Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Do you know where you're going to?

Growing up as a pianist, I collected sheet music over the years and played music in my spare time, particularly piano pieces that appealed to me melodically and harmonically.  I wasn't born when Berry Gordy's movie "Mahogany" was released in 1975 but I did have the sheet music for the theme song also known as "Do you know where you're going to?" that I came across in the early 90s when I first started to learn how to play (and I was in my Motown phase).  I am also a huge fan of Michael Masser who wrote the song as he is famous for penning Whitney Houston's songs from the beginning of her career as a solo artist.

I was attracted to the piano arrangement of the song because the music was written in a difficult key to play (yes the G in G flat major stands for "great" NOT!) and I liked the fact that the piece was driven by a series of questions that forced the listener to seriously think about themselves and their reflections on decisions made that impacted on their lives.  Watching the movie again, I could hear where the main melodic motif was cleverly placed or positioned through many scenes, it was Tracey/Mahogany's theme, her quest in the film, the motif resurfacing to remind the audience about the series of questions that the song poses in the chorus and verse:

Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?

Do you get what you're hoping for?
When you look behind you there's no open doors
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?

The questions ask about the uncertainty of the future in the opening before the bridges remind us about what lead us to the questions - past experiences and past decisions that have shaped our present:

Once we were standing still in time
Chasing the fantasies and feeling all nice
You knew how I loved you, but my spirit was free
Laughing at the questions that you once asked of me

Now looking back at all we've had
We let so many dreams just slip through our hands
Why must we wait so long, before we see?
How sad the answers to those questions must be

Then we return to the questions that force us to look at what we need to focus on, how to transition our hopes, what we aspire to have to what we know is concrete:

Do you get what you're hoping for?
When you look behind you there's no open doors
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?

2013 may have looked like the bridges of this song, but we can look to the chorus and verse as a map to help navigate us to some answers - in the hope that we don't laugh too hard at the answers before we realise how the sad the answers may be.

Do you know where you're going to?
Who knows.....  let's see what 2014 will bring.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Ground control to Major Tom.....

I'm on holiday at the moment in Sydney, Australia, spending time with family.
A change of scene is always good and I'm finding that when you are on holiday, you become part of someone else's or other people's realities while you take a break from your own.

We went to see "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and found some parallels with the character to my own life and to others around me; people I have the privilege of knowing for a long period of time and those who I observe or interact with in everyday conversations, and that includes strangers.

David Bowie's "Space Oddity" plays at a pivotal moment in Walter's life when he has to make the decision to take the plunge, to move beyond the daydreams or delusions (depends on how you look at them really) and make your own reality.  I won't spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it yet, but it's not the first time that Walter Mitty has made it to the silver screen.  There is an earlier film version starring Danny Kaye.  Ron Howard contemplated doing his portrayal of the character but things didn't work out for him.

As much as Bowie sings about this conversation between Ground Control and Major Tom, I couldn't help but think that at this pivotal moment in the movie, Walter is having this very same internal conversation with himself, even when in the movie starring Ben Stiller, Kirsten Wiig's character sings the song to him to motivate him to change his behaviour and move beyond his unknown.

I guess to avoid the trappings of having these Walter Mittyesque moments ourselves in our own lives, there is an element of risk that is involved.  We must take calculated risks to live the lives we were meant to live.  If we were meant to be overly cautious, what kind of life would that make to lead?  We wouldn't really be leading at all, but spending far too much time playing things safe and not really experiencing all that life has to offer and would that mean if we chose to daydream or have delusions about what we could have, should have and would have said and done, does that mean that we spend too much time living in the never was because we never did?

As we prepare to transition from the end of this year to the new year, there will most likely be moments that you recollect when you were a bit Mittyesque and wish you could have had the courage to do things differently, do things more boldly without the fear of how you are perceived by others.  Life is too short for regrets, so celebrate your triumphs, learn from the trials and continue to move towards the me you are meant to be.

So from Major Manu to Ground Control, rather than say, Planet Earth is blue and there is nothing I can do, I say, Check ignition and may God's love be with you.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Who can say where the road goes, where the day flows? Only Time....

And who cay say if your love grows, as your heart chose? Only Time.......

Enya's music has always haunted me on different occasions.
I haven't been what you would call a fan, but I've always been aware of her music.

This particular song "OnlyTime" has enjoyed renewed success in the American Top 40 charts thanks to its inclusion in a clever commercial featuring Jean Claude Van Damme showing he can still do the splits (even if it is between two huge trucks, don't try this at home kids!).  I love the simple understated arpeggios in the background that help to articulate the steady pulse.  The characteristic choral synthesiser sounds that provide harmonic accompaniment to Enya's lilting melody is a classic hallmark of her music.  Enya has also featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with her eerie music once again floating its way through Middle Earth.

In this holiday season, (both Christmas and also as we prepare for the impending New Year), the song reminds me about people who you lose and how you will cope with your loss.  It also makes you think about if you are coming to a fork in the road in your life and you are forced to make a decision that could alter the direction of your life forever, will you be equipped to make a decision and how will you know if you have made the right one? (Excuse the lack of punctuation, it's one of those statements where run-on sentences just need to happen!).

I often imagine that Time is an all-seeing figure who makes notes and takes stock of what happens in history, records events and situations that play out.  Does that mean God is the surveyor of Time and that even if bad things happens it's all part of what is meant to happen so people can experience good times, happy times, sad times and bad times?

Will what we do in our Time (because we don't know how much of it we all have as individuals), mean that we have to work smarter to make the best use of our Time as a collective to make things happen that make a positive difference in the world?

I love the way the song has a book end, that the first two questions that appear, are also sung in retrograde, and even the repetitive tolling of the words "only tine", which to me also symbolises that our Time in life will come full circle, from the cradle to the grave, from earth we came and to the earth we return when we die and that repetition suggests like the ebbing of the tide, that we are running out of time.

I guess I'm wondering, when do we get to know what Time knows?
Only Time will tell?

Who cay say if your love grows as your heart chose? Only time.......
And who can say where the road goes, where the day flows?  Only time......
Who knows? Only time...... Who knows? Only time.......

Saturday, 21 December 2013

She's just a girl and she's on fire...

Continuing the theme of sisterhood (and quite timely too with the presence of the stunningly talented Ms. Keys currently on tour in the southern hemisphere) "Girl on Fire" with its message of empowerment for women has multiple layers.

I love the song for so many reasons.  As a songwriter it appeals to my penchant for multiple meanings, word play, word painting, to provide the audience with a picture, moving images in the mind, a story that people can connect with.  Lyrics are important in a song, because as much as you can find expression in the many genres of instrumental music, there is something intimate about using music as a vehicle to "say" something that may not necessarily have the same impact just said aloud.

I love the fact that this female empowerment anthem highlights the duality of women.  The song boldly announces the fierce determination of women, how they can be staunch and gutsy (totally unfeminine characteristics so we've been lead to believe), publicly seen as being no-nonsense, don't-waste-my-time, confident women while at the same privately, women shoulder their own private pain and tragedies.

