Born and raised in Aotearoa, New Zealand and with heritage that traces back to Fiji, Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala is an award-winning cross-disciplinary artist of Fijian/NZ European descent. In some languages, the name Jahra translates literally to ‘vessel’, which is fitting for an artist who is dedicated to using her body and her voice as a force for healing. She dances with such a potent emotive force, it transcends the realm of physical and becomes something far more spiritual; eternal, even.

As an artist, Jahra investigates her ancestral connections through the art mediums of performance activation, contemporary dance and poetry, and has extensively toured her performance works both nationally and internationally.  As a child of the Pasifika diaspora, Jahra is invested in translating her shared internal conflict into an accessible, yet confrontational, physicalised language. Her most recent performance work titled “a world, with your wound in it” focuses on the complex relationship between the earth and a woman’s body, a theme Jahra continues to investigate in her developing work.

Jahra is known for her transcendent performance presence, otherworldly physicality and potent poetry, as well as her bold approach to political and social themes both on and off the stage. She found her voice through the physical arts and believes that they are intrinsically tied to reclaiming autonomy, reconnecting to your ancestors and changing the world around you.


Image credit: Pati Solomona Tyrell


 hy did you want to become a dancer / choreography? Does creativity run in your family? 

Movement has always, always called me. And I always responded. It was something I couldn’t ignore, so it became something that I religiously followed. It demanded and summoned me into its realm, and that has been a continuous calling ever since I was a child. When I was young I was heavily influenced by a diverse range of things creatively, but there was no singular instigator or reason as to why I became a dancer or choreographer – it all almost felt like a natural and inevitable part of my evolution. Movement was the medium that chose me, and I found and will always find myself deep within it. And I’ve never questioned that decision. I can’t tell the realm of the movement and myself apart most days.

Creativity definitely runs in my family. My mother is a healer, a writer and artist in her own right. When the arts are used for healing, that is its highest form, in my opinion. My father is also a writer and a speaker, and uses his mediums for other means. My siblings are also all artists – My sister Shaquille is a film graduate and a performer, so she naturally has an instinct for potent visuals. My sister Kalisha is a theatre graduate and a writer and has an instinct for what binds/breaks connections between people. My little brother is a musician, primarily a drummer, so he has an instinct for sound that taps into the ancient. We are all emotionally hyper-sensitive and open most of the time. It’s a wild family to be a part of. I am constantly being fed by and feeding into it.

Your work explores the space between contemporary dance and live poetry. Can you explain how you go about melding these into one performance? Which comes first, the poetry or the choreography? 

Movement has always been my primary medium. Poetry, even though I have always done it, only entered that realm to support my world of movement. It was the missing head of the whole body, if that makes sense? Haha. And the kind of ‘live poetry’ I work with also morphs and shifts depending on what the work needs, so it can extend to vocal work and sound made with my voice as audio for my creative works. Both movement and text/vocal work find each other at the same time, and grow together as the work does. So it’s more cohesive and organic, not so planned or structured in terms of the creation of it all. In a way I have trained my body, my writing and my voice to all respond to each other in the creative process, so it feels super natural, and supernatural at the same time. All the forms, including visuals, inform each other as I facilitate and make the work. Depending on the section in the work, one medium might come across stronger than the other. But for the most part, they work together. They have to, or the world I build falls apart.

“In a way I have trained my body, my writing and my voice to all respond to each other in the creative process, so it feels super natural, and supernatural at the same time.”

Image credit: Sam McDonald.


ell me about your work ‘a world, with your wound in it’ (fka ‘bloo/d/runk’). What themes does this explore and what are you trying to awaken in the viewer?

One of my creative works being performed in the next few months is my multi-disciplinary solo work ‘a world, with your wound in it’, which will be the redeveloped version of my previous solo work ‘bloo/d/runk’. It utilises contemporary dance movement, poetry, vocal work, costume and projection of visuals. ‘a world, with your wound in it’ seeks to embody and dissect the complex relationship between the earth and the indigenous female form through performance, and explores themes of divinity and demotion of the many archetypes of women throughout the realm associated with possession.

Within the world of the work, the idea of ‘possession’ serves as a central motif; possession of people, possession of women, possession of beliefs, possession of land, possession of language, possession as punishment, possession as pleasure, possession as a divine act that connects us with the gods. ‘a world, with your wound in it’ explores the realm in-between being a vessel for other voices, traditions and ideologies whilst still attempting to reclaim a human sense of autonomy over one’s possessed physical form. If I could put this solo work into one sentence, it would probably be ‘the world as a woman’s body’.
With whoever witnesses the work, I want them to feel whatever is ancient within them waking up. I want THAT ‘being’ within them to respond to my work. That is my goal. And for the women who already speak the same language as the ‘a world, with your wound in it’, I want them to feel seen. Understood. Held. Spoken to. And empowered to be their full selves. Without fear.

For Antidote’s ‘Engender’ quarter we are looking at artists whose works interrogate gender stereotypes and look the beyond the rigid binary understandings of male and female. Can you please tell me about a work of yours which explores Gender in this way? 

I think my work at the moment really focuses on using my human form as a gateway to enter realms beyond it, and to explore what a magnified heightened sense of spirit or self could manifest as physically. From within flesh to beyond it. That includes surreal, morphing and otherworldly imagery growing from my ‘human female form’ as a beginning, and almost rewriting what the audiences’ idea of a ‘woman’ can manifest as. Especially for women of colour and indigenous women. I am always treated as ‘other’, so I take that to a more surreal and wild place. Both through visuals, movement and warping of language/vocals. 

“[Artists] move faster than politicians and policy. They record our history, break open our present and rewrite our future. They are the prophets of the people.”

Image credit: Amanda Billing.


our work focuses quite heavily on your cultural heritage and background. Do you find these explorations intersect organically with representations of gender? Or have you consciously decided to address and include both in your work? 

I think because I am navigating through a brown, female-born and Pacific form, it all intersects organically as that is the eye that I am seeing the world and my own world through. So much is challenged just by me existing. “My existence is resistance”. So when I channel that experience into my creative work, everything else and everyone else connected to me is magnified ten-fold. It has to.

In your view, what role does the artist play in society and why are they important?

In my view, artists are the messengers between every world we are currently engaging with. They awaken ‘mana’. They restore balance. They bring awareness. They challenge every current structure. They allow us to communicate with our ancestors. They facilitate empathy. They connect people and build community. They move faster than politicians and policy. They record our history, break open our present and rewrite our future. They are the prophets of the people. They are undeniably important and necessary to the expansion of people individually and collectively. It connects us. And that is something so primal and instinctual that it cannot be argued with. 

Image credit: Jocelyn Janon.



Favourite book If James Baldwin wrote it, it’s my favourite.

Favourite film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron! Not even being ironic.

Favourite band / musician Jimi Hendrix and Tanya Tagaq

If you weren’t an artist what would you be? I honestly don’t think I have any other option, haha.

If you could change one thing about the world today what would it be? That everyone had a high sense of empathy through a deep sense of self-awareness. Also spatial awareness would be a game-changer.