Saturday, 31 December 2016

Doing what matters in 2017...

Quote Generator I've been doing a bit of reading and reflecting on 2016 which passes in several hours from now and one of the things that's I've learnt over the years is in order to move towards your goals that you need to do what matters in order to reach them.

It's also about having sorted out your priorities for the new year and working out what matters in those times. In that we have a limited amount of time and also of resources so that we need to maximise time and resources on what is important for us.

For me, it's about my faith, my family and also a legacy. I think about what society would have been like without the Christian faith and selfless people who set up Christian and humanitarian organisations that help others like the Red Cross, World Vision, Tear Fund, the Salvation Army etc. I think the world would be a darker place and we are in a better place because of it.

Family-wise, we were all born in a respective place and time and into a family that we have no control over and therefore I believe that we are each born for a reason and a purpose with our various talents and personality's. So we therefore need to do what matters to achieve those purposes.

I'm looking forward to this new year of 2017, we never know how much time we have left with our loved ones and so doing what matters is really important with no regrets. I have more books to write, more time to spend with family and doing things with them that matter.

What will you do in 2017?...

Thursday, 29 December 2016

R.A.K. farewelling 2016...

Only a couple more days for 2016 and looking forward to seeing what the new year holds ahead. However, today was also a reminder, for me, of some of the generational values that I have witnessed and have been passed down to me from my 97 year old Granma, my parents and now also for me to pass onto my children as well.

Today, before visiting my Gran with my dad, I took my children to a family fast food restaurant to grab a quick bite for lunch before running some errands. Whilst there we witnessed a Samoan family coming together with a cake to celebrate a teenage girl's birthday together with a guitar and there may have been about 10 of them.

They sang the birthday song in Samoan which we also joined in discretely from our corner and there were also a few speeches said in Samoan. This reminded me of many scenes when my dad would do similarly at various restaurants growing up where we would celebrate and sing songs in Samoan, prayers and speeches etc for various occasions. Sometimes I'd be a bit shy but I'd just go with it.

Instantly, I thought about my dad and I knew that he would have had thoughts to sow money into the occasion and give some $ to the birthday girl. I was out of cash and had given both my older two $20 each to spend and asked them about how they felt about giving it as we left the restaurant. One had brought the $ in the pocket but was too shy to give it, and so the other gave it to the birthday girl as we left the restaurant.

The family members were very surprised and we wished the birthday girl a very happy birthday as we walked out of the restaurant but when we opened the door, we saw a man seated on the ground silently. I had an unfinished ice cream in my hand that I passed it on to him and apologised as I didn't have any cash on me.

It wasn't until I got into the car and saw the guy waving goodbye and smiling that my oldest expressed about how neat it was to do something that would see someone smiling and I was surprised when she said that she had given him the $20 as she would have only spent it on something that she probably didn't really need.

Needless to say that I was tearful and didn't want to show it as I realised that the demonstrations of my granma and parents love and generousity of giving things away without expecting anything back (R.A.K. Random acts of kindness) when no one else was looking reminded me that as we demonstrated it to our children then they would do the same too. As I'd often watch my granma and parents give away food, money etc. often to those who needed it more.

The challenge for me in the restaurant was that I was reminded about my dad's generousity and I had a choice to either do something about it or to just think about it and not do anything but in acting on it, I was blessed by my children's selfless act and so was another who probably least expected it.

Sometimes I've been too busy to act on thoughts or have walked away in being too busy or with other priorities but we never know why people would choose to be sit outside shopping areas, wash car windows on busy roads or walk up to people asking for coins etc. I just know that if I were in a similar situation for whatever reason that I would wish for someone to have mercy/love on me.

The Challenge: Now, would you do the same?...

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Watching Disney's "Moana" for 2nd time...

Took my parents, visiting from Samoa, to watch "Moana" and they enjoyed it! for me being the second time with my littlest we enjoyed it even more. I thought about it whilst watching the movie and considered the different features that appealed to me as a NZ Samoan educated female academic/artist and it's for the following reasons as I expand on my earlier post when first watching it in Fiji:

  • loved the colour palette, bright azure coloured sea contrasting with yellow sky, greenery and earthy browns
  • my love of the sea, ocean, you'll see a lot of my paintings incorporate the sea, land, sky 
  • the people actually look Polynesian, had to laugh at Maui, I suppose they needed Maui to look "larger than life"? as a demi-god
  • enjoyed the music with various languages and poked my mum when the Samoan lyrics came on
  • loved singing so much of Samoa incorporated into some of the motifs, the "fale" Samoan house features (similar to many other Pasifika traditional houses), her "tuiga" or headress, the "tatau" or male tatoos (although some modern tatoos added too)
  • the fact that our ancestors were sea-faring, way-finding, explorers way before Captain Cook who took so much credit for "discovering" islands when he actually hadn't as they had been "discovered" centuries before by Pacific ancestors
  • loved the arts depicted through tapa-like pictures, on the sails, carvings, on Maui's tatoos etc. so many ways of demonstrating various art
  • loved the music and dancing, as Pasifika cultures each have their own movements, music and songs etc. passed down from generation to generation and changing
  • enjoyed the relationships that formed between inter-generations of parents with children, grandparent/s, even animals, and the way that in the village, everyone has a role/part to play and no wo/man is an island with the values and stories passed down
  • each Pacific Islands/families, village etc. has precious stories of origins and genealogy passed down although many are missing these vital stories of who they are and where they came from
  • Maui's Pacific sense of humour, often mocking but also very funny at times with the play on words
I could go on and on but these were a few of the ideas that I thought about whilst watching the movie again and laughing over the various scenes with Maui and Moana. Again, highly recommended for families (despite what the "haters" say) and an affirmation of my ancestral history of explorers, scientists and artistic craftsmen, artisans, artists who had a dazzling sense of humour.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day...

Sharing one of my very favourite and contemplative Christmas songs this Christmas and a very Merry Christmas to all our friends in the Northern Hemisphere as we celebrate Boxing Day in the Southern Hemisphere. Christmas for my family was a very special occasion celebrated with family and even more so that we were able to spend time together with our loved ones.

For me, the Christmas spirit started on Christmas Eve in attending Carol singing at my parents home (here from Samoa) and we listened to my parents church'es Samoan youth 'Manuao" which I had attended for over 10 years growing up where we would all hop on a bus or even 2 and go around to different family houses and sing there and share the Christmas cheer until midnight when we would have a count down and then wish each other a merry Christmas before heading home tired but so happy at what we had accomplished.

