Tuesday, 20 December 2016

We know the way. . .

What you say to someone who thinks your people don't know anything. . . 

Tatou o tagata folau e vala'auina
E le atua o le sami tele e o mai
Ua ava'e le lu'itau e lelei

Pacific peoples have been the greatest navigators.  Samoa was originally called The Navigator Islands.  Tonga was known as The Friendly Islands.  Niue is still known as The Rock of Polynesia.  The vast Pacific Ocean has always been a huge part of Pacific daily life; a source of nourishment for its peoples, both bringer and taker of life, a means to traverse between islands, to discover new places beyond the known territory of home.  The greatest challenge has always been able to read the stars to forge pathways ahead and to be prepared for the weather changes that are both unpredictable and frequent.  Pacific peoples have always had a healthy respect for the ocean, the moana and what powers or spirits dwell within it.

Aue, aue
Nuku i mua
Te manulele e tataki e
Aue, aue
Te fenua, te malie
Nae ko hakilia kaiga e

The wildlife, the birds that soar above the navigators show signs of life in islands ahead.  This immediately brings forth for me the bible story of Noah and the ark, sending out the raven and the dove to check when the flood had subsided.  Land and its beauty is something that humanity must never forget to cherish.  Those people without land know the tragedy of this too well, be it when land has been confiscated and taken away forcibly from them, whether they have lost land in generations gone or whether they have been ousted from their own land in current situations where war has ravaged.  Land is beautiful and must continue to be, but yet can only be, if we look after it.  I sometimes wonder whether we will be able to leave this earth in a better place than when we were born into it, because we don't look after it as well as we should.  If Mother Earth could speak to us, what would she say?  Would we be willing to hear what she has to say?

We read the wind and the sky
When the sun is high
We sail the length of the seas
On the ocean breeze
At night we name every star
We know where we are, 
We know who we are, who we are

Do you know where you are? Do you know who you are? They seem simple enough questions, but I guarantee you probably answer them differently depending on who asked you right?  I would have thought you would have the same answers no matter who asked you, but I find that the answers change because of the audience listening to you.  They might not be ready to receive you - to acknowledge and accept you in your true form.  So this begs the question, how authentic can you be with people?  We can spend time teaching people our ways and trying to understand who we are in our authentic form, or we can be chameleons and constantly shape shift and change colours to conform to what is easiest for them to know.  What do you naturally do?  I use naturally rather than normally, because I hate the word 'normal'.  It has a colonial connotation that all things 'normal' are Western, but gee, look at the navigation skills of my Pacific ancestors - no maps, no compass, no instruments other than the stars and their total recall of a mega memory.

Aue, aue
We set a course to find
A brand new island everywhere we roam 
Aue, aue
We keep our island in our mind
And when it's time to find home
We know the way

I think about when my parents migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand with their minimal English.  I know it was minimal because before they migrated they both worked in Apia (where they met) before they both got married and had their first son.  My parents have always known how to get back home to Samoa, but only ever returned there for weddings and funerals of loved ones for the most part.  I have had the greatest pleasure of travelling with them on several occasions during different times in my life and as I get older, I appreciate what they gave up to bring us to a foreign land.  What courses did your parents set to find new homes for you?  Are you doing the same for your own children?  What legacy will they leave behind that they want you to pass on to their descendants?

Aue, aue
We are explorers reading every sign
We tell the stories of our elders
in the neverending chain
Aue, aue
Te fenua, te malie
Nae ko hakilia
We know the way

I hope that we never stop telling the stories of our elders.  This particular Disney movie has received a lot of backlash from Pacific anthropologists (I am one myself, but probably more of an ethnomusicologist) for the blatant exploitation of our Pacific stories all meshed into this generic tale of Maui the demigod and the fictional heroine of Moana.  I haven't really said much about this film leading up to its premiere (apart from shaking my head at the Maui Halloween costume, that was just too much, went too far!).  I am hopeful that this movie opens the door for other opportunities to showcase Pacific stories and for the world to take an interest in the preservation of our lands and most importantly our ocean.  What can we do collectively to ensure that we are able to include future generations in this neverending chain?  As much as we may not know what the future holds, we can be sure of one thing that Pacific peoples have known for centuries; we know the way. . .