Karlo Mila's presentation was a fabulous 'bookend' to Glenn Colquhoun's opening keynote. To open and end with such personal and richly constructed presentations, that focussed on the spoken word and cultural identity, was fantastic. Unfortunately I deleted my original draft of this post while awaiting for a delayed flight in Welly, so this will be a poor comparison to what I had written during Karlo's performance!
Mana Moana - the journey of her post doctoral research formed the basis of her presentation. She began with by explaining a few key ideas - that the ocean does not separate Polynesia, but rather act as as the pathways between the places - it is the space between and as such should be exlpored; that 'urbansesia' is a more relevant term than Polynesia and that polycultural is the cultural capital that we all need to be able to access and tap into. The disaffection of 'urbasnesian' youth is a great concern to her and she spoke at length of the inability of many youth to access the 'cutltural capital' of the dominant culture.
Karlo's description of the mapping of the langauges, images, proverbs and 'stories' of Oceania was a fascinating tale.
Using a model by Friere focusing on finding generative words that are intrinsic to a culture and a people, I started to search for our shared Pacific words that exist in the source languages of Protopolynesian, Austronesian and Oceanic languages. Here certain concepts, metaphors and words might be considered archetypal and integral to who we are, and how we have viewed the world around us for centuries. Seventy words, found in at least 15 current Pacific languages, were selected.
These then became the basis for an intervention that was trialled at Wesley College with a group of urbanesian youth. The Journey (metaphorical) to Motutapu, wellbeing and healiong based in a developing understanding of -
To a large degree it involved teaching and learning about Pacific cultural knowledge, ideas, worldviews and understandings of health and healing, but very much targeted at an English-speaking, highly urbanised population. The focus on va, or relationships, was explicit and the positive relationships with others, in a multidimensional, ecological and spiritual sense was considered integral to wellbeing.
Karlo's passion for both the programme itself and those it was designed for was contagious. Understanding that young urbanesians are doubly fortunate to have poly-cultural capital and this must be viewed as an asset.
She finished with a refined version of the poem below - taking a moment to warn us that we might not have the cultural capital to understand the references - but to imagine how others might feel when confronted with the cultural capital of a Western European canon of literature.
Composed for the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards December 10th 2013, Parliament
Once I wrote
That I was the seed of the migrant dream
The daughter supposed to fill the promise
hope heavy on our shoulders
we stand on the broken back of physical labour
knowing the new dawn, has been raided.
We are the seeds of a much greater dream
Ruia from Rangiatea
A dream still buried in the hands of humble men
buried in humble villages
who chant clear our paths with every lost breath.
Our story reaches back, across oceans of memory.
Do not be satisfied with other people’s stories of us,
That have us beginning sometime in the seventies
with the economic boom and need for migrant labour,
those reserve armies, the oil crisis, the neoliberal reforms
that cut the feet out of the industries we were clustered in,
do not be satiated by those stories of dawn raids,
and the demise of the primary industries, and the unemployed,
do not be seduced by their acronyms of NEETS, not in education, employment or training,
remember that when we came,
“Pacific Islanders” were more likely than the general population to be employed.
Remember that when the industry changed,
in 1986 only half of our people had qualifications
to help them navigate new terrain,
fifteen years later, two-thirds of us had upskilled
with a qualification to navigate a shifting landscape,
last on, first off,
don’t let them tell you any other story of underachievement,underclass
or brown tails slowing the upright country down,
let them eat that down-and-brown poly-pancake
that distasteful beast of their own making.
We are the seeds of a much greater dream
Ruia from Rangiatea
That like the niu, the coconut,
has travelled across many oceans
and found its roots,
over and over again.
Growing in new soil
to the sway of a slightly different horizon.
This seed began in Pulotu,
With its life-giving waters and the talking tree, Akau-lea,
Where Tangaloa, Maui and Hikule’o formed the first pantheon,
Here it was started.
