Southside Rise by the Black Friars to perform at Epsom Campus

09 October 2017
Southside Rise
Southside Rise

Universities are a place of academic learning, but for one University of Auckland campus the study silence will be broken by the sound of Pasifika performance this Friday.

The University’s Faculty of Education and Social Work will be treated to an on-campus performance of Southside Rise – a production, first performed in the Mangere Arts Centre earlier this year, that honours the Polycultural capital of Pasifika student leaders on the Southside.

The show was devised, designed and produced by experienced South Auckland based theatre troupe the Black Friars. The company was formed to challenge the dominant stereotypes surrounding Pasifika people and to re-story the Aotearoa we live in. They are educators and counsellors, facilitators and enablers, theatre-makers and storytellers and proud to be pan-Polynesian, poly-vocal performers invested in the construction of identity for Pasifika people.

The Southside Rise project brought together 60 young brown leaders from 10 South Auckland schools (including Wesley College, Rosehill College, Tangaroa College, Otahuhu College, De La Salle College, McAuley High School, Aorere College and Mangere College). Through the processes of talanoa, fono, workshops, rehearsals, experience days and lots of pizza these young leaders shared their stories drawing on creative processes from hula, hiphop, siva, tau'olunga, spoken word, fagogo, social media, design, rap and song.

The production begins with the story of Moana. As she starts University she is called to lead her family, but what does it mean to Lead in South Auckland? What does leadership mean to you? And who are the leaders in your life?

The show’s Creative Director is Dr Michelle Johansson whose research occurs “in the spaces where Education, Equity and Performing Arts meet for Young Brown Scholars”. In the Faculty she has completed the Grad Dip Tchg, the Grad Dip TESSOL, and the Master of Professional Studies in Education. She is also a current student on the EdDoc pathway. 

Michelle led the Black Friars in devising the guiding vision and design for the project, from workshops in schools through to production, tertiary pathways, visits and goal setting, ongoing mentoring and connections with Pasifika leaders. The intent of Southside Rise is to grow Polycultural leaders for South Auckland. “We know that the best leader for Pasifika in South Auckland is not the pakeha guy at the board table. These brave young people tell us that leadership is bravery, creativity, alofa, reciprocity and above all, service”.

One of the show’s directors, Denyce Su’a, completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Master of Arts in Drama in 2015 and is currently a student of the Post-Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary Field Based) with Teach First NZ.

Denyce co-directed the show with Lauie Tofa, and music director, Siosaia Folau, who is also completing a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) at the Faculty. The three creative team are united in the passage they include in the shows programme:


“If I have seen further,
it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

This show is about giants. The giants whose shoulders we stand on, the giants we ourselves are trying to become and the giants in the making. These young people are giants in the making.

What you see on stage comes straight from these young people. It’s who they are, it’s where they come from and it’s who they come from. These are their stories. We have laughed, cried and worked our way to this moment.

In rehearsal we talk a lot about legacy. We recognise that stepping on stage, we bring with us all of the people who have helped to get us here. We recognise a duty to tell the stories of our ancestors, our mamas, papas, little brothers and sisters, our families. They have worked incredibly hard to share this with you. 

We feel a strong sense of pride coming from the South. This is a show about South Auckland, made by South Auckland, for the people of South Auckland.

These are our future leaders, our wayfinders, our navigators. If what we’ve seen in creating this show is any indication of the talent, passion and potential of our young people, then we’re in good hands.

Southside ‘til we die. And that’s the truth. 


The show has been arranged by the faculty’s Professor Peter O’Connor, an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre and drama education and head of Critical Studies in Education.

“Bringing the show here is hugely important to these young people. For them it is talking directly to power.  They get to show themselves to the people who train their teachers and who might be their lecturers at university.”

Southside Rise will be performed on Friday 13 October, 2.00pm in the faculty’s Music Auditorium (The Drama Room in D Block).

More details are available here.




Anna Kellett, Media Relations Adviser