Zech Soakai

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Mālō e leiei, Talofa lava, Kia orana and a massive warm Pacific Greetings!

My name is Zech Soakai, I'm of Samoan and Tongan descent and a spoken-word poet. I have been afforded the MASSIVE opportunity to go all the way to Greece to go on the Rhodes Poetry Retreat 2018 in September... and I need you to help me get there!

Wait, what, you're going all the way to Rhodes for POETRY?

Yep, and not just any kind of poetry - spoken word poetry. Spoken word is a form of poetry that, at its core, is poetry that demands to be seen and/or heard beyond the page. I write all my own material and also 'publish' it via film, live performance and sometimes even gallery installation.

Because spoken-word is a bit of a 'niche' or 'hybrid' form, practitioners like me have very few spoken-word-specific opportunities to upskill in their practice. This residency is one of them. So that's my 'why'.

I'm going half-way around the world to learn under the formidable and internationally-acclaimed Luka Lesson. While there I'll be able to spend rare and intensive time working on my manuscript for my upcoming book, and also learn from one of the best poetry educators in the world!

Not only do I want to be there for myself, as an artist, but I also want to bring all of my learnings back to South Auckland and wider New Zealand for all of my teina (students) that I get the absolute privilege of mentoring, teaching and on the best of days, learning from. If you'd like to view something cool I got up to last year click here!

Ok cool - but why does this matter?

This matters, because this is the first big investment I have made in my practice as an 'artist' (whatever that means). This matters, because if there's anything I've been guilty of, it's being one of those people that don't prioritize their art enough.

I am incredibly dedicated and clinical in my approach to all that I do. If you knew me from high school, I'd probably fit the over-achievers mould, and in many ways that hasn't changed. But I am also a yes-man, who has for far too long put my craft on the back burner for education and 'proper career moves'.  So this is me taking a punt on my wildest dreams and reaching out to you (my village) to help make my dreams a reality.

More info and my interview with Stuff/Manukau Courier: here

Why I'm asking for your help:

I am fortunate enough to be a recipient of the Manurewa Rāngathai Youth Scholarship Fund, which will cover the airfares for my trip, and now I need to fund the actual cost of the residency itself.

At the moment I'm a postgraduate student, in my last semester at Auckland Uni studying English Literature and tutoring Pacific Studies. Between trying to remember how not-to-burn-toast and avoid permanently stapling myself with to-do lists, I have little time to go the traditional route of putting on fundraisers. So this platform and your consequent financial help will make a significant and meaningful contribution to my goal of getting to Greece!

How much I'm asking for:

Right let's not mince our words. I am asking for $2500. The actual cost of the residency is $2100 AUD and so crowdfunding $2500 NZD makes sense, as I'll have to account for the 10% admin fee associated with going via Boosted (s/o to the incredible work these guys do!) and also the conversion rates and admin fees associated via paying for my residency with Paypal. 

Should, I find myself in the unlikely but incredible position where I have more than what I need, I plan on using this money to run several community-based arts education projects in South Auckland and the greater Auckland area on my return, as I know there is a real need for our communities to tell their stories and liberate themselves from within.

Who am I? 

Zech Soakai is an artist who works with text, archival material, sound, and more recently film to put together an honest, reflective and hilarious-in-that-we're-laughing-at-you-NOT-with-you poetic experience.

As a fresh grad of UoA's Pacific Studies and English Literature program, he has spent the better part of five years thinking, writing and creating about the diaspora and Pasifika identity in Niu Sila. To date, he has:

- Co-founded Niu Wave an Arts Collective

- Won the 2016 University of Auckland Poetry Slam

- Won the 2017 GROUNDED: Battle of the Arts inter-disciplinary showcase

- Worked under NZ Poet Laureate and Associate Professor Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh as her Summer Research Assitant / "Summer Scholar"

- Been a recipient of the Someday Stories Short Film fund

- Created the film "When We Speak" with Miliama Tamiano, Kyla Dela Cruz and Liam Jacobson 

- Co-wrote and performed in the poetry-theatre shows SKIN and MOUTH:TEETH:TONGUE, each time in collaboration with Auckland Theatre Company and Grace Taylor.

- Had his work shown in Auckland Museum's Urbanlife (2012) and He Pou Kanohi (2017) exhibitions.

- Had his work shown in Ottawa, Canada at the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival's "Indigenous Curatorial Incubator Program."

- Performed at the Christchurch Body Festival with Interdisciplinary Artist Collective: Sleeping Ocean

- And has just recently been published in online journal Ruru Reads.

As an educator/facilitator he has: been a mentor in WORD the Frontline: New Zealand's Inter-highschool poetry slam for the past three years, is registered with the NZ Book Council as a an author for their Writers in Schools project, has been involved as a Poetry Facilitator for the last two years with the Poetry Project at the Michael King Writer's Centre and run a poetry workshop at the Pacific Arts Association Conference in Apia, Samoa.


  • Day 12


    I don't always want to directly promo my boosted account... but till the campaign finishes I'll be posting up little ramblings and answering any FAQ -- so flick those q's my way! I don't have much time these days to write (what artist in the 21st century does?!!) But you always gotta be ready!

    Anyway today, I tackle a question I get asked a lot... what am I inspired by.

    Well, today I was inspired by @yebbasmith's insta-story to write something.

    As an artist, I'm finding more and more that my job is literally to just turn up and tune in to what's around me... and then when I'm ready... I respond. 🙏🏾 This is today's response, echoed into a meditation, pretending to be "poetry".


    Day 12
  • A #FlashPoetry Update for your Monday Morning!


    Doing some #flashpoetry on some spare pieces of paper this morning. Still processing all the kindness that has been shown to me so far! If anyone wants to know what it feels like to walk naked ~ I encourage you to do a crwodfunding campaign. T

    here’s an art to asking people for money/support for your dreams, and I am learning to speak this language. Monday’s weekly BOOSTED plug! If ur able to (and comfortable to) contribute do know I take no amount of $$$ lightly and it would be going to a good cause!

    A #FlashPoetry Update for your Monday Morning!