Yesterday, on Christmas day I attended with our children at my birth church with my parents for the 9am Christmas service and singing carols before quickly racing over for our 10.30am Christmas service at our home church where they served cookies and milk and later Ice cream as a Christmas treat for families.

When then returned for Christmas lunch and dessert at my parents before visiting my 97 year old Granma with my parents and we sang Christmas carols and prayed together which was very special as she acknowledged that we hadn't thought that we would be sharing another Christmas together and here we were. A sure blessing and even blessed to have 4 generations together.

We then left and came back home to relax and later families members spent time at my husband's family too. It was such a special Christmas time and so blessed for having spent it together. Thank you God for these blessed times together...

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A busy lead up to the 12 days of Christmas (Eve)...

Image result for 12 days of christmas It's been a very busy 12 days before Christmas with so much happening and have been listening a lots of Christmas carols with local Christian Radio station Radio Rhema when I heard a story behind the "12 days of Christmas" carol.

I first remember learning to sing this song back in primary school and wondered about all the different presents that were being given but didn't know the backstory. This is one version of this Christmas carol's meaning according to

It was first published around 1780, Roman Catholics weren't able to practice their faith openly and so the author of this song penned the words to assist children/people to learn the tenets of their faith with the surface meaning and a hidden meaning.

The story is as follows:

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a partridge in a pear tree - Jesus Christ who gave his life willingly on the cross.
on the 2nd day... 2 turtle doves - the old and new testament.
on the 3rd day... 3 french hens - faith, hope and love.
on the 4th day... 4 colly birds - 4 gospels of the new testament.
on the 5th day... 5 gold rings - first 5 books of the old testament.
on the 6th day... 6 greese a laying - 6 days of creation.
on the 7th day... 7 swans a swimming - 7 fold gifts of the Holy Spirit.
on the 8th day... 8 maids a milking - 8 beatitudes.
on the 9th day... 9 drummers drumming - 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit.
on the 10th day... 10 piper's piping - the 10 commandments.
on the 11th day... 11 ladies dancing - 11 faithful apostles.
on the 12th day... 12 lords a leaping - 12 points of belief of the apostles creed.

So now that I know the meaning behind the story of this Christmas carol, I am sure that other Christmas carols may also have a backstory. Have a Happy Christmas Eve with your families around the world...

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Exhibitions, graduations and very busy lead up to Christmas...

It's been a very eventful month leading up to Christmas in attending a couple of graduations of our youngest (from pre-school programmes), end of break ups for my class, work and other groups that I'm associated with and was also able to squeeze in a book launch at my old primary school's 50th Jubilee celebrations (10th publication) and also made time to view a couple of art exhibitions: one at Auckland Art Gallery and another by a local artist and writer ZR Southcombe.

In fact, her story inspired me to start self publishing when my business mentor, at the time on, Jan 23, 2015 (my lil' sister's birthday) shared her story with me about being a teacher who was self publishing her own books. Up until that time, I had only thought about it but after that conversation, I realised that it was definitely possible to make it happen and the rest is history (herstory).

What's so amazing about Zee is that she is so versatile as an artist, writer and a authorpeneur (a new word I learnt in reading different blogs). She writes childrens/young adult books, zines (simplified versions of magazines), designs colouring books, and colouring events, is on the committee/s for writers and different community arts projects and even has time to host her first solo art exhibition which I really enjoyed and took my children to view. I think they really enjoyed the treats of cute cupcakes and a neat palette with iced colours (simply creative) and baked by her mum which was really neat!

Above is a pic of one of my favourite paintings featured at her exhibition called "Broken Beautiful" earlier this month at Youthline, Papatoetoe. As my favourite colour is indigo blue, the colour palette that she chose for some of her paintings really appealed to me and happily bought some of her Christmas cards reproductions! which I am sure you are able to view on her website of as well as to view some of her many wonderfully creative creations.

I, unfortunately, was unable to stay for the book launch of her latest book "I am an artist" which is a great resource for art teachers and bidding artists as I had another family function to attend to. As a fellow self-published writer/artist I'm privileged to be asked to work with her on a project which is always so encouraging and inspiring to do. Looking forward to what the new year has in store...

Monday, 12 December 2016

On viewing Gottfried Lindauer's "Maori Portraits" exhibition...

The Maori Portraits by Gottfried Lindauer exhibition till Feb 2017
Had a great time during my weekend class trip into town to view the "The Maori Portraits" exhibition by Gottfried Lindauer (1839 - 1926) at the Auckland Art Gallery just down the road from my old University of Auckland (as an alumni). 

Back then I didn't have time to go to the Art Gallery with so many lectures to keep up with and spent most of my time in the library, gym or study rooms. Although I did study Art History in my first year as an undergrad. Since those days, I've been a few times to the Art Gallery with the most memorable as Rita Angus (NZ artist) and Claude Monet's paintings (Impressionist artist).

It was amazing to view Lindauer's lifelike portraits and also his larger paintings that showed aspects of village life for Maori in the 1800s. Below is one of interest from his collection as it depicts an aspect of the Maori cultural beliefs that I had only read about regarding how tohunga (Maori priest/shaman) were revered and also tapu (sacred) in that they were not to live within the pa (village) site but were often away from the villagers and only fed a special way.

Lindauer captures the special place of tohunga
There were more than 120 original paintings of both Pakeha (European) and Maori portraits and each told a different story. He was a trained artist and his portraiture was stunning realistic in his brush strokes and the ways he used light. It was amazing to be able to get up close and see the the details of his paintings and how the facial tatoos of the Maori leaders looked so realistic.

We were also able to view video footage about the stories behind some of his portraits and one of the interesting portraits he painted 30 times (the same picture of a Maori woman carrying a baby) as he also used photography to assist in his paintings. Many of his portraits were oil on canvas and commissioned both from Maori and Pakeha. He painted with such painstaking detail and a limited palette in using similar colours for all his portraits.

The gallery exhibition is only there for another two months in the new year but I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the portraits and getting an insight into the stories behind the portraits and of that historical time period in the mid to late 1800s as it would have been about the time that my great great grandparents were alive in Samoa. Sadly, there are no paintings or photos that exists or am aware of and can understand how these are such treasures to family members who are able to see their ancestors facial features etc.

A highly recommended exhibition by a gifted artist from the colonial past informing post colonial nations ...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Graduation and saying Goodbye to HIPPY in Mangere...

Our youngest's HIPPY graduation
It was so good to be with our youngest yesterday at her HIPPY (Home Instruction Programme for Pre-school youngsters) Graduation and to also have her Grandparents over from Samoa to witness the occasion.