So how can a girl get to be on fire?  The circumstances that surround private pain and tragedies ignites that "flame that's in her eyes" and people can "watch her when she's lighting up the night".  You can only develop one's own fire, or transform yourself to be on fire based on experiences or situations that will lead you there.  There is the sense that passion and determination to succeed will put a girl on fire, and the loneliness conjures images of coldness and isolation, the opposite of being on fire.

Calling all women out there, enjoy being on fire and don't be afraid to revel in it.
People will watch you and see flames in your eyes, and they will admire you for what you do, how you work and the impact that your fire will have on the world.  In our times of coldness and isolation, (and we will have many moments like this), be prepared to set yourselves aflame again (when you are ready of course) and your fire can either warm others around you in their times of coldness and isolation, or you will inspire others to be on fire and spread like wildfire.

There are too many people out there who spend far too much time trying to put out other people's fires rather than spending time building their own fire.

Just don't put out other people's fires.  Start your own.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

We are family....I got all my sisters with me

Growing up with no sisters was nothing different for me.  Being the only girl was (and still is) the norm. Having 6 brothers and no sisters was at times, a challenge.

So what does being an only girl teach you about life?
It teaches you to be independent and fight for your own patch at home (a great life skill to have), but working collaboratively in a bustling Samoan household also meant that having brothers around me made me feel protected and loved.  Primary school was always a fun time because with an older brother at school, no boys would even dare to get cheeky.  Even with the younger brother with me at primary school, he also had a protective streak (comes with attending two primary schools in the other two distinct areas of Auckland - West Auckland and Central Auckland). The other brother was at intermediate school already and the other three brothers were already living overseas.

So how did I learn about being a sister?
Growing up in church with all of your church friends taught you socialisation skills and prepared you for the world.  Growing up with a very large extended family (both sides of the family too, this is quite typical of Samoan families!) allowed opportunities to consolidate my place in how families interact and work together to bring honour to one's family.

It quickly became apparent to me that my mother was a key factor in helping to develop my relationships and connections with my peers, girls my own age, as well as older females who would become role models and mentors.  Through life you may come across 'sisters from different misters' or 'brothers from another mother'.

Attending an all-girls high school was another key factor in helping to develop but I think even more importantly, cement my bonds with the sisterhood.  Going to high school in the early 90s (MC Hammer had just arrived on the scene, Bobby Brown was busy taking every little step) meant that we were just coming out of that era of "girls can do anything".  The feminist movement continued to gain momentum and was quite strong during that time (because the posters on the wall at school told me).

I think I just want to acknowledge all of the strong women in my life who I call "sister" and call me "sis" in return.  Even acknowledging women in their weak moments, because after all, without the weak moments that's how we become strong.

Whether we are sisters in Christ, sisters in arms (you know the causes we've been fighting and continue to rage against the machine!) sisters from different misters, sisters from different races and different places, in the many contexts I am privileged to be included, but thank you all very much ladies for everything that you are and for what you do.  I admire all of the mothers who want the best for their children and teach their children to be strong and smart about life and their choices, because as we know, those choices lead to experiences.

I reflect today on a younger brother who is celebrating his birthday.  And a sister in law who is also celebrating her birthday today.  Her son, my nephew is one of the greatest examples of a how a mother's love, good intentions and hopes have produced such a wonderful well-adjusted and prepared-for-the-world young man,  That is testament to a strong woman with high expectations and zero tolerance for mediocrity (love it!)

Please take the time to acknowledge the sisters in your lives and think long and hard about the value they have added to the richness of your own lives.  No matter where I go or what I do, there is always time for family.  And if you don't have time, it is time to make time.

We are family, I got all my sisters with me - even the ones who have passed on.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kiwi Samoan, NZ born Samoan, Hamo, coconut, fob, bunga, Pasifika, Polynesian, native, Pacific Islander, overstayer...

What's in a label?

Labels come in the form of brands or products that you have come to know and trust, brands that you may find a particular affinity with, some brands that are endorsed by celebrities you admire and you may even call some of these labels or brands, your favourites.

It can be challenging to deal with labels as an individual or a collective.  Especially when the labels associated with you or your group are negative, derogatory and sometimes even, completely missing  the mark.

In my relatively short life thus far, I have experienced or have been subject to many different labels attached to my ethnicity.  I haven't included "Pacifica" in the title because for me, it mixes English with reference to the Pacific and I guess it seems incorrect (let's be honest, it's actually completely wrong really!) to my sensibilities as a wordsmith.  Ill semantics at its worst or how Amy Winehouse puts it eloquently as "What kind of f***ery is this?"

+Te Mihinga Komene recently shared a link with me entitled "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis" from buzzfeed.com.  I read through this and chortled to myself as I realised yes, I can relate to that.  The link showed 21 different individuals holding signs of misconceptions or racial stereotypes (at least the most common ones that irritated them).  I reflected on these racial microaggressions and even came up with a top 5 list for myself:

1. You speak really good English!
2. Were you born here?
3. Do you speak fluent Samoan?
4. All Islanders are musical aye?
5. Are you Tongan or Filipino?

Yes these questions have irritated me over the years, these racial microaggressions that can niggle at you and if you let it, can seep into your skin and affect you to your core if you let it sink further enough.

I guess the thing that irks me is that racial microaggressions are commonplace but what about the other types of microaggressions that exist?  Employment microaggressions? Educational microaggressions?  Socio-economic microaggresssions?

It would be nice if we could learn more about each other and appreciate the cultural diversity, ethnic diversity and identity diversity that we bring to the table.  It would just be nice sometimes for people to ask the right questions, hey would it hurt to do a little research or reading before you bombard me with racial microaggressions, know me before you paint me with a broad brush stroke that is probably as thick as my lips or hips or the lucky dips that Pacific Islanders purchase in the hopes of winning the lottery or the hot chips that I eat on the odd occasion.

Kiwi Samoan, NZ born Samoan, Hamo, coconut, fob, Pasifika, Polynesian, Pacific Islander, overstayer.  Kiwis are flightless birds and our national icon but refer to Samoans who are Kiwis through and through, NZ born Samoans are Samoans who are born in Aotearoa, Hamo is a colloquial expression for Samoans, coconuts are hard nuts to crack (lovely term for islanders during the Dawn Raids) but are sweet and refreshing, fob is an acronym for "fresh off the boat" referring to new migrants from the islands and often used as a derogatory term, bunga (boonga) is another derogatory term, Pasifika describes people that the government uses when referring to Polynesians even though they have distinct ethnic groups, Polynesians are people from "many islands", natives are a quaint way of referring to people who are indigenous to the land or from a local area,  Pacific Islanders are people from the Pacific region, overstayers are people who overstay their welcome, hang on... am I an overstayer?