And we think of Manu’a, where Maui travelled
and betrayed Tonga, fisherman of islands,
Who has betrayed me in Manuka? – why Maui of course, trickster,
fisherman of islands, the atolls, where the Tuli, first coloniser, the plover,
stands with its feet wet on new reefs, the messenger of Tangaloa i Lagi,
Maui fished up Tonga with that tiny insignificant hook, tipped off,
And it was there… on the shores of Tonga that we stopped being immortal,
Moala’s daughter finding fatality,
far from vaiola, waiora, the eternal springs of lifegiving water,
there was no turning back, bingo,
Far from the kulokula source-land of redtraded feathers, that disappeared,
sunk into the sea, or makes itself invisible at will, or is Viti, Vanua, it depends who is telling the story… gone are those cannibal dogs, and giant lizards,
fossils now in somebody else’s version of the story…
From Tongamamao, to Tokelau in the North, Tahiti in the East, Pulotu – signalling death on return,
from Samoa, the sacred centre, to every corner of the four winds, all the way to Taputapuatea,
nga hau e aha, in search of Vatea, space, and new beginnings,
Tangaloa reborn again, Tu’i Tonga, Tu’i Tokelau,
same old story, slightly different spin,
enter Rongo, Tu, Vatea, many new atua emerging,
men and women following stars,
escaping kaitangata, escaping the misfortune of the rainbow,
Uenuku, fleeing, multiple migrations, and of course, the flood, the flood,
remembered as the eyes of Mata’aho…
all of these stories buried deep with our dead,
and part of our thread, that connects us today,
in all of that dark and light days,
Tapukitea, shining like an omen, Oea ra, Oea ra,
and here is Aitutaki, here is Lalotonga, here is Aotearoa,
and so the seeds of the niu spread,
we retell the same stories, some forgotten,
Some relocated, some spoken in new tongues,
some shifting along, like Tangaloa here,
in a landmass full of forest,
enter Tane Mahuta, he breathes still amongus,
we havebuilt a fence around him to protect him.
Tane Mahuta reminds us all,
To return to the roots of us,
To dig deeper for the taproot, the puutake,
To source the essence of who we are.
Your job is to navigate
and expand the pathways you find at your feet.
We are told clearly, le gase ‘o ala lalavao.
The paths in the bush are never obliterated.
the shade of high trees won’t allow
overgrowth to come up,
Tane Mahuta knows this,
Even as he is fenced.
It is your job to find this pathway,
To remember who you are,
Walk what you were born to be,
Ancestors at your shoulders,
Clearing your pathways
with every lost breath.
The vines, and scrub at your feet,
barriers that are insignificant in the minds
of those who have been before.
They set out in the largest ocean in the world,
Navigated those waves,
And if there is a mala,
let it fall to shore.
and if we make mistakes,
let us rectify this in the deep ocean.
Holo or stand, you are ultimate end music
Hold on,because a wave will break.
be ready for it when it comes...
Tei a koe rai te rapa I to oe
You have the blade of your paddle,
I have the blade of mine.
They will choose on the high seas
who ought to pilot the boat
who can keep us dry in wet weather
who will navigate us through the storms
He ho’okele wa’a no ka la ino.
Let us be more
Let us be the canoe steersman for the hurricanes ahead.
And, La lafo’ia’ i le fogava’a tele.
Let us weigh anchor and set sail,
Should burdens be too great to bear,
Let us cast them on the big deck,
able to carry heavy loads,
Let us be those big decks to you,
you bright young things!
Shining like the morning and evening star
offering hope for a new generation.
Dare to shine,
Dare to be all you can be,
Illuminate the darkness around you
and have no fear, and no shame, about burning too brightly
cloaking yourself in clouds serves none of us,
It does not serve your family
It does not serve our communities
It does not serve our suburbs
It does not serve our nation.
It does not serve Oceania.
It does not serve the world.
heed the words of our ancestors, let them help you find your feet,
For the matau, the hooks in your hands,
that you use to cast your dreams
are made from the jawbone of your ancestors,
and as you cast your intent,
think of what they want you to catch in this lifetime
and as you cast your matau,
think of what you want your mokopuna to catch in theirs.
You are the thin thread between what has been before
and what will come, as long as you have breath.
Not nice to know that the sea surrounded ,
Engari anoo a uta. Do not bait your hook in the deep,
bait your hook on the shore. Be prepared,
for you stand on the shores of your lives now,
and we honour you,
you stand on the shoulders of giants,
Go forth, the pathways have been cleared,
bushwack them wider,
clear them consciously
so that we can move as a collective,
so that no one is left behind.
Remember who you are,
Remember where you came from,
Locate your stars,
There is no freedom in blowing with the wind
as seductive as it seems,
true freedom is,
knowing where you are going.
Le fogava’a e tasi
There is only one deck.
Reminding us again, that the waterways of the largest ocean on Earth do not separate us, they are the pathways that connect us - and I love that 'view' of our world.