Monday, October 31, 2016

Fagogo lows

In recent weeks, I've had lots more chances to do fagogo sessions with schools and church groups here.

It's all very lovely but there's been moments where I just wanted to leave the room and weep.

Some of the sessions involved young people from very challenging backgrounds. What I was not prepared for was the sharing of experiences that are so sad and heartbreaking, and the 2 other adults I had asked to help with my sessions were weeping in the corner. Thanks guys.
Sometimes, you just gotta stay standing and then find a corner to sulk in  when the crowd has disappeared.

Speaking of sulking,

Recently I went home - and whenever I return, I have weeks where I wonder - what the duck I'm doing with my loife - away from home (Cue - makagaga moments).

In any case, I'm one of those people raised in a family where big girls don't cry. If you're emotional, save your drama for yourself. And so I went into the spare room, shut the door and wept.
I didn't realise La Tuif was in the room (in the cupboard- don't ask, that's another essay) and he yelled out to his sister, "Mom is crying! OMG! Mom is crying!" (Loud enough for the neighbours to hear ). Thanks La Tuif. Anyhow, both little humans hopped in bed with me, patted my head, and then they started making up fagogo to make me laugh at.
Obviously, La Tuif's ones involved lots of superheroes, butts and farts. MM was as usual, a thoughtful measured story that soothed the soul. They both took my tears away and even more so when La Tuif said "I'm only looking after you because when I fell off my bike, you carried me upstairs and gave me candy and watched pokemon with me" Fefe ia pols.

In any case, I feel like this fagogo journey takes its toll on me sometimes but I just have to put on my ninja undies and get on with it.

Doing fagogo has led me to numerous discussions with people - many of whom were raised listening to their elders telling stories. Many who recall their own favourite stories or methods of sharing stories which they recall with joy.  I love that in the midst of a classroom or a church hall, we - grown adults - revert back to our childhood memories and laugh a little - or reminisce about our pasts.

But you see, it's the ones who were not told fagogo who appeal to me the most, because I'm finding out that in the absence of legends, myths, fairytales, chants, poetry and song, sadder stories were more prominent. Stories of violence, drug addiction, rejection and worse, all of which are now forming the fagogos they share in a circle now.

Sharing stories is great, but sometimes, you go home carried the weight of someone's past.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

When tragedy strikes in the islands, Authority response vs Facebook faikakala police response

Every time tragedy strikes, obviously, tragedy strikes.

But in recent years, social media has pretty much allowed anyone to update, share, distort and blow information out of the ocean and beyond.

Again, I wish there was some triggers that kicked in for some humans, specifically Pacific humans - ok, scratch that, Samoan humans, like:

- Don't post if it's not true.
- Don't post sensitive information like, the death of a person.
- Don't post the image of the deceased alongside "kalofa e, RIP" fefe ia aikae.
- Don't share the image because you are contributing to the problem. Ea? Fia maka muamua?
- Don't be a faikakala and be aware that your perchance for 'likes' is at the demise and heartbreak of others.

Recently, an image of a man was shared on facebook, faced down in the ocean.
I know this much because it was shared by a former facebook friend on their timeline.
Shocking, but even more shocking were the idiots who were outraged and then shared, e I ai gi kou faiai? (Do you have brains?)

It reminds me of a famous proverb that nobody said "Ku I le #@* faiai sole".

When I see shite like this, its sad but it's also gives me this sense of defeat about our people and our mindset.

It's like, we go so far but at the end of the day, e makuai valea a o kagaka sole.

Like, really, think about it.

O le kele o kakou fa'afikauli I ge vaikaimi oga o I kakou lava,

ok, goodbye before get hangrier,


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Traversing the narrow edge

I went back to my primary school last week.
It brought back so many fond memories and laughter.
Much has changed - many for the good, thanks to a new management (Divine Mercy).
One of the activities we loved doing at school was this....we climbed the ledge of the catholic church and walked along it, from the easier part right up to the steep side.
We were not allowed but its one of those things , lol....
The medium difficulty part of the edge.....(several children have been injured in this activity,....and got back up to continue to competition chhooohoooo)...
The "DO NOT ACCESS AREA" which some kids still accessed and fell from anyway, oi aue.
 The Back of the church....where we used to walk past to go buy unripe mangoes from Leilua's house next door

View of Apolima and Upolu from the classrooms.