It was a happy and sad occasion as our family had a great time with the other families with their 4 - 5 year olds as HIPPY is a 2 year programme that was founded in Israel and has been in NZ for around 20 years but it will no longer be continuing in the area.

I have been a HIPPY parent support for 4 times with my sister in 2000 - 2001, my eldest from 2005 - 2006, our middle child in 2009 (she was amazingly fast!) and now with our youngest from 2015 - 2016. Each year we'd work through 30 booklets and each child gets to keep several books that would be read with activities to go through.

However, we have now been told that HIPPY will no longer be operating in Mangere as there are other communities that will be offering it instead and it is sad to say Goodbye to such a neat programme that supports early English literacy and numeracy for pre-schoolers as they work through each booklet with their parent/caregiver supporter with the help of a tutor.

The graduation was another great occasion as I'd been to each of my child's graduations. Each graduate gets to wear a graduation gown with mortar board, they receive a framed certificate, samples from their workbook, gifts and a nice food table for them to eat and take home afterwards.

My aroha (love) goes to all the staff who will hopefully be redeployed and to all the neat staff in the past whom I've had the pleasure of working with. Thank you and much appreciation as it set up each of our children to do well in their schooling...
Saying goodbye to HIPPY

Friday, 9 December 2016

3 poems published in "a fine line" NZ Poetry Society online magazine (Nov 2016)...

 Me, Afamasaga Agnes Rasmussen, Prof. Konai Helu Thaman
and Alice Meredith at AUT University (South campus)
30 Nov 2016
It was indeed a privilege to meet with noted Professor and poet Konai Helu Thaman last month (a November blog) from the University of the South Pacific (USP in Fiji) and I'll always remember being touched by her poem "You, the choice of my parents" as a young student and then later teaching it to my senior students in high school when I taught English.

And in my busyness of last month, I forgot to write about being featured in "a fine line" an online magazine by the NZ Poetry Society in which I submitted some poems for publication in the magazine and was asked to be the feature poet in which the editor chose 3 poems for publication. She described them as "three illuminating poems" which made me smile. They are as follows:
  1. First childbirth
  2. What's in like in your world?
  3. When Royalty dies
The first poem I wrote was written several years ago when I considered my earlier fear of the pain of giving birth that I had heard so much about before having my first child. I remember as a young adult being so interested in body building at University during my undergraduate and post-graduate years and I'd read about Women body builders who discussed that having undergone intense weight training, as I had done those early years, that it helped psychologically with the pain and I totally agree with them in having given birth naturally with my three children without epidural although I went through lots of ice and the laughing gas didn't make me laugh at all. Ha ha. (And it's a good thing my husband didn't hold my hand as I would have crushed it - no joke :)

The second poem was again written a few years ago when I watched a documentary about a city in USA where many homeless people lived in cardboard boxes under bridges. This phenomenon happens all over the world and I was aware of it also in Auckland city under Grafton Bridge in town.

The third poem I also wrote many years ago when I considered 3 iconic popular culture idols of the 20th century i.e. Elvis Presley, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. In life, they were considered "larger than life" and the paparazzi would follow them with magazine articles and they photos everywhere. However, their deaths were often peppered with sad stories and wanted to consider how, in effect, we are all similar in being called to die at some point in time, despite fame or fortune.

Any comments and thoughts would be greatly appreciated :)

First Child Birth

With the onset of my first child birth
pending, so promising
I pensively ask many a mother experienced in this
“What was it like? The pain?”
Worried, a little anxious, inexperienced

The replies came:
- You don’t want to know
- It’s like pushing an elephant through a pea hole
- Being hit by a bus, again and again
- Forget it! Epidural’s where it’s at
- C-section, go for an elective caesarean

Wow! so varied, so confusing
so scary.

My palagi midwife older, childless
“no worries,” she says
“Pacific women are stronger,
they handle the pain.”

What’$ it like in Your World?

What’$ it like in Your world?
where money $peaks it$ mind
and violence is the friction of
rubbing note$
You po$$e$$ magnificent magazine palace$ of
Exqui$itely $culptured lawn$
and coiffured tre$$e$
those $cenic height$ that $pan a panoramic view
As Your $leek wheel$
glide pa$t
i inhale your du$t
do You see me
in my cardboard box?

When royalty dies

When the King of rock died
It was 1976 and I was in my last year of primary school
bravely checking in new fillings in a dentist chair whilst listening to the radio
I couldn’t believe it!
We sung to your velvet Elvis voice
and danced to your rhythmic pelvis thrusting songs.
I ran home that day to tell my parents
then later watched TV as the whole world mourned their loss.
How you seemed to have it all
Cut down before your comeback
How unhappy you were.
When the Princess of the people died
it was 1999 and I was at an educational meeting
when a late arrival announced the news
I couldn’t believe it!
I remembered in 1983 how we had met in my last year of high school
I bravely shook your oh-so-soft hand and watched them take photos of you, your son
and husband at Government house.
I drove home that day to tell my family
then later watched TV as the whole world mourned their loss.
How you seemed to have it all
cut down after your prime
How unhappy you were.
When the King of pop died
It was 2009 and I was in my last year of a tertiary teaching contract
I visited my parents with my children when my father announced the news
I couldn’t believe it!
I’d danced to ‘Thriller’ at a high school assembly
and believed that we could ‘heal the world’ and ‘make it a better place’.
We drove home that day to tell my husband
then later watched TV as the whole world mourned their loss.
How you seemed to have it all
Cut down before your comeback concert
How unhappy you were

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust

Thursday, 8 December 2016

"Standing Rock" and our own "Ihumatao"...

It has been interesting to follow the "Standing Rock" protests over sacred land/waterways etc. with the threat of being desecrated or polluted by an oil pipeline being built through their lands and it was very encouraging to see the defeat of the oil companies now having to re-route to yet another space to take their pipeline through. Although, we hear that it's not entirely over as money speaks it's language and there is much to lose for this company and investors.

In teaching and learning more about Indigenous Research space my class has followed events in Dakota through Facebook feeds and also articles and discussions. It was encouraging to see Maori and the Maori haka engaging with Sioux representatives as so many of the issues for indigenous peoples are worldwide and I wanted my class to see the subtle differences but also the similarities.

We, of course, have our own "Standing Rock" right here on the outskirts of Mangere, close to our Auckland International aiport, in fact, only minutes away where a quiet community of Maori have lived for many centuries are now being threatened with the very sure objective of 480 urban houses being built right on/next to their sacred lands.

