Create1world empowering youth artists and activists

Na'or Tal Alfassi Berman (second from right) at the COP22 conference in Morocco last November

With so many humanitarian, economic, military and ecological crises facing the world it can get depressing, especially if you are a young person with a life ahead of you, says Na’or Tal Alfassi Berman.

But since he took part in last year’s Create1world event at Massey University Mr Alfassi Berman has been speaking out on the world stage and is now hoping to form a group of activist artists from the Pacific to participate at United Nations and other global climate change conferences.

Mr Alfassi Berman, whose parents are from South Africa and Israel, was part of a New Zealand youth delegation to the UN climate change conference (COP22) in Morocco last November.

Having been on the global stage at the UN conference, he reckons it is important that young people have a platform at large scale conferences such as COP22 so they can directly address negotiators and diplomats who are making decisions about a world that today’s youth will inherit.

He was a year 13 pupil at Auckland’s Western Springs College when he attended the inaugural Create1world youth event in 2016 – a competition and conference encouraging high school pupils to ‘create one world’ through art and creativity. He walked away with first prize in Creative Writing at the event for a poem he co-wrote with Ariana Brunet on a youth view of the world’s problems.

He described the experience as “awesome” and “a lot of fun”, and valued the array of international speakers and chance to mix and collaborate with peers from around the country.

This year the free Create1world conferences will be held at Massey’s Wellington and Auckland campuses on June 30 and July 6 respectively. The ‘Creative Activism and Global Citizenship Competition’ is open to Year 9 to 13 pupils in New Zealand.

Hosted jointly by Massey University and the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies, the competition is to challenge teen students to make a video, write a song, create a drama or speech, or write a poem or short story about creativity and global citizenship. Two new categories have been added for 2017; visual arts and social studies. Entries close May 2 and can be in any Pacific Island language or te reo Māori as well as in English

“The themes are the same, if perhaps the urgency is greater,” says Create1world organiser Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley, of Massey’s School of English and Media Studies. “How will the arts help us create peace, tolerance, equality and save the planet? We need young people’s ideas and we need to inspire them as to what is possible.”

Create1world winner Na'or Tal Alfassi Berman at COP22

Getting involved in big issues via art

“Maybe a good shorthand for the theme of this competition is ‘one person's problem is everyone's problem’. Entries can explore a big issue or a tiny one, we don't mind, but they should show through art and creativity a way that we can connect with other humans, cross borders of any kind, and build mutual understanding.”

She says many young people care very deeply about justice, equity, sustainability, peace and other issues, and are already involved in school-based activism groups. But not so many are interested in attending political conferences to further their interests. However, many are willing to respond or express themselves through art and performance as a way of getting involved.

Another participant from the 2016 competition, Neakiry Kivi, who wrote a duet (voice and piano) about the global refugee crisis, says Create1world was “a way for me to explore this new concept of 'creative activism' to turn my art into something much more powerful.”

“I've always felt very strongly about issues surrounding refugees – since my father was a refugee from Cambodia – so I decided to use that idea for my entry. However, I chose to write it from the perspective of people like us, who live comfortably in New Zealand, only able to follow their stories through our computer and phone screens.”

Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley

Create1world expands in 2017

Guest speakers at this year’s Wellington conference include Dave Ojay, an African playwright and climate activist and founder of a festival and social media photography campaign to save Africa’s Lake Victoria, who will be speaking live via video link from Kenya. Others are New Zealand-based Brazilian singer Alda Rezende, co-founder of the Tutakitaki project for experimental musical work to promote links between Brazilian popular and indigenous traditions with Māori music. Also appearing is Victor Rodger, an award-winning playwright of Samoan and Pākehā heritage whose scripts address issues of race, identity, sexuality and empathy; and Australian creative activist Amy Spiers, via video link from Melbourne.

At the Auckland conference in Albany, guests are Massey creative writing lecturers poet Dr Johanna Emeney, playwright Stuart Hoar and fiction writer Dr Tina Makereti, as well as playwright Donna Banicevich Gera and poet Carrie Rudzinski.

Fostering hope and empowerment

Dr Tilley says the Create1world event aims to foster hope for the next generation. “This sense of hope is crucial ­– New Zealand has a shockingly high youth suicide rate, and while depression is complex, the overwhelming scope of problems like climate change contributes to a sense of powerlessness."

Feedback from another participant last year described Create1world as “profusely life-changing.” The student said they had “always loved acting, writing, and creativity, and realizing how fundamental and incredibly powerful they can be for making a change has blown my mind.”

Dr Tilley says; “What shocks me is not that one conference made a difference, but that, for these particular students, nobody has connected these things before.

“At Massey University, I am fortunate to work with like-minded colleagues in an innovative social justice theatre studies curriculum that asks students to ‘Perform the change you want to see’ and prioritises student-led projects.”

Competition details at

Follow on Twitter at or

Facebook for updates.

Related articles

Creative activism on the move at Massey
Students get creative about environmental issues
GM corn theme for Mexican theatre activist at Massey

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey