Thursday, 30 July 2015

3rd Book launch of "Maui and Sina" tomorrow!

It's getting quite exciting with one last day before the launch of our 3rd edition/offering. The book is called "Maui and Sina" and it's the first of 3 plays that I wrote for High schools back in the 1990s for a Pasifika/Maori audience in South Auckland, and in case Otara of which I used to call my second home when I taught our there for 6 years.

In total, I actually wrote 6 plays but the first three were special as they were written with a specific audience in mind as well as students and it was well received by the audience and they understood the humour and my depiction of tragic situations that can often happen in our households.

The actual background to me writing plays goes back to my days as a Bible class teacher at Mangere PIC (Presbyterian) and we had to come up with Easter, Christmas, White Sunday plays etc. I would write them into mini productions which would have the (conservative) congregation laughing in church or crying. It's all in the power of the pen (think of the Bible :)

And the situation that gave me the impetus to write my first school production was having watched one of my colleague's High school production a year earlier with students who were Maori/Pasifika students enacting a European Fairy Tale story and that got me angry because I knew that there were few (if any) play scripts that were relevant to us and I knew I had to do something about it.

So it is a play that weaves together themes about mythology, the importance of our family ties as Maori/Pasifika people and discusses the tensions that often exist between parents and their children. At the heart of the story, it's about getting parents and their children to share in a dialogue before it is too late.

The cover illustration was designed by my eldest daughter and as you can see with all of my books there are definitely bright colours in play on every cover and this will be evident in every cover design to come with original art (my signature move). It's actually a vinyl cut out that she designed under the tutelage of my youngest sister as we're all a little bit arty on the female side of our family.

Many thanks to the many people who've attended and bought books or supported these endeavours with helpful comments or constructive thoughts, it's through your alofa and love in sharing that has made this journey possible and looking forward to many more to come...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ka mate, Ka mate (haka) origins...

Have you ever wondered how/where the famous 'All Blacks' haka originated? it was actually composed by a chief Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa around 1820.

According to the story, he was being pursued by his enemies and a chief let him hide in one of his kumara pits. While he hid, he pondered his fate. Thanks to his friend Te Wharerangi (whom he referred to as the hairy man) he did live to see the sun again and composed this haka.

and here is the translation:

Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora, ka ora
Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora, ka ora
Tenei te tangata
Nana i tiki mai
Whakawhiti te ra
Upane, kaupane
Whiti te ra, Hi!

I die, I die
I live, I live
I die, I die
I live, I live
This the
Hairy man
Who fetched the sun
and caused it to shine again
One upward step
another upward step
an upward step, another
The sun shines!
(Upward steps out of the pit)

Source: Te Wananga o Aotearoa. (2009). Te Ara Reo Maori Puna Kupu  A dictionary and resource for Maori Language Beginners

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Te Wiki o te Reo Maori

Kia ora koutou katoa (Greetings to you all). It's Maori language week here in Aotearoa, New Zealand but at the Wananga (place of higher learning) where I work we have it every week as Maori is spoken alongside English with many bilingual speakers of both languages.

It's also probably one of the few learning institutions where karakia (prayers) are still said every morning at 8.30 am to start the day and waiata (songs) are sung throughout the day as appropriate. Here things are very different from mainstream education and I prefere it.

I remember as a child growing up that I hardly ever heard Te reo Maori (the Maori language) being spoken and only ever heard teachers of Maori speaking to one another but at the parks and places English was the main language spoken by many urban Maori that I was aware of.

In fact, I remember that it was very normal and commonplace to mispronounce Maori place names and if you said it correctly that people would actually think less of you (heaps of racism at the time). Now I make an effort to correctly pronounce the Maori place names whenever I speak to someone on the phone or talking to those of other cultures. I guess it's become more normalised for me to speak it correctly as now my children are.

I'll leave you with a whakatauki (Maori proverb) regarding the importance of language. "Ko te reo te taikura o te whakaao marama" and the English translation is: Language is the key to understanding. For me, it means that when I begin to learn and discover someone else's language, I begin to understand more about them.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa. (Thank you, thank you, greetings to us all).

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Planned for the future?

Last night I went with a work colleague to make a presentation at a local church. We were given the opportunity to talk about what our organisation offers in the way of educational pathways and support for our local communities.

The theme of the night was about planning or preparing for the future and especially to be self-sufficient. The line-up of speakers was very interesting to listen to and it really made me think about future planning and sharing this with other families too. The following list of organisations will give an understanding of some of the things that we should consider to plan for:

  1. Education: a very important aspect of our lives but especially to be educated not only to make informed choices but also in order to do something (work/business) that you really enjoy.
  2. Life Insurance: Insuring that if anything happens to you and/or your spouse/partner that there are provisions for a mortgage paid off, burial/cremation funds (possibly a will for your children's guardianship). To consider trauma cover, income protection or whatever suits your family's needs and your budget.
  3. Burial plot/cremation: Not a very nice thing to talk about but sometimes planning ahead for loved ones, your wishes or to have that conversation is important. Plots now cost upwards of $5,000 and rising with cremation over $500. Things that we have to consider as time goes on.
  4. Budgeting/financial planning: This is for not only the daily budgeting, mortgages but also about debt reduction, analysing the ways that we spend our money and putting savings aside for that rainy day or emergency funding.
  5. Weekly $5 welfare: Sometimes food runs out of the cupboards faster than you can stock them. A speaker spoke about how a $5 a week spent on buying non perishable foods stock up 3 months ahead and then rotated is a big help and especially around Christmas, in emergencies and when you need it.
There are some definite ideas that I listened to that I would consider and will also be reviewing some of the things that we are currently doing...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Stan Walker - role model

One of the young artists whom I've enjoyed and watch grow over the years since winning "Australian Idol" in 2009 has been Stan Walker. His story growing up of overcoming a household where alcohol was prevalent and could have destroyed his family then he turned his life around in now becoming a household name in the music, movie and contemporary dance scene both nationally and internationally.

I couple of years ago, he came and sang at our church and that was a real blessing for many as he was able to get out and about and meet the locals at our Life Church in South. More recently he's starred in movies such as "Mt Zion" and some of his music I really like too. He's even a judge on 'The X Factor NZ" and he dances 'mean'.

He has an upcoming dance movie that I think my girls are gonna like called "Born to Dance". It's supposed to be the first multi-million dollar dance movie that NZ has ever made with Choregrapher Paris 'doing her thing' and Stan Walker as one of the actors.

I think it's neat that he connects this story with South Auckland (Papakura), I think it relates to where some of our youth are in often trying to find their feet with few options available to them through educational pathways.

The movie is out in theatres in September. I certaintly will be watching it...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Geographical land features tied to ancient myths and legends...

In working at an indigenous tertiary educational institute for Maori, for the past 5 years, I've come to appreciate some of the beautiful arts that are a representational of the values and treasures that Tikanga (cultural protocols) Maori possesses. I particularly enjoy listening and singing their himene (hymns or spiritual songs) as well as singing their waiata (songs) and watching their various dance styles.

I was reminded today by my younger sister of a song that has a beautiful melody sung in Te Reo Maori (Maori language) she has also started studying here after working a 'gap year' and falling in love with the values and the learning environment much as I enjoy after having been in mainstream (non-indigenous) for most of my educational experiences growing up.

As a geographer, I have come to an understanding of the special relationship that indigenous cultures had with the land. This is evident in my first two printed books that look at the understanding of Samoans in the origins of the coconut tree in "Sina and the Tuna" (2015) and the origins of the landmass and the name of "Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula" (2015).

This song too is about Tangaroa which in Maori myths and legends is expressed as the god of the seas. Samoa too has its myths and legends that are tied to important geological/geographical features with precious understandings of a time gone by.