No, I was born here.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Rest well in eternal freedom Madiba

Watching the news reports and bulletins about the passing of Nelson Mandela raised to the surface many thoughts and memories I shared with Madiba (yes I know, who could compare their meagre lives to that of such a great yet humble leader?).  The news reports gave important dates about Madiba's life that I found resonated in my own life, and isn't that really what life is all about?  When current events - global disasters or euphoric moments that will ring through history, everybody thinks about where they were during those times.

The 1980s saw the release of The Specials "Free Nelson Mandela" song. I remember dancing along to this unaware of who the song was about at the time and the significance of why Nelson Mandela needed to be free.  Enter John Minto and his like-minded peers and the Springbok Tour of '81.  I couldn't quite grasp the gravity of the situation at the time, but as an adult, I fully appreciate the protest stance in Rugby Park in Hamilton.  In 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from his life sentence imprisonment, thanks in part to the political pressure from around the world, especially after the world caught a glimpse of what apartheid meant in South Africa with media footage releasing images of police shooting innocent children.  I wasn't much older than those children who were killed, starting high school at the same time and the news was quickly subsumed by other news - the Auckland-hosted Commonwealth Games.

By the end of my high school career in 1994, Madiba became the first democratically elected black president of South Africa (that blacks could participate in the voting process).   The Rainbow Nation was further invigorated with the Springboks winning the highly coveted Rugby World Cup.  Like many New Zealanders, I was crushed by the defeat (as were the All Blacks who played their hearts out that day) but once again, not until many years later, did I fully appreciate the impact of the win, as depicted in the Clint Eastwood-directed, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon-starring blockbuster film "Invincible".

Madiba had so many quotes as a freedom fighter, quotes to do with survival and self-discovery and such quotes would not have been made possible without being made to sacrifice so much - some sacrifices he made willingly and others he was forced to make.  My favourite quote of Madiba comes from his view on perseverance:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

Leave the journey for others to walk, to conquer their own great hills and once they have, they too can see glorious vistas like you have.  We know that we must fulfil great responsibilities that come with this freedom.

Rest well Madiba, for your long walk to freedom has now ended.
Rest well in eternal freedom Madiba.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I never dreamed you'd leave in summer

It has been just over six months since my husband passed away.
Loma Junior Semeatu passed away on Wednesday 22nd May 2013 at 6:17am.
On November 30th at 6:17pm, it was exactly "six months, eight days, twelve hours".
(Watch Brian McKnight's music video clip - 6-8-12 if you don't get the reference).
The chorus of this particular song says it all for me.

Losing a loved one, regardless of who they are, is always tough, and their physical absence leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of your life.  Depending on the nature of your relationship with the dearly departed, there are a myriad of feelings and emotions that surround losing a mother, father, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, son, daughter, niece, nephew, aunty, uncle (and that's not even counting those who you loved that are not connected by blood - but you consider family).

You start to think about how much they meant to you in your life experiences together (and how much they continue to mean to you as you move on through life) by remembering things they said to get you through tough situations.

People have often asked me how I have been and wondered if I am ok.
I guess this blog post is for those people that want to know, but have never asked because they either don't know how to ask me or want to ask, but don't want me to know they're asking (you catch my drift....).

My husband and I did not have a conventional marriage - the way our lives were structured was not conducive to people's perceptions of what a marriage should be or should behave, because of circumstances beyond our control.  People close to us knew this - accepted this - and could see quite clearly that we loved each other.

At his burial service, I couldn't say any words.  To me it didn't seem like there were enough words that could encapsulate my love for him, words that could be enough to pay tribute to him.  I could only play music for him.  We had times when we were angry with each other, frustrated with each other, laughed at and with each other, and those non-verbal moments with each other that nobody else understood, but we did with our secretive smiles and raised eyebrows.

One of the many passions we shared together was our love of music.  Loma had such an eclectic taste in music and I was always in awe of his ear, he could play guitar, piano, bass, drums and oh that voice.  All of these things he did naturally and with no effort.  He was always keen to play music to me - some new music discovery he had found. He always wanted to know what I thought about a song and we would discuss what we liked and didn't like about the music.  Now that he's no longer physically with me, I have continued to feel his presence around me.  He speaks to me through music.  It's a very uplifting experience!  One example is, just the other week I was at the Pacific Graduation Celebration hosted by the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland.  I was there to celebrate the achievement of my Master's degree.  Waiting outside the venue, I could hear music wafting out into the foyer.  The song I heard was "Pualena" by Vika.  This was the song that Loma sang to me on our wedding day as I walked down the aisle.  It provided me with a sense of comfort, knowing that he was there to celebrate with me.  The song lyrics speak volumes about his love for me.

Everyday is different and brings with it new challenges.  It took me about two months to remember that he was gone, because I would wake up thinking he was still here.  I had to train my brain to recognise this every time I woke up.  Every time I had great news to share, my instinct was to tell him first, and it took me some time to remember, I couldn't tell him physically.

I often think about this next song by Stevie Wonder.  It reminds me that even though time passes, in your darkest hours, you still feel the pain.  The final note in the song, breaks my heart every time I hear it.  Because it almost sounds like Stevie is trying to hang on to the final note as long he can, like I do with the wonderful memories of Loma.

 "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" - Stevie Wonder
I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
I thought you would go then come back home
I thought the cold would leave by summer
But my quiet nights will be spent alone

You said there would be warm love in springtime
That was when you started to be cold
I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
But now I find myself all alone

You said then you'd be the life in autumn
Said you'd be the one to see the way
I never dreamed you'd leave in summer
But now I find my love has gone away

Why didn't you stay?

His final words to me were to be happy, that he loved me very much.
He also said that if I find someone else, marry him, because he wanted me to be happy.
I'm not particularly keen on that one.  I can't imagine my life with anybody else.

I guess what I'm saying is, I miss you Loma.  I know you're always with me.
I've got some more work to do down here, but save a space for me when it's time to see you again.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wind beneath my wings. . .

"I would be nothing without you"..... the last line in one of the verses of the epic ballad "Wind beneath my wings" as sung by Bette Midler in the feel-good movie "Beaches".  The sentiment of the song is a tribute to a friend who has always played a supportive role, always cheered for the successes that the singer has enjoyed, to the point where the singer has also taken their friendship for granted.

In Pasifika cultures, we rarely do anything for ourselves as individuals, as we live, work and breathe as a collective and we are always conscious of representing who we are, defined further by who we belong to as children and where we come from.  Pasifika parents raised with a traditional heritage childhood have the option of passing on their heritage knowledge to their children to the fullest extent or not at all or maybe just a little, to the least extent, depending on what they value about their heritages.

10. Representation (e.g. Successful career pathways reflect on parents).
As is the increasing case for gifted Pasifika students, their success in job pathways and career opportunities raise the status and prestige of the parents, as their success is seen as a reflection on the parents' upbringing and social standing within Pasifika communities.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

If we deconstruct what representation means, it is about an individual who stands in a place to speak for and act for others, especially in an official capacity.  If I am looking here about how a gifted Pasifika student is seen as a representation of their parents and families, the actions that they make reflects on the family, and in this case, those actions of giftedness in the realisation of talents means that the representation is highly valued and highly prized and most certainly, highly celebrated.

Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are negative connotations associated with poor or bad representation.  I haven't seen this played out with more impact than with the recent comments  made by TVNZ's Andrew Shaw about Polynesians in Auckland.  When other people reflect on the representation of your peoples in a negative sense, what right do they have to speak or act on your behalf?  Note: I use people in plural form here because Pasifika peoples are diverse and have specific ethnic groupings as well as socially constructed identities that embody the diversity within those ethnic groupings. Good to go?  Moving on... what can we make of this? Where to from here?

Be the best of who you are, be the best of what you aspire to be, and be the best example of representation not just for yourself, but also for others who you are in a position to represent (especially in an official capacity - but in saying that, for Pasifika peoples, every time we speak in a public forum representing who we are - we are always in an official capacity).

I guess what I'm really saying here is:

Be the wind beneath people's wings I reckon, and move beyond the wind beneath racial slurs.

Monday, 2 December 2013

(Glad I'm) Not a Kennedy

Conspiracy theories aside surrounding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, there has been no more romanticised political leader than this popular figure of the free world (pre-Obama).  New Zealand female singer/songwriter Shona Laing had an unlikely hit with "(Glad I'm) Not a Kennedy", describing the tragedy that befell the dynamic leader, implications of his death and the future of democracy (more emphasis placed on the cost of freedom and peace for humanity and a civilised society).

It makes me think about how you define leadership.  Whether we're talking about heroic or distributed, leadership and what qualities of leadership are deemed important or effective for that matter, to encourage and empower people who look to you to lead.

9. Leadership (e.g. Faithful service progresses to leadership).
Gifted Pasifika students are seen as leaders once they have served faithfully in their church and family contexts. Once other members of the community or village have seen that they have served faithfully, expectations and obligations to lead follow. (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).  

I think about the mantle of responsibility that being a leader brings.  In my own context as a Samoan, leadership is defined through service to others and a great leader is able to listen to sound advice, be an advocate for his or her people and be the conduit or agent for change.

O le ala ile pule ole tautua.  This is a well known Samoan adage that translates as "the pathway to leadership is through service.  John F. Kennedy was well on his way to strengthening the road to equality for African Americans in his great nation and for some this was not the pathway they envisioned America to walk.

In your own spaces, think about how you lead and if you act as the advocate for your people and become the conduit or agent for change.  Leadership is not about power, it is about being able to stand up in adverse times and situations that test your character and may even shake you to your inner core.
I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy, but I will take from John F. Kennedy, his passion for social justice and the ability to make decisions that although for some are unpopular or take them out of their comfort zone, but allow their fellow man to experience empathy by walking in another man's shoes.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Language . . .

Annie Crummer's "Language" is one of my favourite songs featuring the beautiful reo Kuki Airani (Cook Islands language).  The song features the steady rhythmic strumming of ukulele, Annie's soaring vocals and her own layered harmonies, which she intersperses with the syncopated rhythms of the male background vocals.  I particularly love the opening line which speaks about the importance of language, to hold onto your heritage language and to never forget it.

8. Language fluency (e.g. Communicates in oral/written forms).
The overwhelming response by parents is that gifted Pasifika students are able to speak, understand, or write in their mother tongues.  The identity continuum of language fluency shows that despite where New Zealand-born Pasifika may fall, that it is the school's responsibility to value and cater for the needs of the differing types of gifted Pasifika students.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

There have been debates around language, the heritage languages of migrants, more specifically about whether you are the Pasifika culture that you are, if you know your language.

Growing up in my own household, my brothers and I were encouraged to speak our mother tongue for fear that we would lose it.  We were not allowed to speak English at home.  English language was relegated to our public school education.  Samoan language was reinforced in our church, known by Samoans as the E.F.K.S (Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano i Samoa), known in English as the C.C.C.S. (Christian Congregational Church of Samoa). Being a Sunday School student and youth member allowed me the opportunity to practise my Samoan language skills, learning how to address Samoan elders in my church using formal Samoan and then speaking informal Samoan with my peers.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my parents' insistence on maintaining my first language would lead me to spaces and contexts that serve a greater purpose.  Being able to speak in my mother tongue has allowed me to communicate and show respect by honouring my parents' wishes to maintain our culture, even when we are far from our homeland.  Regardless of how much of your heritage language that you can speak, just remember that as Annie Crummer sings, your language is manea..... e manea....

Monday, 25 November 2013

Royals. . .

The collective histories of pre-missionary and pre-colonial Polynesia reveal a lot of cross-cultural contact and accounts for much of the language fluidity and transference between the islands, through intermarriage and war (you know, the stuff of legends).  Traditional songs and dances of the Pacific record these historical events and detail key points that impact (way back when) on daily life and thus creating oral histories.  Love songs, depictions of cultural activities and the daily demands of village life are also popular topics that feature in Pacific performing arts.  The ideas of lineage and birthright conjure up images of royalty and the associated nobility in their respective kingdoms.

7. Lineage/Birthright (e.g. Family traditions shape experiences).
Gifted Pasifika students are able to relate to family traditions which dictate the social and cultural protocols which highlight obedience, respect and humility.  If Pasifika students are from families which have significant expectations that pertain to the maintenance of family titles or duties that are specific to their families, they endeavour to excel and maintain connections that will advance their families, village links and community status.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

How these ideas of hierarchy with respect to monarchies of the past (and the present, including those that are constitutional) help to provide the background to identifying a Pasifika person's place, their family in their local communities and in the world is quite a big deal.

Lorde hits it on the head in her breakthrough smash hit "Royals", where her ideas about how she sees herself and the expectations or external pressures from the world's perspective (including her own derision) on how the nature of behaving as a pre-pop star, danger of slipping into prima donna pop star mode and even the reluctant pop star, could create conflict.

And even though in our worlds we may never be royals because it don't run in our blood, but to some extent we have a responsibility and obligation to represent a cause (whatever that may be, or up to you how many causes you want to take up) because we must have purpose in what we do (otherwise what's the point right?) and if people are inclined to listen to your voice, take on that responsibility and obligation to contribute positively to those spaces, their spaces, your spaces, our spaces.

In the mode of acting royal, we have the power in our own spheres of influence to make a diff, cos we are the diff and we can at least be agents of change, if we'll never be royals.

Try again. . .

One of the greatest hip hop/r'n'b female artists of my generation was Aaliyah.  Her life taken in her prime was a devastating blow to the music world, while on location for a video shoot for her last single "Rock the boat".

One of my favourite songs, "Try Again", in particular with the hook (it's the catchy part of the song that makes it memorable) has the lyrics in the chorus "dust yourself off and try again, dust yourself off and try again, try again".  These words resonate with me around the concept of resilience.  When life deals you a hand that seems like you've lost the round or you've backed yourself into a corner, there is always a way out.  All Black legend, Sir John Kirwan and his "hold onto hope" campaign, raising awareness for depression is a prime example of resilience.