The land was originally confiscated back in the 1860s for tribes who didn't agree with the sovereignty of the Queen of England and they were told to move to the Waikato or face the crown's wrath. Most did but when they were able to return, laws had been put in place and they only had a small area "reserved" for them to stay on which they still live on to this day.

However, with encroaching urban sprawl, over the years the English settlers who had "bought" the land off the crown, started making quite a profit over the years and have parceled and sold land to make quite a sizeable profit. One of the last of these was a big block of land at Ihumatao close to where the Maori village is which was bought for around 19 million $ by one of the biggest, if not the biggest development company, Fletcher lifestyle, and now they face eminent development against their wishes.

If "Standing Rock" is anything to go by, there is now a shift in the wind and things that the crown/government used to get away with a couple of centuries ago, no longer are the acceptable and are being challenged non-violently. Ihumatao is awaiting the verdict and when the first bulldozers and soil turning ceremony begins that's when protesting will move into action and we will have our own massive protest just waiting to begin on our back doorsteps.

I hope that Fletchers "re-routes" it's position and looks for other lands to develop. Ones that don't have the history and the sacredness that these sacred lands possess. I hope they learn from "Standing Rock" that it's not over, even when their fat purses sing...

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

50th Jubilee Dinner invite and commemorate glass
 It was such a privilege to attend my old primary (elementary) school's 50th Jubilee celebrations which started last week with a dinner which I attended and then ended in a Cultural gala day where I was able to launch our 10th book (play script) "Sacred steps of Tigilau".

In looking back in retrospect, I think the school got me ready for understanding a lot of the dynamics that I would face in my education journey. In starting in a school that was primarily European and I was often the only Samoan in the class throughout my primary school days.

The school composition has now changed and Samoans are the predominant population of the school with Tongans, Maori and Niueans also in numbers but few, if any Europeans now attend the school.

The school also now has a Samoan bilingual unit which recently celebrated it's 21st birthday with a curriculum that begins at Year 0 (new entrants) with 100% immersion in Samoan; Juniors: 20% English and 80% Samoan; Middle: 50% English/Samoan; Seniors (Middle/Intermediates): 80% English and 20% Samoan. I'm not sure how this works out but in watching the cultural dance performances on the day, it was neat to note how confident they were in their culture and something that I never experienced in school until I reached high school.

So there has been a major shift in the population of Mangere which was once predominantly Maori in the early 1800s and now in 2016 predominantly a Pasifika population with Maori and a growing Muslim Indian/Fijian Indian population with a Muslim school for locals.

What I did learn from being "different" from a young age was that I continued onto University in the early years, and it was a norm for me to be the only Pasifika/Samoan person in my classes especially in majoring in English and Geography, and as I negotiated my way through the maze of educational institutions and now into writing and publishing, I hope as I walk through that it opens the doors for many other Pasifika peoples to take up the opportunity to see that they too can try forging new pathways for careers and through taking calculated risks.

The picture below was one taken of a Cook Islands dance troupe who entertained through their "Around the world" drum dance. This is always a funny spectacle as the male dancers will pick unsuspecting women to dance (hula style) and the female dancers pick men from the audience to dance (male hula style) with in a knee knocking type dance. Being brought up in a Pacific Islands church environment, and in joining a dance group, I got to learn how to dance to the Cook Islands drum dance and when I watched the audience dancers up on the dance floor, I couldn't help chuckling and smiling to myself.

I think it's why I like the "Moana" movie so much in that as a primary school student, I missed out on learning my own culture through my formal education but at church I was fully immersed in culture and Christianity. Now when I see my former primary school celebrating culture, I am so thankful that education and movies have shifted to see the importance and relevance of children's home language and culture as relevant in the classroom to the world.

And now I also contribute to write books about important stories to pass onto our next generations...

Cook Islands group dance at the Robertson Road School 50th Jubilee celebrations

Monday, 5 December 2016

Pacific Hibiscus in God NZone.. and now in Treviso, Italy...

Pacific Hibiscus in God NZone (Feb 2016)
It's finally online! my first painting on exhibition in Italy as one of 210 New Zealand artists (both emerging and established) in the Imago Mundi world collection through the Bennetton Foundation and such a privilege to be a part of this collection. The link is above if you would like to see more of the exhibition in both NZ and around the world.

The amazing part about it was that the curator had seen some of my artwork online and then invited me to be a part of the NZ Collection. I remember when in Intermediate (middle school) one of my art pieces was chosen to go in an Auckland school's exhibition collection. I remember I had screen printed Maori/Pacific designs onto a white pillow case and my family and I went to see it featured in town somewhere. I was about 11 years old at the time and never really thought to pursue art seriously as a career but now I am able to enjoying expressing ideas through art in self publishing books. Quite an amazing turn.

The above piece has a story to it and it features some things that are important to me. The star is likened to the Christmas story. The panel on the left details my Samoan heritage and these particular patterns I have doodled on so many books over the past as I'd attend meetings and discussions and now features in a lot of my artwork. The various other panels are symbolic of my parents leaving Samoa and moving to NZ via boat hence the waves and my love of the tropical sea/waters. The pandanus weaving of mats and the flax of my now NZ homeland and pacific patterns depicting my strong identity as a SamoaNZ women.

This is such a neat surprise and gift as we move towards Christmas celebrations...

Sunday, 4 December 2016

With Christmas Day just around the corner...

Just Christmas day just around the corner thought to post up one of my favourite acapella singing artists, Peter Hollens. I think he's based in Oregon in the US which I visited several times in my youth when I travelled up and down the Pacific South West coast from California, through to Oregon and up to Washington State, i.e. Seattle and later to Vancouver in Canada. Those were the days and now looking forward to my family also travelling to the US as on our travel plans in the not too distant future, Lord willing.

In fact, my older two couldn't get over how big Oahu was and so unlike the Pacific Island nations that we had visited on Fiji, Samoa (Upolu and Savaii Islands) that Honolulu looked very much like a tropical version of Brisbane which is quite built up unlike the very tropical island nations that we are used to.

This particular song, I enjoy in how he uses only his voice as a musical instrument to convey the meaning and emotions of the song. Really neat and also reminds me of the reason for the season without having to preach about it. The funny thing is that in NZ, we enjoy a summer Christmas season in the Southern hemisphere and in the US and England it's a usually a white wintery Christmas. So very different in my jandals!

