It has been an awakening journey of self-discovery for Rotorua actress Atutahi Potaka-Dewes as she has been practising for aloFa.

Making its first international debut in Rotorua, the play aloFa is set in present-day Samoa which has allowed Potaka-Dewes to uncover parts of her own whakapapa.

It s a lot of learning for me. I have been raised with my Māori side but the biggest lesson on this journey was learning my Samoan side.

There are a lot of differences but also a lot of similarities and really what they boil down to is family.

The play follows Niko, the eldest son of Faleniko, who returns home after -odd years away and is immediately confronted with consequences of his long absence.

The story that unfolds is universal in familial themes and social issues within family life Potaka-Dewes said.

The familiar, universal characters go through individual journeys but what constantly pulls them together is the deceased matriarch of the family, Alofa.

I really just want to bring these words to life so people can resonate with what we are trying to portray. But whoever you are you will find a character to connect with.

Written and directed by Fiona Collins, aloFA was first performed in in Upolu, Samoa, aloFA then travelled to Pago Pago, American Samoa in .

Eighty minutes long, aloFa features minimal set and props, with simple lighting and sound design, as performed in Samoa.

Collins said the play was an avenue for creating dialogue around the mistreatment of women and abuse within families.

I really needed a voice stronger than me being on stage so I created an all-male cast.

But it developed and I decided it needed the youngest character to be a female, to soften that palate where there are three generations of men.

She said although the play was Pasifika people of all ethnicities would be able to connect with the themes.

Tickets are $ to $ and are currently on sale through Ticketmaster. The shows will be at the Blue Baths from September to September at pm and are part of the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival.

The festival will showcase a diverse range of art forms including theatre, te reo Māori, music, writing, visual and traditional art as well as film.

It also supports Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori in the second week of September.

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