"I'M COMPLETELY INFLUENCED BY WHERE I AM, AND MĀNGERE IS WHERE I WANT TO BE"
– Justin Haiu
Mapping Creative Hustle is a series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs connected to the Māngere Ōtāhuhu area. The interviewed were conducted by Ema Tavola with portrait photography by Vinesh Kumaran.
In your own words, what do you do for a living?
I am a creative entrepreneur, basically I create theatrical shows and perform them. A number of years ago I co-founded The White Face Crew clowning group and we’ve been touring shows and roving about public spaces, at festivals and theatres around the country, and even going international twice in 2017.
In my downtime, I have been working on my personal shows where I get to also devise yet take on more of a directing and co-producing role, leading and providing opportunity for a number of Pasifika artists. These theatre shows are kids and family friendly and go under the name of Jandel J & The Funky Friends.
A lot of the work I do involves movement or dance, pantomime, usually with some clowning while talking some gobble-de-gu and finally storytelling is thrown into the mix which showcases my personal or collaborated works.
I also do other bits and pieces as well: Clowning, TV commercials, stunts, facilitating workshops.
Why do you do what you do?
I do this because I actually like it! When I think back to the root of it, I just kind of love dance because I love moving, and I’ve been successfully good at it…. which is probably why I like it. Same with clowning too, just wanting to make people laugh. I’ve definitely has some of those ‘dry moments’ of clowning, but when you hit those moments where’s it’s so engaging and crack-up, it’s great!!
There are the times that I’ve actually fallen in and out of love with what I do, probably because sometimes I put in hard work and reap little benefit, so at times I’d get a bit hōhā with it. Other times the return would be good, and I’d personally enjoy hearing a chorus of laughter in the room and the engagement to the show.
Have you had an epiphany that has led you to this path in life?
I’m not sure it was an epiphany but there was a time that I was working for Youthline as part of their team to try and help young people into the workforce as part of the youth transition services. I realised that I could probably be doing a better job with youth if I was using dance, so I gained the courage to leave the regular income and jump into self-employment.
The goal was to do dance full-time and try have an impact on young people, which in theory was using my skills and my passions to do what I love, and whilst I was teaching and performing to young people, I think making an impact was harder than I had anticipated.
If there was one thing you could outsource to help you do more, or be more effective, what would it be?
I think of outsourcing people. Being able to bring alongside me and my vision the right people who are good at what they do. Hopefully this would support the things that need doing, in order to fulfill the vision.
I have thoughts that float around about whether to set up a Charitable Trust, having a business mentor, particularly for the business side of things. So the financial systems, the business structure, clarifying the vision, goals and long-term plan to ensure it’s sustainable… or basically getting someone to do that for me. Even simple stuff like setting up my own website or even Instagram page… I know it must sound pathetic but stuff like that I somehow find it hard to make decisions on finer detailed stuff, so it starts this procrastination, or inability to move forward type of thing then it starts to become time consuming… arrgh! I’d love to work with an amazing set-design and props team to grow the potential of my current and future shows.
I think of all the possibilities and waiting opportunities’ that I’m not hitting right now… things like a teaching program and publication, so that when people come to watch my shows, there’s a learning involved with the performance. I’d love to do stuff like that.
Far out – there is so much that could help me do more and be more effective.
What is something you wish you could do/find locally that would support you as a creative entrepreneur?
A base to work from that could host a community of creative entrepreneurs in a space together. Although I might need my own cubicle because sometimes I get a bit distracted! Yeah, I think that would support my creative tank massively, because at home I get distracted, especially with a new baby, plus it’s not good being by yourself sometimes too.
Also having access to connect with the local Arts Broker has been very helpful and appreciated. It just helps with a number of things like breaking down that first wall.
What do you wish you could change in societal attitudes that would enable you and other creative entrepreneurs to thrive?
I’m not fully sure about this one but here’s a thought: recognition that creativity and the space/time to develop and grow creativity is just as valid as what other entrepreneurs bring into society.
What do you love about living and working in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area?
I love living out here because I love being in the hub of the Pasifika community.
When I lived in Australia, culturally I found it really dry in the areas I was participating in, so when I came home, I loved being amongst Māori and Pasifika peeps again – our culture, our ways, our humour, our art. When family come and stay from overseas, they love it too…especially Pinati’s in Ōtāhuhu and the local Saturday and night markets.
Working from home can be a bit dry too, so being able to connect into the local art community just five minutes from home or connecting with other like-minded artists can be huge. It’s been awesome being able to gain support from Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board to develop and showcase my work in places like MAC, Mangere Town Centre and the Ōtāhuhu Rec Centre. So, whether it’s performing locally, including my son’s school plus my nephews and nieces, or going to see shows of friends and other local artists - there’s always a buzz.
Would your work or practice be different if you lived somewhere else?
Mmm, if I was living in a different area around Auckland then maybe not because I would still have pre-established relationships built, and still be able to access them to connect up when creating my shows that have a lot of collaboration. If I lived in a different city, then maybe yes?!
It’s being connected to community, and because I’ve got family and friends around, here and there, and little bit just over there. It’s the connecting up, meeting up, and living in the space, I think influences what I create. I guess if I lived somewhere else I wouldn’t have the same influences. Actually, I don’t think I’d be as connected to my Local Board either. I’m completely influenced by where I am, and Māngere is where I want to be.
What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?
I’ve been thinking about that lately. I always thought a good coffee would do! But it doesn’t always work but I have noticed I need that purpose, and I need to keep looking back to that. Without a vision people perish, so I need to keep thinking of that and being clear about that vision. At the moment, I’m in the process of re-focusing again on where I’m wanting to go. So, thinking about the end product and where I want to be with what I’m doing helps me get back up, ignite that passion and keep focused.