Pacific Underground

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Pacific Underground
GenreContemporary Pasifika theatre, music and events
HeadquartersNew Zealand
WebsitePacific Underground

Pacific Underground is a New Zealand performing arts collective. It started in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1993 to produce contemporary performing art that reflects their List of islands in the Pacific Ocean|Pacific Island heritage. Their influence can be seen across both the theatre and music scenes in New Zealand, and in 2016 they received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Music Awards.[1] The founding members were sisters, Mishelle and Tanya Muagutitui'a alongside Oscar Kightley, Simon Small, Michael Hodgson and Erolia Ifopo.[2] Since that time Pacific Underground has produced plays, music, workshops and events and has stayed an active influence on performing arts culture within New Zealand. In 2018 Pacific Underground celebrated their 25th anniversary with a number of events. They are the longest running Pacific contemporary performing arts organisation in New Zealand, and the book Floating Islanders, Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa by Lisa Warrington and David O'Donnell has two chapters dedicated to their history and legacy.[2]


In 1993 Pacific Underground produced their first play called Fresh Off The Boat written by Oscar Kightley and Simon Small. This play was groundbreaking partly because of the humour in it and partly because of the theme of a rift between generations; those born in Samoa, and those born in New Zealand.[2][3] Fresh Off The Boat was directed by Nathaniel Lees|Nathaniel Lees, who brought his experience to help shape the work.[4] Fresh Off The Boat was performed in theatres in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland in New Zealand and also in Samoa. Pacific Underground went on to write and tour plays for school audiences with a theatre in education focus, the best know play was Romeo and Tusi by Erolia Ifopo and Oscar Kightley which has been revived frequently. The earlier presentations of Romeo and Tusi were in 1996 in a school tour and in 1997 a rewritten bigger version with a band for outdoor summer presentations.[2]

Pacific Underground continued with theatre in education and producing main-stage plays. They also developed music, especially with the joining in 1994 of Pos Mavaega who became the musical director for productions.[2] Under the name Pacific Underground Music Production (P.U.M.P.) they produced two albums, Landmark (1999) and Island Summer (2010), as well as playing at different events, and receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Music Awards.[5]

Pacific Underground were an intrinsic part of the Christchurch Arts Centre with an office for many years at the Dux de Lux, famous to students as being a live music venue. The Arts Centre was deemed unsafe following the 2011 earthquakes.[6]

Well known New Zealand artists who started out with Pacific Underground include Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Ladi6, Brent Park, Dallas Tamaira of Fat Freddy's Drop and Scribe (rapper)|Scribe.[6]

Pacific Underground is currently led by Tanya Muagutitui'a and Pos Mavaega.



  • Fresh off the Boat (1993) by Oscar Kightley and Simon Small – toured New Zealand and to Samoa and Australia[7]
  • Sons (1995) by Victor Rodger|Victor Roger[8]
  • Tatau Rites of Passage (1995)
  • Romeo and Tusi (1996) by Erolia Ifopo and Oscar Kightley – toured New Zealand
  • Dawn Raids (1997) by Oscar Kightly – toured New Zealand
  • Island Summer (2005) by Pos Mavaega
  • Angels (2009) by Tanya Muagututi'a and Joy Vaele (co-production with the Court Theatre (New Zealand)|Court Theatre)


Pacific Underground aka Pacific Underground Music Productions, P.U.M.P[9][10]

  • Landmark (1999)[9]
  • Island Summer (2010)[9]


Pacific Arts Festival - Christchurch (2001 - 2010) These annual festival's have included artists such as Albert Wendt, Fatu Feu'u, Adeaze, Nesian Mystik, Cydel and the Groovehouse, Tha Feelstyle, Toni Huata and Mark Vanilau.[10]


Under the Fale (2013) An installation in Christchurch in collaboration with FESTA, The Free Theatre and Auckland Unitec’s School of Architecture .[11]


  1. "Pacific Underground to receive 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award". The New Zealand Herald. 2016-05-25. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Warrington, Lisa; O'Donnell, David (2017). Floating Islanders : Pasifika theatre in Aotearoa. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press. ISBN 978-1-988531-07-6. OCLC 994638351.
  3. O'Donnell, David (2007). "Re-claiming the "Fob": The Immigrant Family in Samoan Drama". Performing Aotearoa : New Zealand theatre and drama in an age of transition. ed. Marc Maufort. Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang. p. 310. ISBN 978-90-5201-359-6. OCLC 165412282.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. Maufort, Marc; O'Donnell, David, eds. (2007). "Interview with Nathaniel Lees". Performing Aotearoa : New Zealand theatre and drama in an age of transition. Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang. p. 338. ISBN 978-90-5201-359-6. OCLC 165412282.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. Reid, Graham (10 June 2016). "THE VODAFONE PACIFIC MUSIC AWARDS (2016): Can you see yourself, under a coconut tree . . ". Elsewhere. Retrieved 2019-12-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Anderson, Vicki (3 August 2019). "25 years of Pacific Underground: 'Meet me at the Dog House'". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-12-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Hadley, James (Spring 2003). "Playing Inside and Outside the Playhouse". Playmarket News. 32: 24.
  8. "Pacific Underground". The Big Idea. 2018. Retrieved 2019-12-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Pacific Underground". Radio New Zealand. 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  10. 10.0 10.1 McLennon, Peter (25 June 2015). "Pacific Underground". Audio Culture. Retrieved 2019-12-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Pacific Underground; Scoop News (24 October 2013). ""Under the Fale" Pacific Underground Rises Again". Retrieved 2019-12-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links