6. Resilience (e.g. Reacts to situations with purpose and dialogue).
Gifted Pasifika students are continually being supported to react to situations that have failed outcomes, to continue to persevere and show great determination.  Rather than wallow in self-pity, Pasifika students see setbacks as opportunities to aim for even higher and achieve to their personal best so that they are able to react more positively in any given situation. (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

In my relatively short life experience (thus far), I have been dealt some heavy blows, and been in situations where I thought - gees, can't see myself rising above this one!
But I'm reminded of the values that I have had the fortune to have been raised with (and continue to practise) because it has contributed to the makeup of who I am today.

I have always held the belief that whoever and wherever we are in our lives, that we are meant to be the best of who we can be.  Ambassadors of our ethnic groups, champions of our cultures and leaders of our nations.  How we interact with others dictates whether we are can move forward together with a shared vision and overcome any obstacles to achieve success as a collective.

So wherever you happen to be in your life right now, if you're struggling, don't wallow in self-pity.  Own your emotions and get on with making positive contributions in your world.

Dust yourself off and try again, dust yourself and try again, try again....

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

I'm a huge fan of the classic crooner Andy Williams.  Famous for hits such as "Moon River" and "Music to watch girls by", it's his Christmas classic "It's the most wonderful time of the year" that has been bouncing around in my head (and being secretly envious of the studio audience on Ellen's talk show every time that song comes on, has NOTHING to do with it).  The media frenzy of Christmas advertising is now upon us and it reminds me of other Christmas songs that have been successful and have made impact world wide.

The 80s was quite famous for epic collaborative charity songs such as "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid (1984) and "We Are The World" by USA for Africa (1985).  The impact of these songs in highlighting the dire situations faced by countries suffering from severe famine, hunger, malnutrition and disease brought on by poverty was phenomenal.  To me it shows the power of people working together to use their musical talents to raise awareness of a situation that needs global attention and requires people to value relationships with their fellow man.

Relationships are a key cultural identifier for gifted Pasifika students.

5. Relationships (e.g. Uses talents to promote relationships).
Pasifika parents encourage their children to use their talents to foster positive relationships with other gifted Pasifika students.  Once Pasifika students are actively engaged in using their talents of music, sports, academic achievement, social experience, they are able to create events for themselves which will showcase these abilities. (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

Band Aid and USA for Africa used the musical talents and popularity of high profile musicians/recording artists to raise money for charity.  Live Aid was an event that they created to showcase their talents once again to raise more money for the cause.  Both songs were re-released with a revised or new collection of recording artists.  It made me think about what some modern day collaborative efforts that we know about........ (still thinking.....could just be because it's past my bedtime in NZ.....)

When I see the title "Do They Know It's Christmas?" it rings of a challenge, a call to arms to the world asking,

"How will you ensure that other people less fortunate than you - know it's Christmas too?"    

It will be my first Christmas without my husband this year.  He loved Christmas and spending time with family.  However you choose to spend your Christmas, it would be nice to do one selfless thing for someone else.  Just to make sure that everyone knows it's Christmas.

Monday, 18 November 2013

You gotta be. . .

One of my favourite songs by one of my favourite British female singers, Des'ree, has got to be "You Gotta Be."  When it was first released I used it to get through my final year of high school.  It is a catchy pop tune, that affirms the listener about how much power or control they can have in their life, every day life, if they can learn to trust themselves by being versatile in different situations, to learn to be the best of how they "gotta be" in order to rise above any adversity that may come their way.

Being an ambassador for the various contexts that you live in, work in, play in and slide between, means that you embody what the song suggests about the different ways of being for an individual.  Des'ree used this song as a way to get over heartbreak in a relationship and quickly learned that to be resilient and heal the hurt, you need to get back on that horse so to speak and live to ride another day.

4. Commitment to Excellence (e.g. Seeks self-improvement).
Pasifika students are continually motivated by their parents and communities to improve themselves in whatever context they are in.  Talents are products of the gifts being realised, so Pasifika students when raised in a nurturing environment are able to seek opportunities for excellence and pursue excellence for family pride and also for personal achievement. (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

For me, the bridge of the song has the most poignant lyrics for me "time asks no questions, it goes on without you. leaving you behind if you can't stand the pace".  This cultural identifier for giftedness highlights that motivation is a key factor in improving yourself.

The song has enjoyed success with its many releases over the years, reaching the top 10 in the U.S.A., used for TV advertisements and network news broadcasts.  It even reached number 1 in Spain.  The opening lines of the song certainly ring true for me and how I think about what impact I can make in the world today that has implications for our collective futures.

"Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds
Try to keep your head up to the sky".

What if God was one of us?

Joan Osbourne's one-hit wonder poses the idea about God being a part of the human race; what if He was a normal human being, just the average Joe Bloggs going about his business like a stranger on a bus.  The picture that Osbourne paints is one of God wanting to be unnoticed, become part of the faceless masses, choosing not to engage with society.

This idea contrasts with the notion of "church affiliation" for gifted Pasifika students.
The contrast is in the way in which students choose to engage in society because they understand in order to be a part of the world, you must participate in it.

3. Church Affiliation (e.g. Knowledge and experience to benefit others).
Students who are raised predominantly in a Christian religious environment, whether it is in a church which speaks their mother tongue, or an English-based faith, extol the virtues of using their knowledge and experience gained as an individual to benefit others.  It is important for gifted and talented Pasifika students to be able to use their skills and experiences in church to be able to transfer to their school context, for example, public speaking, showing signs of respect, behaving in accordance to social norms and questioning for understanding or clarification.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

For Pasifika learners in high schools, who display a strong connection with the church affiliation identifier, they will most likely be looked upon as a role model in their church communities.  They are seen as prospective leaders of tomorrow because in their church they are raised and encouraged to uphold the tenets that are preached and strive to practice the beliefs in acts of faith within the church and more importantly outside of church.

The church affiliation identifier above relates to students who associate with churches that use their heritage language and/or those churches that use the English language.  However there are Pasifika families who do not attend church (not pouring judgement here, just stating some facts based on conversations with Pasifika people who have told me that they don't go to church) because they work or have made the choice not to attend church, or affiliating with a church is no longer the priority that historically it once was.  Sometime sports tournaments are on days when Pasifika people attend their main church service of the week, when they observe their Sabbath (Saturday for Seventh Day Adventists and Sunday for everybody else).

Later in the song, Osbourne sings about if God had a face what would He look like, and if we did know what He looked like, would it mean that we would have to believe in all of the attributes that are attached to Him.  The attributes (according to artwork through the centuries as depicted in masterpieces commissioned by popes during the ages) are the objects or things attached to a saint.  In the context of Osbourne's song, if God had attributes, He would have heaven, Jesus and the saints.  I wonder what attributes we all have attached to ourselves and if others around us can see them?  I guess once you can see everybody's attributes in that sense, it makes it easier for us to connect and belong.  Maybe that's why church affiliation is such a huge identifier for church-going learners, as it is through their faith in God that they can connect and belong.  So that God isn't one of us, but more, a part of us.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Do you remember the time?

