Lemi Ponifasio is acclaimed internationally for his radical work as a choreographer, director and designer. His work is recognised for its blend of ceremonial staging, activism, and collaboration with communities.
Ponifasio was born in Samoa and is based in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1995 he founded MAU an international theatre and creative forum. ‘Mau’ in Samoan means a declaration to the truth of a matter. His theatre vision is constructed in black-as-night architecture in the state of a dignified decelerated presence transcending visual art, dance, poetry, ceremony, and civic activism.
The bodies of the MAU performers bring landscapes, spirits, birds, gods, and angels to life – ephemeral ambassadors of theatre’s archaic origins and guides to cosmic consciousness. His collaborators are people from all walks of life performing in factories, remote villages, opera houses, schools, marae, castles, galleries, and stadiums. His projects have included fully-staged operas, theatre, dance, exhibitions, community forums, and festivals in over 30 countries.
Ponifasio has presented works around the world including the Lincoln Center in New York, the Festival d’Avignon, the BAM in New York, the Ruhrtriennale, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Theater der Welt Festival, the Festival de Marseille, the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, London’s Southbank Centre, the Holland Festival, the Luminato Festival in Toronto, the Vienna Festival, the Santiago a Mil Festival in Chile, and the Venice Biennale.
Selected list of works
Die Gabe der Kinder (2017) with children and young people of Hamburg
Standing in Time (2017) presented by the all-female company MAU wahine
Ceremony of Memories (2016 and 2017) with Mapuche people of Chile
Recompose (2016) with Māori and Syrian women at the Herrenhausen Festival in Hannover, Lagimoana for the 2015 Venice Biennale
Apocalypsis (2015) in Toronto
I AM: Mapuche (2014, 2015) in Chile, Festival d’Avignon
The Crimson House (2014)
Stones in Her Mouth (2013–16)
Birds with Skymirrors (2010–14)
Orff’s opera Prometheus (2012)
Le Savali: Berlin (2011) with immigrant communities in Berlin
Tempest: Without a Body (2008–11)