Paddling into the Disney Moana storm because ---i'm bored. (with my parent/learner tuiga on)

It's been a few months now since this has started,
Lots of views, debates. discussions and whatnot.

On one corner are the:
"Oh yay! finally a Disney movie about us, and a character that is Polynesian" 
Then, there's the anti, or against crew, beautifully worded by a Pacific studies academic from Vic Uni on cultural appropriation. Need to find link for this.
There's those in the middle, going, meh.

Then, while I was basking in the Savaii sunshine, the tuiga discussion took off.
I saw it briefly and thought, ...I totally wanna care right now, but can't summon the energy or the passion. So let's park that for now. Back to mango eating and taro chips.

So in brief, now that I'm not on holiday and back to my uneventful existence, I now have time to throw on this discussion.

Q:What do I think of the  movie?
A: I haven't actually seen it, but I saw the wee clips, the Hawaiian Airlines launch, met some of Pacific musicians and artists and some who were consulted in some way.

Q: What do I think so far?
A: It's a Disney movie. Made by Disney, through the lens of Disney people.

Q: Is it a representation of my culture?
A: Yes, as told through the lens of the Disney machine. Definitely a depiction of some of my culture, and that of other Polynesian cultures. I'm not going to own that depiction. It's someone else's depiction made into a palagi movie.
So, ....
People are condemning Disney for assuming to represent their culture. Good on them:

If we are up in arms about how our culture is portrayed, I ask you this:

"What are you doing to affirm, present, and share our culture to our children? others? now, in the past and moving forward"

Aside from the criticism, what am I doing to promote my culture?

It's very clear that this movie will influence a huge number of people - many of whom know little about their ancestry. Many of them will be Polynesian and will therefore be at the peril of being 'cultured' by Disney.
That's the bit which is not cool for me. But at the same time, I personally an not worried.
If I want to influence and share my culture with my children, I do so in communicating with them, in hijacking their class curriculum/teachers, school plan, I do so in how I personally do my work.
It is in this sense that I am a little bit sad, because there are thousands of Pacific people who are not aware of their histories, shared histories and culture. Many of whom will be influenced by Disney's version of their ancestry.

So, what can you do from here on to positively or in some way, influence the learnings and experience of your child? So that they are not 'brainwashed' by Disney's version?

1. Know your history.
2. Know your heroes.
3. Know who you are.
4. Know your place in the world.
5. Know that your identity and your story belong to, and is determined by you.

There are many many resources that you can access which are helpful in raising and informing intelligent Pacific/Polynesian children/people.

Rather than crying foul over yet another white man bullshit, my challenge is always, start with you and create the changes and knowledge that you value, and you love.

Start with these for now:
- Go to a library or online and get yourself a copy of "Our Sea of Islands" by the Late Dr Epeli Hauofa
-Visit a museum near you;
  Follow some museum facebook pages, a good one is Museum of Samoa
- Talk to an elder / grandparent / parent / teacher
- Google events in your area relevant to your culture, like cultural celebrations, festivals, shows etc.
- Buy or get books written by people from your worldview.
- Learn about the history of voyaging in the vast Oceania, and follow the revival of navigation, brought alive by the late Mau Piailug of Satawal Island, Link to Pacific voyagers.
- Learn a few words in your language
- Read a few of the essays by our Head of State, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi:
- Be the captain of your own waka.

Okay, I just committed 20 minutes of my life to this update, and that's far too much time,

"Culture is never stagnant. So when I hear people saying Hold true to your culture, I feel like wrapping you an a culture basket and putting you in a umu"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Reviving Pacific storytelling in an ever changing world

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to present one of my fagogo at a Ted Talk event(Tedx Tauranga).
Loved the experience but it was also a great reminder to myself that my 'she'll be right' attitude needs serious re-assessment.
I've always loved telling fagogo, but never in a structured and organised manner - Tedtalk style. So doing this was like getting being crushed in the cage on the last ferry from Mulifanua before White Sunday. You know you'll reach the boat eventually but first, you get pushed, shoved and possibly lifted before you can someone's cigarette breath.
To make life more interesting, I lost my voice the same week and got sick, so I thank the Lawd for making me better that day.
I hope that everyone can get the opportunity to share their stories with their loved ones and be able to sit down together and communicate.