Will also be posting other favourite Christmas songs that I've loved over the years and especially in how in this post-modern age, how this generation puts a modern spin on these traditionally long loved Christmas carols and songs.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

10th book launch at Robertson Road School 50th celebrations...

Book blessing at Robertson Road School 50th celebration Gala
2 Dec 2016
Yesterday saw the launch of our 10th book in the play series called "Sacred steps of Tigilau". It was written for my former high school: Nga Tapuwae College (now known as Southern Cross campus) in 1995 when I was an English teacher at another South Auckland high school and the Drama teacher at the time, Louise Creegan, produced and directed this amazing school production with her senior drama students that year.

The actual launch was incorporated into the 50th Jubilee celebrations of my former primary school called Robertson Road school. I was a pupil there between 1970 - 1976 when there were many Pakeha/Papalagi (European) students and there were few Pasifika or Maori students. Now there are many more Pasifika and Maori students and few if any Pakeha students.

It was neat to be able to share this moment with them as a past pupil and to give a brief talk about the books that I'd written and the theme to the books. I think for me it's about writing on things that are important to me and that's my cultural heritage which was missing for me during my elementary years at school. And the plays incorporate stories of Pasifika mythology that many of our young people may not be aware of if they have been born and raised outside of a Pacific Island.

All in all, it was a neat day and it was so nice to come back as an author to the school and to share my story and hopefully many will consider aiming for their dreams and making it happen. Another neat occurrence was having my parents fly in from Samoa to be at the launch and also in prepping for my sister's 21st birthday next month. It was so neat to share with them in the celebration of this milestone.

We later celebrated with dinner and a cake to honour this special occasion and looking forward to the new year and what it will bring...

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Professor Konai Helu Thaman visits AUT Manukau campus...

Prof. Konai Helu Thaman adorned with a red garland
It was such a privilege today to attend Prof. Konai Helu Thaman's lecture on culture in education. She was visiting from USP (University of the South Pacific, Suva Fiji) from where we had just arrived back from a couple of days ago and listening to her discussion and poetry reading was such a neat blessing as I agree with much of what she said although from a different perspective as a NZ Samoan.

I first discovered Konai, when I first started teaching in the early 1990s and it was through reading her poem "You, the choice of my parents" that I became interested in her poetry and academic works. In fact, at her discussion when she was introduced, a Tongan man sang her poem and it brought tears to her eyes as he sung her poem like lyrics to a song whilst strumming a ukulele. Simply beautiful.

The last time I met with Konai was in 1999 when I was working at the Ministry of Education on an initiative and I was working in a team that was organising a conference for local educators i.e. principals and teachers. When it came to a keynote speaker, the only academic that I could think of who could make a significant contribution to the discussion, at that time was Konai and the committee agreed and she gracefully accepted. She was a gentle and graceful now as she was then and so very down to earth with much humility.

In the room, it was pleasing to see a lot of Pasifika academics, undergraduate/post-graduate students, educators, community rep's etc. sharing in the conversation, her experiences resonating in many ways and listening to her experience as a senior high school student in Auckland and then an alumni of the University of Auckland from the department of Geography (where I also graced the halls - we have that in common!) before leaving for California to pursue her PhD and then to Fiji where she has taught for 40+ years.

After her discussion, it was open to the floor (audience) to ask questions and one of the remarks from a fellow colleague whom I went to University with and is now on staff at the University of Auckland was that there are only 3 Pasifika professors in the world and she didn't count those who were of Maori or Hawaiian descent and two of them were in the room i.e. Professor Konai and seated next to her was Professor Tagaloatele, Peggy Fairburn-Dunlop from AUT University, Manukau campus.

The third professor that I am aware of, I had also met a couple of weeks prior was Professor Malama Meleisea at the opening of the SAAB, Sei Orana store (ground floor of the Samoan House or NZ Samoan Consulate buildings). I had bought a reprint of his book and asked if he didn't mind signing it as I had studied his book at Uni and wanted to restock my depleted bookshelf. He was kind to agree and also offered that there was a Samoan version currently ready for press to soon be printed.

I'm not sure that my academic path will take me in that direction but I did make an appointment to meet with Professor Tagaloatele next week to discuss becoming more involved at the Manukau Campus in the near future when she greeted me. I think this is important in the sharing of ideas and encouraging other fellow Pasifika women to complete their various degrees to open up further doors of opportunity.

There I also met up with some past Pasifika educators and friends/colleagues and I want to make time to meet regularly to discuss some of the pressing issues that we are aware for Pasifika educators in Auckland primarily. It would be a time of supporting, encouraging, informing and sharing stories with the view of making the educational landscape better for our children, grandchildren and generations to come...

Monday, 28 November 2016

Fiji video and the "Sleeping Giant"...

The "Sleeping Giant" mountain/hill range view from Nadi, Fiji.
In case the video doesn't work, one of the big highlights of being in Fiji was viewing the "Sleeping Giant" mountain/hill range again after many years. I first heard about the Fiji giant when researching the story of the giant "Moso" in Samoa in the 1980s as there was a belief that Moso's other footprint was in Fiji somewhere.

In the retelling of the book "The footprint of Moso" (2016), I tried to retell the story connecting the two stories as little is known of the story of the sleeping giant in Fiji and I hope that one day a Fijian will write and publish it for the world to know.

It was also very interesting whilst viewing the movie "Moana", that the story of Te Fiti/Whiti was also told, one that I had not heard of, and I assumed that Te Fiti was male, although I knew the Hawaiian volcanic deity "Pele" to be female. The metamorphosis into a mountain/hill range is a feature that I am aware of in many Pasifika stories and was well told in Moana too.

In fact, of the four "tala o le vavau" (Samoan - ancient stories) series of books each of them tells of a personification of landforms/landscapes or phenomena which tells of the early close and sacred connection of our Pacific ancestors with their environment.

The following four books tell of various natural phenomena in ancient stories:

  1. Sina and the Tuna (2015) an ancient Samoan story about the origins of the coconut
  2. Mount Vaea and the tears of Apa'ula (2015) a ancient story about the formation of Mount Vaea and the waterways of "Loimata o Apa'ula" (now a small pool as it was filled in with dirt) in Upolu Samoa.
  3. Tagaloalagi and Fue (2015) an ancient Samoan story about the origins of people pre-Christianity 
  4. The footprint of Moso (2016) an ancient story about the origins of a lava rock form in Savaii, Samoa.