I hope you enjoy it despite the language difference...

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Cultural treasure vs Urban sprawl (Please act and sign the petition)

Please read the following article that concerns me as a Geographer and as a resident of Mangere. The Ihumatao district is unique and has special significance to locals iwi and concerned citizens. Another example of the bullying tactics often used on powerless small impoverished communities making way for big business and powerful developers with the support of local government. This needs to be stopped. Please sign the petition and act on behalf of this community to have a say...
"An area of land on Oruarangi Road, Ihumatao Mangere has been added as one of three Special Housing Areas in the Mangere-Otahuhu community. Foreign-owned Fletchers Residential Ltd are proposing a development of 500 houses on this piece of farmland. This location is adjacent to the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve, a public green space with rich historical, environmental and cultural significance and, Ihumatao Pa, one of the last remaining original and livable papakainga in New Zealand.

Save Our Unique Landscape campaign recognises there is a housing shortage in Auckland and do not oppose the other two locations for SHA in the Mangere-Otahuhu Area. But, a development of this magnitude, in this location, will have huge, negative effects. It will be detrimental to the residents of Ihumatao, community members of Mangere and other interested parties, from a historical, cultural, spiritual, social, and environmental perspective.
This proposed SHA will not contribute to making Auckland a livable city, but destroy one of the few significant and unique spaces Auckland has left.
In 2012 the Environment Court ordered the land be re-zoned to Future Urban. The developers are now in pre-application discussions to rezone the land to Residential, and apply for a subdivision to develop this SHA.
Join us in telling Mayor Len Brown and Housing Minister Nick Smith that the Auckland Council must revoke its support for the SHA in this location and all applications for rezoning the land and future developments of this sort, must be rejected."

Monday, 20 July 2015

Teaching and Writing -> learning

Teaching and writing work hand in hand for me. When I first started teaching back in 1990, I only wanted to teach for 2 years and then go back to working on my Ph D and working at a University. However, when I started teaching, I saw how much need there was and I enjoyed teaching seniors so much that I was hooked and have never looked back.

Teaching gave me the tools to become more self-confident as I began to see successes with my students doing even better than I did in English in high school, maybe it was because I chose more relevant texts when I could, had better relationships with students and teaching techniques that they understood.

I remember in my twenties thinking what a waste of time teaching was for me, that as a writer I could be writing, instead of teaching poetry, shorts stories, Shakespeare, novels etc., But what I didn't know was that it was a great opportunity for me to study the great masters of writing (as I did when I was in Uni) and as I taught I learnt more about the writers and their lives, their motivations, what their texts themes were, setting etc. etc. It was indeed a privilege as now I feel that I am more than ready to write.

In fact, when I finished my first Certificate in Proficiency a Creative writing paper offered by the University of Auckland back in 1990 under the tutelage of Albert Wendt, I thought that I definitely wanted to write about South Auckland with a target audience of youth (YA Young Adult) but I still felt at that time that I didn't have enough life experience to share. However, from 1994 to 1996 my first plays started showing in four different South Auckland high schools until 1996 when I left high school teaching. The reason I started writing plays was that I had witnessed a South Auckland school performing a European fairy tale story for their school production and thought that I needed to do something to address it.

The plays that I'm now beginning to launch are from that era, and as a self-publisher I had to make that decision about whether to launch my latest writings or to publish my earlier collections. I think in choosing the latter, allows the audience to see the journey that I have taken as a writer to where I am today in that I feel comfortable in writing in many different genre with much more to offer...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Christianity - spoken word poetry

I've had so much interest in this video that thought I'd blog about it and share some insights for your consideration. I was brought up in the Christian faith as a child, a Presbyterian at a Pacific Islands church of Niueans, Cook Islanders and Samoans sharing one church building which acted very much as a village setting for me.

There I was nurtured in my faith and observed it in action. We were baptized there, had birthdays, family gatherings, church services, ceremonies and celebrations there and even buried our dead through holding family services there. But I knew that there was more.

