PROFILE: Sia Figiel

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Fiction writer and artist, Samoa

Sia Figiel, writer, artist and performance poet, was born in the village of Matautu Tai in Samoa in 1967. Figiel's education was defined by the traditional song, dance and poetry inherent in the community life of her village, as well as the alternative perspective of the Western school system in both Samoa and New Zealand. After studying briefly in New Zealand, Figiel went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (History) at Whitworth College in the USA before travelling to Europe where she resided for four years. It was during her time in Europe, exposed to the international literary scene and divorced from her home land, that Figiel found her artistic voice and began to write and paint.

Upon her return to the Pacific, Figiel accepted a residency at the East West Center- Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii. Following this were residencies at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji and the University of Technology, Sydney. In 1994 Sia Figiel won the Polynesian Literary Competition for her prose poetry. She then published her award winning first novel, Where We Once Belonged (1996) which brought not only international acclaim but also the 1997 Commonwealth Prize for fiction (South East Asia- South Pacific region). In the same year Figiel also published The Girl in the Moon Circle, a collection of shorter performance pieces, and in 1999 the sequel to her first novel, They Who do not Grieve.

Whilst Figiel has no formal artistic training, her international profile has allowed her to learn and absorb knowledge from a vast array of influences. As such, her artistic voice is Samoan yet so much more. As the second key note speaker at the South 1 Gathering, Figiel will again have the opportunity to learn from but also inspire a disparate audience from around the globe.