In a sense, the stories were told as if to take word images photos of these important landforms/landscapes or natural phenomenon in order to explain the formation. These stories held important information of the beliefs that Pacific ancestors had with their close relationship to the environment. In Samoan these natural phenomenon were called "pine faamau" or pin to fasten or give evidence that the phenomenon existed.

And so these stories continued to be told from one generation to the next...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Last days in Fiji...

Wedding Chapel at the Sheraton, Denarau Is, Fiji

Serene beach scene at Denarau Is, Fiji
Our last day/s in Fiji have been neat starting with a morning swim and walk, going into town and then ending with a evening or night swim. Everything going at "Fiji time" as we are told from the dawn of the day to sunset at night.

Last night we also went to check out some takeaways and found a Burger King with "Stunner meals" starting at F$11 and their MacDonalds was where I remember the KFC to be many years ago, and there are the local foods that my beloved and I enjoy not to mention the sweet pineapple, watermelons and various other tropical fruit.

The main shopping strip at Nadi are full of souvenirs from the high end shopper to those wanting to pick up guests for friends and family at home. We also had a local tell us to go and buy from the local craft markets as the other larger stores had their stock imported from Sri Lanka and probably Bali.

I think it's been a wonderful time away and although I do look forward to going back home and starting things for Christmas, it also reminds me to take time out to look after ourselves and to plan for our next break and holiday away. Already our children are looking forward to the next holiday back and that's something we'll keep in prayer...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Having a great time in Fiji...

Bula Vinaka! Yesterday had a great day celebrating my birthday with family in Denarau Island and Nadi, Fiji. It all started with a blueberry pancake breakfast made by my daughter and sister then we went to watch the movie "Moana" which was such a neat surprise for me as hadn't been aware of the opening until we arrived. Followed by a lunch and a sunny swim in the warm hotel pool. We then went into town for a nice dinner and finished the day with another late night swim. (The above video is of us going to town.)

My family have really loved this time out and it's been so good to be able to relax and rejuvenate. Another neat event was being able to view the "sleeping giant" mountain range when we first arrived into Fiji as we made our way to our Hotel. Sadly not much is known about the story behind the "sleeping giant" as most tourists know it by the Sleeping giant gardens, mud pool and walk. I allude to this story when I wrote the picture book "The footprint of Moso" (2016) in making a connection between the two stories of giants from Samoa and Fiji.

Fiji will always have a special place in my heart as I remember my first visit to Fiji was in the 1970s when my parents took our family to Samoa for the first time and due to some plane difficulties we spent the night in a hotel in Fiji and I remember being so surprised at seeing frogs jumping around as we walked to our hotel room.

I then didn't visit again until the 1995 when I went for a holiday with my brother and sister. Then again in 2000, when my aunt arranged for me to go to Fiji to confirm the wedding venue and plans which we enjoyed in 2001. My family then didn't return until in 2011 for our 10th wedding and again we are here celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. A real blessing to have had this connection over the years.

However, for the Fiji islands cyclones have had some of the most devastating effects on the people over these years and was told by a staff member earlier this year they experienced one of the most severe cyclones in memory.

I've also been aware of the military coups that Fijians and Fijian Indians experienced over the years which has had many Fijian Indians migrating to NZ and has seen a rise in certain Auckland communities i.e. Otahuhu, Papatoetoe and Mt Roskill with a high proportion of Fijian Indians, most notably in school ethnic populations.

So this has been a time for me to reflect and consider where we've come from and all the things that I need to complete before the end of the year with Christmas just around the corner...


Friday, 25 November 2016

Blessed birthday in watching "Moana" in Fiji...

Our youngest in Nadi, Fiji before watching the movie "Moana".
I couldn't believe it when we flew out of Auckland and briefly met Temuera Morrison (Maori actor) who plays the father, Chief Tui, one of the main characters in the movie "Moana". Only Maria (my lil' sister) was game enough to ask him for a selfie and he obliged. I only walked past him in the plane (Air NZ) and shook his hand and said "looking forward to seeing "Moana". He must of thought what wierd random people to be talking to him or maybe he's used to it.

I later found out from my beloved on the Fiji TV news that he had travelled to Fiji for the premiere opening of "Moana" in Suva yesterday and today, for my birthday, I beloved granted my birthday wish of going to see the movie just out of Nadi, in Fiji with our two younger children. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as I had wanted to watch the movie and in NZ we would have had to wait until the December when the World premiere was only a couple of weeks ago in the US.

I must say, before the movie came out, I read through some of the critics various blogs and posts etc. of the movie and even those who said to ban the movie in protest due to intellectual property rights etc. the muddling of all Pacific cultures into one melting pot and I can also understand the anger at having a multinational corporate group like "Disney" raking in the profits from such a movie but for me...

I absolutely loved it! yes, as an academic, writer, storyteller, artist, Pasifika woman, poet etc. I definitely am not a pureist when it comes to culture and I cringed at certain parts of the storytelling and ideas such as the size of Mauis short/thick torso but all in all I listened very carefully and watched, cried, laughed and smiled when watching what I thought was a well crafted story that had so many elements of so many different Pacific Islands, that if you didn't know how to differentiate between the different cultures, this movie would definitely not tell you how to do that - that would have to be from your own personal research.

What I thought really spoke for me was that it esteemed our Pasifika ancestors and set the story straight that it wasn't Captain Cook who "discovered" the various Pasifika Islands as they had been well discovered many more hundreds of years by Pasifika ancestors who were amazing navigators and seafaring peoples. It also reiterated the importance of telling "our stories" that I have found so fascinating to re-tell for the next generations.

The movie also shared various elements from my Samoan heritage from the "Cheehoo!" of Maui's catch cry, the "tuiga" of Moana's tupou (Samoan princess-like status) headress, to Chief Tui's tatau (tatoos) and even listening to some of the lyrics was simple amazing.

I also liked how Maui played by Dwayne Johnson was so cocky as I thought Maui to have been as the Pasifika demigod and "trickster" as I knew growing up and it was also very cheeky in the ways that I know many Samoan young men are too :) Even the Samoan fale (traditional house) was incorporated with the sinnet lashings was simply amazing. There were many other elements from the Maori, Tokelauan, Fiji, Cook Islands etc. that were also incorporated into the movie but you have to ask someone from those Islands to find out.

The whole cinematography of the movie was beautiful. From my own artistic viewpoint, I'v always been drawn into the beauty of the Pacific Islands and even here in Fiji, I marvel at the beauty of nature, the brightly contrasting colours of the flora with the golden or black sands of beaches and the azure blues of the waters. It's also the way that I paint with contrasting colours of the sea, land and flowers. Just simply beautiful and the movie does justice to the beauty that I know, love and treasure of the Islands.