As a child, I remember praying a lot and speaking to God about a whole of things but especially about keeping my family safe, that still continues today, but now I see a whole new onslaught of ideas and theories that threaten to tear the very fabric of our cultural and spiritual beliefs. It's driven by the premise that if it feels good - do it, as long as it's consensual, it's nobody elses business.

And now with the declaration of a very real war of a super religion that causes unprescedented persecution on Christians and innocent victims globally through beheadings and other vicious attacks, it is a warning to stay vigilant. There is a Maori word that I've learnt as "kaitiaki-tanga" which for me means guardianship and that is what I count myself to be as a guardian of the values that have been passed down to me from my parents, our forefathers to pass on to the next generations.

I've recently heard a speaker talk about allowing our youth to choose their own realities and not have the 'baggage' (assumedly cultural and spiritual) that he had growing up. To me that's a neo-liberalist way of thinking that flies in the face of cultural and spiritual aspirations of people. Our youth need to learn to understand and appreciate their uniqueness and point of difference - into their family, aiga, whanau that they are born into.

The speaker above echoes what I believe in too, that we have a limited time on this earth (and he may be seen as having a radical faith) but we do need to, otherwise if we don't stand up for what we believe in - we will fall for anything...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The power of love (1984)

When driving over to pick up the inspection copy of our latest offering in the play "Maui and Sina", after returning from a full on 3 day professional development session(s) in Hamilton, I heard this song (after channel surfing) and I hadn't heard it in years. It was one of my favourite songs back in 1984 when it was first released. That year happened to be my first year at Uni too.

There are quite a neat few songs with the same title, but this one stands out for me and when I got up early at 3 am to blog (ha ha early riser), I thought to check out the video as I'd never seen it before and was pleasantly surprised at the Christmas theme, as I'd known the band had a different reputation at the time.

So as we approach Christmas, some 5 or so months away, with so much that can happen in the interim, I leave you with this song to consider. What is the power of love in your life?...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Professional & Personal development in Hamilton...

 One of the things about being in the education field that is really important is keeping up to date with professional development. That's one of the things that I picked up as an undergraduate at the University of Auckland upon starting my studying journey and then working in the field of education. It's a must as I've continued working and learning in the field.

I remember as a child growing up that I thought you had to be really smart to be a teacher and would have to learn so many things in order to teach. I now know that it's really about knowing, as a teacher, about how to access information and being able to disseminate that information to students effectively that makes one a really good teacher.

So for the next 3 days I'll be with my colleagues in Hamilton catching up with other professionals of our organisation who are flying in from all over New Zealand nationally to catch up and learn more about our roles in Student Support for our tertiary education organisation.

Over the years, I've found that as I continue to develop myself professionally that I benefit in growing personally especially through critical thinking as I learn about new ideas and shifts in thinking paradigms. I've certainly seen major shifts in mainstream education over the last 20 years since leaving secondary school teaching but still think that there are still major hurdles to overcome but that's probably my PhD thesis in the making.

But suffice to say that the next 3 days I hope to be challenged to learn new things or if not, to challenge the status quo that's now effective for students in order to grow and learn as an effective organisation and about how we can improve, develop and learn to do things that will be more effective and beneficial not only for our students but also for ourselves...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

"Dancing with the stars" - dance freestyle to 'Chandelier'

The Bachelor NZ - Siobhan Marshall and Charlie Billington dance freestyle to 'Chandelier'

Since being very little, I've always loved to dance and have enjoyed seeing my children enjoy dancing as well, even my youngest sister is pretty good as well. I guess we get it from learning and watching different dance styles be it Pacific dance, or learning the Samoan sasa or church contemporary dances, dance is definitely a part of our lives.

But this is the first season that I've actually watched "Dancing with the stars" NZ as although I love different forms of dance, I hadn't really taken the time to watch it but this time I thought I would and I've been pleasantly surprised.

