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

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.