Even the pull of the sea to the character Moana, I have often felt that, even as a youngster growing up in NZ, of loving the water, going to beaches during the summer, of swimming and eating seafoods, fish either in NZ or in the Islands as I was brought up by my Samoan born parents. I love kayaking, paddling in waka ama or outrigging and even tried Dragon boating.

Even yesterday my beloved and I ate locally caught and cooked octopus, I mean, it helps if you know your sea foods and to me the movie helped to define me as a Pasifika person within so many ways of knowing. The sea creatures and other fauna were also incorporated in the tapa type prints, the weaving etc. so many motifs were featured throughout the movie that if you didn't know what the Pacific Islands were all about, this movie definitely gave you a sense of what it is or may have been like.

To all the "haters" out there, I would say don't take it too seriously, people will take whatever they want to get from the film but I definitely didn't want to judge the movie before I saw it as the critics had their own opinions but for me, the time has come of age in that the movie gave a sense that "we" Pasifika peoples history as brilliant sea navigators and is being taken seriously with Taika Waititi (Maori actor, producer, writer etc.) behind the original script of the movie and the rewriting of history acknowledges the mastery of Pasifika peoples to where we are today.

So Happy birthday to me and go see "Moana" with your families and enjoy!...

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chillaxing during our 15th Wedding anniversary with kids on Denarau Island, Fiji...

Beach view at the resort at Denarau Island, Fiji

Pool view at the resort at Denarau Island, Fiji
Bula! It's such a blessing to be able to take our family each year to travel either within New Zealand or overseas. This year marks our 15th Wedding Anniversary with my beloved as we got married in Fiji on Sonaisali Island resort, 24th November 2001.

This year we made last minute plans to visit again since 2011 when we returned to mark our 10th wedding anniversary at the site with our children. This time, the last minute plans were nail biting, so much so that we were still waiting to receive our renewed passports (all 5 of them) the day before our plane flew out yesterday. Talk about living on the edge and having lots of faith! and never a dull moment.

I also thought to take my youngest sister, Maria, as she's been a great help with the book cover designs and next year marks her 21st birthday and what better way to celebrate her special significant day than to start with a before party function in Fiji.

In thinking about our overseas wedding, although it was initially very difficult for our extended families to accept our wedding in Fiji, we had a wonderful time with our minister/s, our parents, my grandmother, our aunties and uncles, siblings and those who were able to attend. I'll always remember how happy I was with my dad swimming in the pool in the morning before the wedding and having a great time with family.

Today, we are again spending a lot of time with our children in the pools, beach and splashing about for ages and just having some R and R. Because we live such busy lives with school and work, it's sometimes very hard to reconnect, between schedules and the busyness of life, but in taking time to just relax, we are able to chill and enjoy our time away with just Christmas around the corner...

Monday, 21 November 2016

Goals 2017...

I know, you're thinking it's way too early to be even thinking about 2017 in that you haven't done your Christmas shopping or thanksgiving planning, the Christmas parties to attend the children's end of school prize-givings etc. that's the same as for me but at church yesterday Pastor Campbell talked about having 20-20 vision when it comes to goal planning now for the new year and it's something that I've done over the years too.

He spoke about having 6 areas not only for your own personal goals but also for incorporating family goals and it's something that my family will be discussing as we look forward to going on holiday in the next few days. The goals he suggested were in the area of:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Family
  3. Relational
  4. Vocational
  5. Financial
  6. Personal
I do the same with my books in that I've already started planning for and can confirm at least 2 books of 5 for the coming year, Lord willing, and I'd like to start a new series of a Samoan historical picture book series that ties into personal stories to tie Samoan historical events into current understandings. 

There are so many legacy stories that I'd like to share with the next generations as when I was growing up most of my formal education was through a European lens but in doing my own research from a NZ Samoan perspective, I was able to learn to use various tools of learning and teaching to grow understandings of collecting important stories to pass on for upcoming youth including my own children.

This is quite exciting and looking forward to the family vacation and forward planning with the Christmas holidays and having a rest over the break although I have still quite a bit of study to catch up on my doctoral studies - Roll on Christmas...

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lemon flavoured green tea my favourite...

My favourite tea of choice
My favourite tea happens to be green tea with lemon. In fact, after leaving Uni I was at a capacity of at least 3 cups of coffee a day to keep me up and going and then decided, when I went teaching in the early 1990s, to give it up completely and have been coffee-free ever since.

I also gave up tea at the same time but over the years, I decided to allow it back in and I've enjoyed lemon tea instead of the usual tea. My mother was my inspiration in that growing up she never drank tea or coffee in the ways that she was brought up back in Samoa, so I decided to follow suit in my adult years and don't miss coffee either even with the new exotic types of coffee, I don't even know what a capachino (don't even know how to spell it) tastes like let alone a mochachino.

But the other day, my beloved came home with the above pictured tea which I instantly liked. Green tea is supposed to be the more healthier option that I had picked up to drink last year and in adding the lemon, wow! just love to start the day with it or to end the day.

Often I'm asked about when I started thinking about creative writing and it was definitely in high school with my year older sister having a knack at poetry and winning the high school senior creative writing prize cup. Did I mention that I never won that cup? but it was something that I really wanted back then. Now, I no longer have to look to the past except for nostalgically with my cup of green tea with aromatic lemon in hand...

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Te Wananga o Aotearoa Summer Graduation...

Totem pole outside the centre
Graduation Ceremony of TWOA at the Vodafone Events Centre
 Yesterday, I attended the TWOA (Te Wananga o Aotearoa) summer graduation ceremony with my family. We went there to honour one of our family member's efforts upon completing her computing course. 

This was also the same course that I completed but due to having completed quite a few different courses over the course of my being at TWOA, I thought it more important to let our family member enjoy her night with a nice dinner and supper afterwards.

One of the neat things about having the TWOA Graduation ceremony at the Vodafone Events centre in Manukau, is being able to enjoy time with family a graduation ceremony without having to go into Auckland city with it's traffic jams, often an austere environment and expensive parking. 

It also allows local families from South Auckland, the opportunity to be able to enjoy the day and to see the sights such as the very tall Totem pole outside the centre which resembles Native American and Canadian totem poles with a distinct Maori artistic flavour in the carving.

There is also the new Vero Wero: Whitewater rafting course directly behind the totem that was newly opened last year as the first man-made water course in NZ. I haven't yet been in but looking forward to taking our family there as we all love the water, whether it's swimming, or kayaking, paddling in an outrigger or just having fun. Our love for water must be through our Pacific genes.

