Janet Tupou

Lecturer - School of Communication Studies
Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Janet Tupou

New Zealand-born Tongan Janet Tupou, whose parents hail from the island of Vava’u, says you can do things when you put your mind to it.

Although Janet has been teaching in the School of Communication Studies for the past five years, her journey at AUT started in 2006 when she began a Bachelor of Communication Studies.

After completing her Master of Communication Studies in 2011, which explored emotional dissonance in the retail fashion industry, Janet wanted to investigate a topic that spoke loudly in terms of her cultural identity.

She is currently completing a Doctor of Philosophy on ‘Whose voice speaks? Tongan Creativity in Aotearoa,’ and has recently completed a Graduate Diploma of Tertiary Teaching.

Contemporary Tongan identity

Janet's doctoral thesis investigates creativity among Tongan people in New Zealand and exploring the mixed views of Tongan-born and New Zealand-born people.

Janet had noticed that in the Tongan community, the notion of creativity leans towards a new interpretation of tradition which hinges on cultural factors prioritising usefulness over novelty.

“I applaud the fact that there is a high degree of positive reinforcement for those that are born here in New Zealand to look back to Tongan traditions and cultural expectations to emphasise our ways of being.

"But at the same time, there are some that don’t identify with tradition because it’s not what they see in everyday context. It is that particular crossroad that I want to explore in more detail,” she says.

Based on narrative analysis, Janet’s research explores the lived experiences of a mix of New Zealand-born and Tongan-born creatives, allowing them to voice their opinions.

“In their stories they talk about the struggles of being a creative: fitting (and not fitting) into both New Zealand and Tongan concepts.”

Janet says mild conflicts of understanding and acceptance surround the value of creativity and its placement in our everyday lives.

"More specifically, when it comes to the reasoning behind Pacific people embarking on creative pathways there is a push for young people to delve into more traditional study pathways while creative avenues are not encouraged as much.

"Times are changing and there is a need to unpack the value that creativity holds and how Pacific people can prosper in this field individually and collectively."

For the community

Janet says she wants her research to benefit more than just herself.

“I am completing this research for my people, for my family and for the future of New Zealand-born Tongans.”

“I'm motivated by encouraging young Pacific people to dispel stereotypes when it comes to creativity. It's rewarding to use my research to shed light on hierarchies and ideologies and share it with my community."