I must say that I did laugh when I first watched Simon dance with his mouth wide open and everything he looked like he had two left feet but it's been neat to see his transformation into one of the judges favourites.

Buy the freestyle couples dance that I particularly enjoyed tonight was the dance to Sia's "Chandelier" which I found an enchanting and haunting song that my sister introduced to me last year. And to see it in a choreographic dance was simply beautiful compared to the movie video which looks quite disturbing or maybe more disconcerting - but I do like the song.

It reminds me of the Australian comic romance movie "Strictly Ballroom" (1992) that I watched back in 1992 which had one of my all time favourite songs "Love is in the Air". In fact, I had just started teaching high school at the time and I remember volunteering to look after the student council after the former teacher resigned after they'd gotten in trouble for having trouble at their last school Ball.

So if you haven't ever had the opportunity to see a movie about this form a dance then here's a short YouTube clip or tune into the final of "Dancing with the stars" next week to see the winners. In fact everyone's a winner when they're dancing...

It wasn't long before I found myself with the student council organising the ball and in one of the years the theme was "Strictly Ballroom" and the students went all out with some amazing costumes and of course the teachers went along with the theme too.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

3rd Anticipated book launch - 31 July at Mangere Town Centre library

Maui and Sina book cover.
Auckland libraries has now started promoting our 3rd book launch for the play "Maui and Sina" on their website. I think one of the exciting things is that the library manager is encouraging to have students from local high schools to attend and ask Qs and be aware of different opportunities from a local educators perspective.

Here's the link below if you happen to be in the area and would like to attend as it's our first public book launch and for me it's a little daunting but am also happily humbled by it all as I think it's about promoting local communities' stories and endeavours.

It also looks like we may be having two sessions: with one in the morning at 11.30 am and then again at 1.30 pm to cater for the interest that has been shown thus far. So if you do want to bring along a group, or a group of students, please contact Sonia Munro, Manager for the Mangere Town Centre library to ensure that they are able to cater for your group etc.

When: Friday 31 July, 1.30pm - 3pm 
Where: Mangere Town Centre Library 
Cost: Free
Pacific author and educator, Helen Tau'au Filisi, will be launching her first play, Maui and Sina.
This play draws upon well-know Maori and Pasifika mythological figures and explores the epic journey the Siakisone family take with their children to a new land and the various challenges they face adapting to new social values and religious ideas.
Come and meet the author, learn about the creative writing process and publishing, and the opportunities that exist in this line of work.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Te Vaka - Pate Pate

 As well as listening to contemporary mainstream music mainly through my children's song choices, I also listen to Samoan and some Cook Islands music. I also enjoy listening to a variety of Pasifika music with that Pacific beat and this was one that I really enjoyed back in the 1990s. 

Te Vaka is one band that has won international awards but might be little known in New Zealand. The lead vocalist and song writer is known to be half Tokelauan and half Tuvalu born in Samoa but their music is a fusion of many Pasifika nations incorporated within.

This particular song by Te Vaka - Pate Pate was at a concert in Apia, Samoa and I remember using it as a backing track to a performance play that I presented with a group at Aotea Centre back in 1999 with Marama Papau (before she came on Tagata Pasifika as a TV host).

So glad to have music such as this when we're braving the cold winter nights of New Zealand in the dead of winter. Such music softens the soul and reminds me of warm weather by the beach and lazy summer days with not a care in the world.

Thank God for Pasifika music to dream away...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

ebooks launching!...3...2...1...

It's finally here! have launched our first book "Maui and Sina" (A play series) as an e-book on and it's been so exciting to see. This is before it gets launched in hard/soft cover on Friday 31 July at the Mangere Town Centre library.

Here's a step-by-step guide to finding it.
1. go to: (in kindle books)
2. type in the search box: helen tauau filisi
3. it will take you to our first book and you can view the sample there.