The King of Pop (Michael Jackson) was such a huge influence in my early years of music appreciation.   I had an older brother who absolutely idolised him in every way possible (right down to the jerry curl), dance moves and we can't forget the sunglasses, white glove (I never did see a sequinned one...) and black pointed shoes.  "Remember the Time" had one of the best music videos with appearances by Eddie Murphy as Pharaoh, Iman as his queen and Magic Johnson as the faithful servant.

The strongest memory from the song was the big dance sequence (when isn't there an epic dance sequence in an MJ song - there just HAS to be one) where MJ shows off his vocal skills, scatting in some places.  But what sticks in my mind is one of the lines which suggests that he and the queen of Egypt were "on the phone, till three".  Historically, no phones in Egypt.... but the second cultural identifier for gifted Pasifika students does value memory:

2. Memory (e.g. Cites formal Pasifika customs, familial and village links)
Students are able to formally recite customs, protocols, family/ancestral history and links to honorific addresses for village genealogy.  This is similar to the Aboriginal emphasis on kinship and family ties, where relationships with family members and being able to memorise specific and detailed genealogy is highly prized as a status symbol. (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

For diaspora Pacific Islanders who live away from their motherlands, being able to formally recite customs and understand genealogy is taught by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, chiefs, elders, so that it becomes ingrained in the memory.  For future generations to maintain their connection with their ancestral homelands, oral histories must be recorded, transferred into writing - even visiting their homelands to connect with the land.  Why is this important? Because when we're asked "Do you remember the time?", we need to be able to recall what we are being asked to remember, or we run the risk of losing who we are, together with our memories.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

"Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon..."

As a young child growing up in the 80s, I loved listening to Boy George and the Culture Club sing  their smash hit "Karma Chameleon".  I wasn't sure if it was because I liked the harmonica solos or enjoyed watching George's boyish dancing.  It wasn't until I was much older that I realised that the upbeat rhythm of the song contradicted the heartfelt plea of the lyrics.  The story behind the song speaks about George's frustration with the drummer's flippant treatment of their relationship, fluctuating between women and George, as outlined in the chorus "you come and go, you come and go".

Adaptability as a cultural identifier for Pasifika giftedness has similar connotations (not the flippant treatment part) but the part that is associated with the ability for gifted Pasifika students to flow in and out and between their different worlds, to come and go.  The flow suggests a sophisticated fluidity that appears seamless and in fact highlights the gifted Pasifika child's ability to excel in both worlds - the Pasifika world and the Western world with ease.  Being able to translate (literally and figuratively) between worlds, empowers gifted Pasifika students to engage confidently in both worlds.

1. Adaptability - e.g. Strategically adapts to NZ or Pasifika way of thinking
Students are able to move between worlds depending on what is required of them having mastered the shift between cultural capitals that allow opportunity for success.  Students who are strong in their heritage languages are able to translate between worlds, whereas students who are not so strong in their heritage languages are at least familiar with the processes for socialisation in both worlds which steer them well for understanding expected behaviours and acceptance.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

In saying that, what I'm starting to notice is that there are more worlds than just the cultural worlds that students need to navigate through, the contexts within these worlds are becoming more diverse.
This means that the diversity is not just in reference to cultural diversity and the interactions of these groups, but we're talking about the multiples layers within diversity - the diversities of diversity if you will.

Thinking about these multiple layers of diversities and maybe even the "diverse-cities" that we live in, means that if we don't spend our time trying to understand how to engage with others who are different to us, it means that we limit our abilities and capabilities to be one with our adaptabilities. (I feel a rap song coming on..).

Something to think about as we come and go, come and go...

Monday, 11 November 2013

Who are you? Who who? Who who?

The Who's "Who are you" is a nice backdrop to the idea behind the identity continuum.
Not because it's the theme song of one of my all-time favourite TV shows, but because the background of the song suggests that it is a desperate plea from a man questioning his place in society, wondering about who people are in relation to him, which also prompts questions of self-identity.  There is reference to God and asking Him about who He is (questioning things beyond one's control I suspect) and the man in the song also states "God there's got to be another way."  This statement resonates with me in difficult times of adversity.

My old alma mater is a grammar school and has the lovely Latin motto "per angusta ad augusta" - meaning "through trials to triumphs".  But before I indulge in rose-coloured memories of those schoolgirl days (that's another post waiting in the wings), back to the topic at hand.

The identity continuum is a framework that shows the multiple identities of ethnic groups.
It is a transferable approach where ethnic groups can see the multiple identities of their people like all the colours of the rainbow (variations and shades, each bold in their own way).

Perception/perspective/opinion goes a long way into shaping who values what type of identity one holds, how they think they are being perceived by others, and how these multiple identities fare in an education system.  From a personal level, I believe that it is the state's responsibility to educate her citizens, regardless of what type of individual they are or how they are placed, regardless of how they see themselves.  This also means that the framework could be extended even further to include not just ethnic groups, but a way to consider gender too, or anything else that could be considered and pondered upon, to understand, know, appreciate and empathise with people, rather than label people for identification purposes, treating them like artefacts in a museum....

Imagine if we were treated like artefacts?  Once we start treating people like objects of the past, a memory of the current reality, we face the fear of devaluing our humanity, losing our self-identity and scrambling to construct identities that are palatable to the eyes that see us.

Who are you?  Who who? Who who?

No matter how the world defines you, have the strength of conviction to value who you are.

Shift Happens

"Shift" is more than a key on a keyboard.

When you press it together with numbers, it introduces symbols that can heighten what you write by adding expression, like exclamation marks when you want to emphasise a point, or parentheses/brackets when you want to add an aside, provide further information or an academic reference.

"Shift" is situated on both sides of the keyboard.
This means when you type, you can access it quickly depending on its proximity to the letters you select to create your piece of writing.

At its most basic level, pressing "shift" can temporarily convert your text into upper case (of course if you get tired of holding down "shift", you can hit "caps lock" and start shouting in the virtual world, which is characteristically considered unacceptable in online etiquette).

With the different functions that "shift" has on a keyboard, it happens because you pressed "shift".  How easy would it be to take control of your own contexts and just make shift happen with an easy press of a button?  This makes me think about how I shift in my own life, what shifts occur around me and how shift happens in other contexts.  I said shift happens, not the other type of thing that happens...

Subtle changes in status, position or transference, exchanging one thing for the other, or making a slight adjustment - does shift improve what we do, think, say and feel?  Is somebody telling us how to shift or when to shift?  What leads to or prompts shift and how will we know that shift has happened if we don't know if we would like to shift?

Do you want someone to convince you to shift, be in control of the shift or empower others to make a shift for the better?  Who knows what better means these days?

Shift is inevitable.
Whether you make shift happen or shift happens to you - shift happens.

