From the Pacific We Rise – Vela Manusaute | Pift Pacific Islanders in Film & TV

The call cry of Kila Kokonut Krew and the title of their 2008 exhibition at Fresh Gallery, Otara – “From the Pacific We Rise”.

In 2017, Vela Manusaute – KKK co-founder, Toi Whakaari graduate (the first Niuean), one of the pioneers in Aotearoa Pacific comedy, part of the comedy duo The Brownies – he’s stuck with a plan originating as far back as the original Pacific Theatre of the late 80’s/early 90’s –

Begin in theatre, music, dance and the arts – move into TV, film and now online.

Manusaute’s first play was ‘Taro King’ (2002), which led onto the formation of KKK with the ‘tight five’:

Anapela Polataivao, Stacey Leilua, Glen Jackson and Aleni Tufuga.

Music production was also on the cards and Nafanua Records was born. This netted Manusaute the Philip Fuemana NZ Music Award (2005) for producing nine original Niuean albums, handy items when you have a regular stall at the Otara Market.

Manusaute has a multitude of credits under his belt from across the arts board – as an actor, producer, writer and director – but has stood out recently as producer/Exec producer.

Photo: ‘Once Were Samoans TV Show’

The Brownies had their own telly show and was followed by ‘Once Were Samoans TV Show’ (KKK, 2008).

Manusaute is also credited with the original idea for the film ‘The Tattooist’ (2007) and was the force behind ‘The Factory’ musical stage production and Webseries (2013, Exec Producer & Actor).

His latest in the film route as writer/director – ‘The Messiah’ (Kingston Productions NZ, 2017); with producer Sandra Kailahi, is now in post-production.

The Messiah’ was successful in the June 2016 round of Fresh Shorts, NZFC, and also had development through the Script to Screen’s South Auckland Shorts programme and is a coming of age story inspired by Manusaute’s experience growing up.

Sandra Kailahi & Vela Manusaute on set of ‘The Messiah’

Onpoint Manusaute is also part of a book called ‘Talanoa: Four Pacific Plays’ published by Evotia Tamua’s Little Island Press and launched on Thursday 8th June. His play ‘My Name is Pilitome’ has been published within the book where plays by Leki Jackson-Bourke, Lolo Fonua, Louise Tu’u and Amanaki Prescott-Faletau are also published.

Pasefika Flashbacks

Photos below by Ema Tavola from Kila Kokonut Krew’s  August 2012, ‘Celebrating 10 Years of Kila Kokonut Krew’ exhibition at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, curated by Ema Tavola (

‘The Factory’ (webseries 2013) You can watch the whole season of The Factory here!!