There are still a couple of glitches that I have to work on in the formatting but I have to say that it has been a real blessing to see it come to fruition after many years of dreaming about this and wondering how/if it will ever come together.

I also want to give credit to my eldest daughter Glorielle who designed the cover (unbeknownst) as it was an art piece that she was working on at the end of last year with my lil sister Maria. She made the cut out using carving tools and it just fitted in with the cover design that I was after. Another miracle moment!

Now it's to start putting each book that we write into an e-book format over the next few weeks/months as was told that Auckland libraries will be moving into 50/50 ebooks/soft-hard covered books by the year 2020 and I want to be ready for it.

So here's to happy reading in the 21st century with e-books on devices. And in celebratory style, I made a lemon with cream cake to celebrate this huge milestone. A real God blessing!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Go Le Manu Samoa!

I'm not a huge Rugby fan like my dad. I remember growing up that we didn't watch TV on Sundays, as was my Papa's rule, with the exception of him watching a rare All Blacks match that might be screened on a Sunday! of course we kids were up in the arms but that was the only exception.

Tomorrow, the All Blacks are playing Manu Samoa and of course I'm with the under dogs and hope that Manu Samoa will win the game and the All Blacks will never be the same.

However, I have to give John Campbell credit for pushing for such a historic event to happen and even to the All Blacks team for wearing ie faitaga (formal men's skirt wrap) and Aloha shirts.

I talked to both my parents in Samoa tonight and it sounds like every Samoan will be in Apia tomorrow or watching TV or tuning in somehow to see/hear how it goes. I doubt that there'll be many people at work or at school as many people will want to watch this historic match. And I think this may be the same for die hard Samoan rugby fans in NZ, Hawaii, Australia and the US.

So as much as I'm not into Rugby, am a Kiwi Samoan brought up with taro and green bananas, I say 'Go Manu Samoa' and prove them wrong that a humble nation similar to a David and Goliath match up can still win the day...

Monday, 6 July 2015 book review website

If you haven't already discovered '' it's a website whereby you can review books that you have read or want to read. It's a really neat website that a school librarian recently reminded me about it.

It's free to join and if you've read any one of my books please do stop by and write a review which might be of interest to other readers and I'd definitely find it interesting to read too (especially if you recommend it).

There are many other websites to write reviews on and am currently working on changing formats to ebooks as well so will keep you posted.

Below is an example of what you might find if you add my name to the 'search' list in the website. Happy reading!

books matching "helen tauau filisi" that you haven't added

Mount Vaea and the tears of...
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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Author Book reading at local schools...

 I count it a blessing to be able to share some of my experiences, as a local writer, with students in local schools.

It wasn't so long ago that I was a student at a local school dreaming about what I would like to become. I remember thinking something along the lines of being an Art Director (because I enjoyed art) or something in the Creative arts industry.

These pics were taken at Sutton Park school that I recently visited to read my first two books "Sina and the Tuna" and "Mt Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula". I read to the Samoan bilingual unit with Juniors and Seniors and it was such a privilege to share these stories with them - many hadn't heard of the stories before. I also was able to ask two senior students to read the Samoan version and that was neat to share in also. This was neat to see on their schools website as I don't usually take photos of my visits.

I must say that it was a bit daunting in not feeling as confident in speaking Samoan (in not being a native speaker) but it was fun to be able to discuss and converse in both languages.

Some of the interesting questions that I was asked was:

Q. Are the stories true?
A. Those were the beliefs of people so many years ago and much like how we view Cinderella and other fairy tales today.

Q. How long did it take to draw/paint the pictures in the books?
A. Each book took less than two months to paint and produce as I set myself a timeline and then worked towards meeting the deadlines.

I also encouraged the children that this is something to consider as I remember only having one author visit my high school and that was Albert Wendt (who later was one of my lecturers at Auckland Uni).

This would definitely a dream come true for me in being able to share these stories with the next generation and also to continue to write or retell stories that remind us of our uniqueness. A true blessing...