This blog post is dedicated to +Anthony Faitaua for giving me the title :-)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Getting a niu (new) perspective - Samoan identity model

The concept of an identity continuum is most definitely transferable across all cultures - it is cross- cultural, the specifics of how an ethnic group identifies within their own ethnic group is forever changing, as new identity constructs are formed based on globalisation - the influences of other cultures, time - as we move towards an ever-changing future of the unknown, choices - as we decide how we will live (values), in the contexts and spaces we find ourselves living our experiences.

I have had the great fortune of being able to live the way I live based on the life-changing decisions of my parents to migrate to New Zealand from Samoa in pursuit of a better future.  What I have discovered and found extremely interesting is that my parents have raised me with what I call "snapshot Samoan values".  I have come to realise that I have been raised in the memories of values and practices that they have brought with them from Samoa at the time of their migration.  This means that while growing up in Aotearoa with these Samoan values, Samoa has continued to evolve in our physical absence, with the impact of globalisation, time and choices. 

These have served to inform my ideas around what a Samoan identity model looks like for Samoans as diaspora societies in their adopted homelands for generations, for recent Samoan migrants to their new adopted homelands and for Samoans who continue to live in the motherland.

Translations: gagana Samoa (Samoan language) Fa'aSamoa (Samoan customs, traditions and protocols), Samoa mao'i (hardcore Samoan), "Samoa mo Samoa" (Samoans for Samoa - historical reference to Samoa's desire for self-governance and independence from the time of the Mau movement during the NZ administration of Samoa).

Multiple identities of Samoans
1. Samoa mao'i - "Samoa mo Samoa"
2. Fluent gagana Samoa, no fa'aSamoa
3. Fluent Fa'aSamoa , no gagana Samoa
4. Some gagana Samoa, no Fa'aSamoa
5. Some Fa'aSamoa, no gagana Samoa 
6. Brought up in the Fa'aSamoa, chooses not to engage in Fa'aSamoa or speak gagana Samoa
7. Not brought up in the Fa'aSamoa but chooses to engage in Fa'aSamoa and gagana Samoa
8. No gagana Samoa, no Fa'aSamoa

Contributing factors to the multiple identities of Samoans:

1. Diaspora Samoan vs. Samoan born Samoan
2. Second language learner (gagana Samoa is the mother tongue)
3. Academic language learner (gagana Samoa is studied at tertiary level)
4. Passive vs. Active (understanding gagana Samoa rather than speaking it)
5. Relationship between gagana Samoa and Fa'aSamoa, practises gagana Samoa
6. Formal school learning environment (does it allow for gagana Samoa and Fa'aSamoa?)
7. Family environment (is gagana Samoa or Fa'aSamoa practised as family values?)
8. Palagi showing cultural competence  - Palagi developing fluent gagana Samoa and now teaching it
9. New milliennium Samoan 
10. Ethnicity vs. Identity

This blog post is dedicated to Sonya (@vanschaijik) who requested a Samoan perspective of my last post on the Māori Identity model.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Looking beyond the haka - humble musings of a Hamo observer

The beautiful thing about the human mind is being able to have different perspectives about different things.  Born and raised in Aotearoa, I have been aware of my position as a Pasifika individual in society.  It has been a learned experience, doused with lessons of history, factual information from bi-cultural perspectives and stories that highlight the birth of a bi-cultural nation.

My initial observations of the Māori world (te ao Māori) was through learning different kupu on PlaySchool and being mistaken for the real Manu in my kapa haka costume (thanks Rawiri Paratene for those early days) and of course Olly Olsen (keeping me cool till After School).

In the past year I have thought a lot about what it means to identify as Māori in Aotearoa.
It prompted me to create an identity continuum about the different types of Māori whānau that I have come across in my wanderings and wonderings.

At this point, I need to insert a caveat/warning/disclaimer - my intent is not to offend Māori by making assumptions with the following, my intent is to share with you what's in my head.  I am interested in increasing my own knowledge and extending my learning, and I would follow a similar process when thinking about what it means for the disaggregation of Pasifika ethnic groups in this context.

Māori Identity Model 

Multiple identities of Māori
1. Hāti Māori - tu te ao, tu te po
2. Fluent reo, no tīkanga
3. Fluent tikanga, no reo
4. Some reo, no tīkanga
5. Some tīkanga, no reo
6. Brought up hāti, chooses not to engage in tīkanga or reo
7. Not brought up hāti Māori but chooses to engage in tīkanga and reo
8. No reo, no tīkanga

Contributing factors to the multiple identities of Māori:
1. Urban Māori vs. Rural Māori
2. Second language learner
3. Academic language learner
4. Passive vs. Active
5. Relationship between reo and tikanga, practising the reo
6. Formal school learning environment
7. Family environment
8. Pākeha showing cultural competence  - Pākeha developing fluent te reo and now teaching it
9. New milliennium Māori
10. Ethnicity vs. Identity

I have been fascinated in my interactions with different groups of Māori to hear about what each individual values and practises, juxtaposed against collective values of their hāpu and iwi, as well as a collective national identity for Māori - these are common issues that Pasifika peoples face in Aotearoa within their own spaces in their respective communities.
This is probably someone's Master's thesis waiting to happen and when I look at the existence of these multiple Māori identities, even the diversity of what being Māori is, it makes me think about the future of Māori in Aotearoa as the indigenous people of the land.

Why should I care?  It's not because I share the same name as the lovely kapa haka performer on PlaySchool but because I feel the obligation but more so the desire to help support Māori tikanga and reo as a historical migrant kiwi.  How we see ourselves can help to shape our futures.

This blog post is dedicated to Te Ahua Park and Moana Timoko for being the long time listeners, first time callers regarding these humble musings of a Hamo observer.

Accepting Friend Requests

As far as I can remember, generations of Samoan migrants to Aotearoa have had mixed experiences about acceptance.  Waves of migrants arrived (no pun intended, as a few arrived here on boats), beginning with political prisoners exiled here during the New Zealand Administration of Samoa, fast forward through the decades to scholarship students arriving in the 1930s 1940s and 1950s to study (including trainee nurses and doctors who then returned to Samoa) and even, keen-as-mustard factory workers arriving in the 1970s to meet the labour boom. 

Growing up it was instilled in me from an early age that language fluency in my mother tongue was critically important. We were raised to believe that we were not Samoan unless we were able to speak our language fluently in the home, at church and more importantly to our church elders and older family members who we were taught to respect.  

Making friends growing up, I wasn't aware that I was of a different ethnic group (to most of my friends) until I attended a friend's birthday party.  

As birthday parties for primary school students go in the 1980s it was a festive affair, with balloons, sparkles and glitter all over the place, even cocktail sausages with Wattie's tomato sauce (ah nothing like processed meat on a toothpick), with a medley of A-ha/Madonna and Tiffany recorded carefully onto cassette tape, blaring from the gigantic stereo. 

