A scene from the latest OCACPS production, Drua: The Wave of Fire.
The latest production of the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture, and Pacific Studies (OCACPS) lived up to its name as it set the stage alight with commendable performances in front of capacity crowds in all its showings.
Drua: The Wave of Fire, kept people at the edge of their seats as it took them on a journey into the culture of one of the greatest sailing canoes that navigated the Pacific Ocean - the Drua or commonly known as the double-hulled canoe.
All shows were held at the Multi-Purpose Theatre at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus in Suva.
The production, which premiered on 14 June 2012, portrays a group of Fijian sailors who draw on the finest aspects of canoe-making from various Pacific Island communities.
The show brings together three gifted artists from the OCACPS - Peter Espiritu, the artistic director and choreographer of the Oceania Dance Theatre, Igelese Ete, the musical director and Head of Performing Arts, and Professor Vilsoni Hereniko, playwright/filmmaker as well as co-director (with Peter Espiritu) of this production.
A little over an hour-long, the show depicts true Pacific cooperation among Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji in the 18th Century, resulting in the creation of the fastest sailing ship plying the Pacific Ocean before the arrival of Europeans.
“It is a fact that the production of these huge double-hulled canoes disappeared towards the end of the 19th century. This production provides a compelling explanation, which was reason enough to see this cultural extravaganza,” said Professor Hereniko.
He elaborated that the collaborative nature of the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian cultures in the creation and design of the sail that the Drua used towards the end of the 19th century made it possible to be one of the fastest ocean-going vessels of its time.
The lead actors of the show were Isimeli Cagica and Jasmine Duxbury who played the respective characters of Uli, a Fijian youth and Nei Te, a Kiribati girl.
Professor Hereniko said that the roles played by the different characters not only entertained but also informed the audience of the importance of the Drua culture.
While putting together such a production consisting of three different art forms - music, dance and drama - is always a challenge, Professor Hereniko applauded the compelling efforts of the cast and the overwhelming support given by the audience.
Boasting a cast of 30 performers, Drua will represent USP at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands next month.
Three performances are slated for Drua: The Wave of Fire and the Oceania Centre’s earlier production this year titled Vaka: The Birth of a Seer, edited into an hour-long film, will screen on the first day of the festival.
Occurring once every four years, the festival will bring much attention to USP as a regional institution representing the 12 member countries in the region.
Professor Hereniko said that USP’s representation at Oceania’s most prestigious arts and culture festival will be the first time that the University has formally received an invitation by the host country to attend.
He further added that the production team is most thankful to the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, for the University’s financial sponsorship and support of the Oceania Centre’s efforts.