Empowered Through Heritage and the Arts
I grew up in a large family in Southern California, with three older brothers. My Dad is originally from New Zealand, where his family emigrated from Samoa before he was born. My Dad ended up on a trip to the US in his early 20’s, met my Mom and started a family here in the US. Growing up I was always a creative with an interest in the arts, and working as a backstage set builder and costume designer for theatre shows. Making the move to own my own full time creative business felt like a natural step for me. I now own and operate Afakasi Prints, where I specialize in relief printmaking, block printing, hand-painted murals, and now hand thrown and carved ceramics as well. All of my designs and work are inspired by my Pasifika background and heritage.
What was the spark that started you on the path where you are today?
As I got older, I started to think more about how growing up without any Pasifika representation in my hometown community effected me and my mental health. I realized I had spent my entire life being the only one like me everywhere I went, which is something that can be really lonely and isolating. This taught me just how important representation is, and that we need more of it for future generations. So that is why I do what I do – I want to bring representation of our culture to the forefront of the conversation, I want young Pasifika kids to walk down the street and see themselves represented in public art, I want to change the narrative and bring accurate representation beyond the stereotypes that are so well known in the US today.
What is one thing that you think Pasifika can do to help our voices be heard more?
Things like this! Sharing the stories of the Pasifika women that are out there making moves and making a difference. Those that are challenging the norm, making space for more Pasifika women after them to thrive. Hearing each other’s stories can go such a long way for all of us.
If a young Pasifika girl asked you, “Why is it important to empower other Pasifika women?” What would you tell her?
It’s important because while we have come a long way, there are still spaces that we deserve to take up but we cannot access. By empowering each other, we are helping to build a stronger community that can make strides towards greater opportunities for all of us.
As a Pasifika leader, creative, advocate, etc. how do you find ways to uplift the voices of other Pasifika women?
I try to use my social platform to highlight others. For example in my Instagram stories, I always try to share work I come across from other Pasifika women that inspire me, so that others can discover their work and feel inspired as well.
How important is it for Pasifika men to be a part of the conversation of uplifting our Pasifika women?
I think it’s very important. It should not just be on our shoulders to do the work, to ensure that we are heard, empowered, and respected. When a Pasifika man shows respect and uplifts a Pasifika woman, it is setting an example for other men, young and old. It sets a standard that says “this is how we treat our women, and what they have to say is important.”
Who is it that you look to as a role model?
I don’t have one specific role model, but I do find inspiration from other female business owners, and women that aren’t afraid to be the boss. Also, I have such a deep respect for Matriarchs, and the women that hold down an entire household, sometimes multiple generations together. Just witnessing powerful women like them teaches me so much.
Where do you think the Pasifika community falls short when it comes to empowering our women? If we do at all.
I don’t think it falls short as much as there is so much more that could be done. It is an uphill battle, and everything we do to help is one step closer to the summit. One thing I find so promising is that conversations like this are happening, and the community as a whole seems to want to go in the right direction.
Although one thing I also think is important to do is to acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community, and empower those that identify as female or non-binary. If we are not uplifting their voices as well, then we are not doing our jobs to empower all Pasifika women.
What song do you listen to that empowers you to keep going?
I’d have to say “Queendom” by Analea Brown. It’s a kickass anthem for Pasifika women to take up the spaces we deserve to be in.
What movie brings you inspiration?
Any comedy! Comedies remind me not to take life so seriously, and just how good it feels to laugh. Also with my background in set building and design, I deeply appreciate certain films for their sets, props and costumes.
What is a quote that you go to when needing encouragement?
“Be the person you needed when you were younger” – Ayesha Siddiqi
What is your advice to Pasifika women who are on the journey to empowerment?
Follow your values. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Are you the only woman in the room? Don’t let that intimate you, let that empower you. Our voices, our values, our talents, our desires are so much more valuable than you think.
Amanda has an amazing collection of work. If you really love Pasifik art, then you need to check out her website. As someone who is also afakasi, I love learning about Amanda’s story. She has empowered me in so many ways! Knowing that she is creating space for Pasifika kids and adults to see themselves in the arts is amazing. It makes me want to help create space for other Pasifika people too. If you want to learn more about her and the work that she is doing you can find her @afakasiprints! Thank you so much Amanda for sharing your story!