It was time to open the gifts and my friend marvelled at each one she opened, followed by shrieks of delight with each gift revealed until she was covered in a mountain of wrapping paper.  By the time she reached my gift, it was the last one to be opened.  I had carefully wrapped up a shell necklace that my grandmother had brought from Samoa when she had come for a visit.  It was smooth and polished, made from tiny white and brown shells, and she immediately put it on.  She called out to her mother who had come into the room to see the gift.  She stopped in her tracks and asked my friend to take it off and put it away.  Her daughter refused and being 6 years old and having something pretty to wear around her neck, danced around the room and kept showing off the necklace to her mother, waving it in front of her cheekily as if in a dance of defiance.

The necklace to me represented a treasure that I wanted to give to my friend.
The look on her mother's face told me that she did not want her daughter to receive it.
I mean, the little dance of defiance didn't necessarily help the situation either, but hey I didn't teach her the dance.

The next day at school, I didn't see my friend at the playground.
After school, her mother came to collect her from school and I saw that same look in her eyes.  English was my second language, but her eyes told me to stay away, like I wasn't allowed to be friends with her daughter.

My grandmother had explained to me the significance of the necklace and the importance of giving gifts to people as tokens of love and respect and we expect nothing in return.

A memory for a 5 year old that replays in my mind when I think about accepting friend requests.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Gifted Pasifika learners - what do they look like?

This blog post is dedicated to Vivienne Russell, a dear friend and colleague who has been the inspiration behind my keen interest in Pasifika giftedness.  Congratulations on receiving confirmation of your Masters in Education, focusing on gifted Māori learners and engaging whānau :-)

(A bit of a Twilight Zone moment really - she called to tell me her news when I was writing this post!! Remember what I said about like minds in the last post people?? Connections, connections!!)

Back to the studio.....
In 2009, I had the privilege of being able to develop cultural identifiers based on concepts of Pasifika giftedness from consultation with Pasifika parent communities of the school I worked in, together with NZPPTA Pasifika teachers in Auckland.

Intrigued? It would probably pay for you to have a read of the article where I discuss the cultural identifiers first, before coming back to the blog.  So, here are some options.  Don't shoot me, but I will probably sound like a call centre operator right now....

1. If you need to read the full article - click here
2. If you have already read the article, please hold...... now carry on reading!

I wanted to highlight the cultural identifiers here as I understand that some people might not have already had access to it before and what better way to share it than on a blog!

1, Adaptability (for example, strategically adapts to New Zealand or Pasifika thinking)

2. Memory (for example. cites formal Pasifika customs and familial and village links)

3. Church affiliation (for example, uses knowledge and experience to benefit others)

4. Commitment to excellence (for example, seeks self-improvement)

5. Relationships (for example, uses talents to promote positive relationships)

6. Resilience (for example, reacts to situations with purpose and dialogue)

7. Lineage/birthright (for example, family traditions shape experience)

8. Language fluency (for example, communicates in oral/written forms of their mother language) - identity continuum features quite heavily here (future subject of another blog!)

9.  Leadership (for example, faithful service progresses to leadership)

10. Representation (for example, successful career pathways reflect on parents)

The article is a result of a workshop I presented at the AAEGT 11th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness hosted in Darling Harbour, Sydney, 29th July - 1st August 2010.

  • Faaea-Semeatu, T. (2011). “Celebrating Gifted Roots: Gifted and Talented Pacific Island (Pasifika) Students”. In Giftedness from an Indigenous Perspective, ed. W. Vialle. Papers from the 11th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness, Sydney, 29 July–1 August 2010. Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented/Australian Government, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  Available at www.aaegt.net.au/indigenous.html

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


A passionate unionist is the inspiration behind this next post.

The word "manumission" stems from the ancient Roman practice of "freeing slaves from bondage", making slaves "freedmen" (and this brings back fond memories of what was then junior Latin classes and senior Classical Studies classes with a teacher who focused on "life lessons" in all academic lessons).

The significance for me is probably what seems to be an expedition or journey to free my thoughts and ideas from bondage, to consider as many alternative viewpoints as possible to come to a conclusion that can benefit people for the greater good.  As an adult I can sit back and reflect that this has become my ManuMission.

This is a very difficult and somewhat lofty goal, too big to possibly be achieved in one's own lifetime, so in my brief life experience so far, reflecting on what experiences I have had that can inform your manumission (or emancipation of the mind really) we can create a LIST.

We must surround ourselves with people with like minds who will help to nurture your goals and help create pathways to bring it to fruition.  If you're currently in a group of people who don't nurture any goals for the greater good, it might pay to take a step back and reconsider being attached to those particular minds.

Take those goals and share it with as many people who would benefit from it.  Share it with people who you even think could help ensure there will be a clear pathway to generating small successes.

Life happens and will bring about obstacles, or people will become obstacles so alternative strategies need to be employed.  A healthy, positive mindset (hard to maintain people, yes, I can see some shaking of heads from here) is the only way to stay motivated.  Going to your "happy place" to snap out of a natural funk, rut, plateau, whatever way the road goes, can displace you from achieving the goals.  Learning that the word "no" - despite how small the word is may be a big barrier to achieving those goals, is pretty much like the pause button on an old VCR - it affects the picture quality for a little while and it looks a bit shaky, but I'd rather have a slow yes than a fast no any day.

Whatever your manumission is in your life, feel free to share.
It takes the best of us a long time to refrain from knocking back people's ideas.  I have learned and continue to learn about being open to hear arguments first, to listen and observe, before coming to a conclusion.  The beauty of people is that they can have different opinions, because those opinions are shaped by the sum total of their lived experiences, what they have learned, value and believe and how they can influence others with their opinions.

The ManuMission continues...

Thoughts and ideas about the world, with the world, in the world

I've always thought about sharing my views and perspectives about my experiences, what I'm passionate about, what I have learned (and continue to learn) with the rest of the world.

I'm interested in notions of culture - both inherited and learned - what shapes our words, feelings and deeds that dictate how we evolve as human beings and more importantly as learners.  There will be discussions about other topics too, such as education, e-Learning, future-focused education, indigenous perspectives, frameworks, values, models, music (what I make and create - not who I am), poetry, visual art, performing arts, learners, teachers, facilitators, even talk of light-bringers, light-dwellera (hate light-dimmers and light-stealers!).

The multi-layered contexts of education in which I find myself being thrust upon (blame good teachers who nurtured the love for life-long learning) was first instilled by parents who migrated to chase the Aotearoa Dream.  Political discussions have since developed around Pasifika peoples and their presence in the Land of the Long White Cloud.  Learning how to blend both histories spoken through ancestors and documents, cherished and stored in song, dance and recitation - blending and often at times bleeding with the histories learned in formal schooling education continue.  Where it will lead and the legacies, shift and directions we find ourselves in - is anybody's guess - the question is, where do you see yourself?  How are you perceived by others?

This blog hopes and promises to explore many spaces, contexts, relationships, interconnections (maybe even the complete opposite), that interest the writer and hopefully will find resonance with readers to reflect and share about their own.