundación Teatro a Mil". Fundacionteatroamil.cl. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "Lemi Ponifasio - Festival d'Avignon". Festival-avignon.com. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "I AM | Edinburgh International Festival". Eif.co.uk. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "Lemi Ponifasio: I AM - Ruhrtriennale 2012-2014". Archiv.ruhrtriennale.de. 2014-08-29. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  12. ^ "The Crimson House .- Spectacles -. Théâtre de la Ville, Théâtre des Abbesses - Paris". Theatredelaville-paris.com. 2014-04-06. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  13. ^ "Stones in her mouth | KVS - Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg". Kvs.be. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "Orff/Ponifasio: Prometheus - Ruhrtriennale 2012-2014". Archiv.ruhrtriennale.de. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  15. ^ "Berliner Festspiele: spielzeit'europa, Le Savali: Berlin". Archiv2.berlinerfestspiele.de. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "Birds With Skymirrors". BAM.org. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  17. ^ "Théâtre de la Ville, Théâtre des Abbesses - Paris .: Biographie : Ponifasio". Theatredelaville-paris.com. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 

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