So now it's at the end of another learning journey and the start of new learning journeys for both of us. I was asked a few days ago what me being an "educator" means. I guess for me it means as in the Maori work "ako" and Samoan word "a'o" to teach and also to learn. It's about learning so that we can pass it on to the next generation...

Friday, 18 November 2016

SSAB Opening in Mangere - stocking my books!...

Ribbon cutting at opening of SSAB 17 Nov 2016
Had an amazing opportunity open yesterday as I attended the opening launch and ribbon cutting ceremony of SSAB Samoan Stationery and Books in Mangere at the Samoa House (Samoan Consulate) now moved from the city. There I met the Managing Director, Fiti Leung Wai, and when I approached her to discuss about stocking my books at the store, she agreed (cheehoo!!!) and promptly made an appointment to talk with the Auckland Managing Director whom I know too. Wow! I thank God for these amazing miracles since first self-publishing last year.

This is quite out of left field as I had first approached SSAB at their megastore in Samoa late last year but as they were gearing up for Christmas and the opening of their new Pago store in American Samoa she was too busy and I had to fly back to NZ before being able to show Fiti the books. We also got to see their Savaii store and so I think I've seen all their stores except for a Hawaiian store that I joked with Fiti about but they do have some Hawaiian products selling too.

Now, upon returning from Fiji next week, I'll be able to sit down and discuss/negotiate terms and conditions of stocking the books and am amazed at how things have turned within a week of seeing the SSAB store stock up for their opening and looking forward to seeing my books promoted there too. I also want to thank Jackie Curry for the invitation as this was so unexpected and I also thank the Samoan business network association for keeping me in sinc with what's going on.

What I like about the store is that I can see me doing my Christmas shopping there where they also have a Christian literature section and an array of gifts for birthdays and special occasion buys at reasonable prices plus I would be supporting Samoan enterprises rather than the multinational brand companies or made in China products that I have bought in the past.

They have an amazing variety of earrings and jewellery, some even for the high end shopper, shoes, clothing, Samoan books (yeah!) as I can now restock on some of the titles that I had lost as family members would ask to read and then forget to return. There are also toys, games, some of the latest gadgets and they are also opening a section where goods can be bought in Auckland and paid for whilst picked up in Samoa.

Wow! still smiling at this great opportunity and looking forward to a break in Fiji, as I really need one to recover :) Thank you God!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

View from Mangere Mountain "Te Pani o te Mataoho"...

View from Mangere Mt of what used to be Mangere sewage pond (crater)
My research journey with my class in Indigenous Research this year has been very interesting and I am painfully aware of the many decisions that were made by past local government and businesses to disrupt the beautiful landscape in Mangere to make way for modernisation as Auckland grew from the 1950s onwards.

I also found out that the name of the mountain for local Maori is "Te Pani o te mataoho" in which there is a story behind the name Maori name of the mountain and I have encouraged some local Maori from the iwi (tribe) to write about it as few know the incredible story behind the name but that is story is for them to tell.

One painful decision to the land was choosing a dormant crater which used to hold Maori canoes before European settlement to become an open sewage system for Auckland. You can see the crater in the pic above viewed from Mangere Mt and Ihumatao in the far distance. I remember it used to be sectioned off and there would be different colours to the sewage that was contained within the crater.

I remember as a child and into my 20s driving past the area and it would smell from the sewage and we would try to hold our noses or breath as we drove past. I wrote a poem about Mangere Mt which is in my first poetry collection in paying homage to this beautiful landscape that was mistreated and still being used as a sewage treatment plant although now using treatment tanks for the sewage waste etc.

Since the early 2000s modern treatment of sewage is doing away with the open sewage system and now there is a drive to restore the waterways back to it's former glory but that will take years and hopefully within our lifetime to see people swim, eat fish and seafood from there.

Presently, it's just nice to look at and have heard that there are plans afoot to change it into an aquicentre of some sort that will allow people to enjoy the area as a aquatic sports centre but not so sure how that will pan out.

Still, to see how the seabed is starting to restore itself with birds slowly returning and sealife hopefully sometime in the future, the landscape will one day return back to it's former glory, if left quietly alone ...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

"Aunty Ma" a brilliantly moving story told through Maori theatre...

The cast of "Aunty Ma" script by storyteller William/Wiremu Davis
At Te Wananga o Aotearoa, I get the privilege of being able to experience Indigenous arts through a Maori lens as a NZ Samoan artist/author/academic etc. and it's a real privilege to share in the stories, performances, songs, whaikorero (speeches) and toi (the arts) at this Maori Indigenous tertiary institute of learning. It's a far cry from my former days in mainstream education and often challenges the perceptions of what I used to think as "the norm" in my former days as a student and then teacher professional.

Last night, I got the opportunity to take my class (Indigenous Research/ers) to view the play "Aunty Ma" in it's entirety as we had been invited to watch a rehearsal by the Maori performing arts class earlier but hadn't watched the ending. I was again blown away by the amazing script and story telling qualities of the performing arts students who used waiata (songs), te reo (language), taiaha (Maori weaponry) and many other elements to tell the story of a lady of grace whom we affectionately know at Te Wananga o Aotearoa as "Aunty Ma."

The story is about her life and the influences that made her what she is today as a passionate educator who was one of the founding members of Te Wananga o Aotearoa. This year she is leaving us due to her failing health etc. having spent 33 years as a stalwart of Te Wananga o Aotearoa. The story tells of what she encounted as a young Maori growing up in Te Awamutu and the story of how Te Wananga began.

I would highly recommend that every one watches this amazing story. The story was such that a number of the earlier trustees mortgaged their homes at least twice in order to be able to pay for the establishment of the buildings in Te Awamutu and were given a rubbish tip to build on top of for a $1 per year for 30 years (so symbolic of the racist attitudes of the day).

Today, Te Wananga o Aotearoa is the second largest tertiary education community in the country. It boasts teaching many Te Ao Maori (Maori world knowledge) courses as well as several degrees including the Bachelor of Social Work, Bachelor of Education and now Masters in Applied Indigenous Knowledge as well as heading towards a PhD or doctoral studies.

There are many campuses scattered throughout the North and South Islands and encourages multicultural communities of learners and staff throughout the motu (islands) where I also teach now in sharing the story.

The performances are free at the Mangere Arts Centre, today and tomorrow at a 1pm Matinee and a 7pm evening show. Well worth the watch...