Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy 97th Birthday to my Grandma Asia...

A big happy 97th Birthday to my Grandma (Maria Mareta) Asia Su'a who was born in the last century in 1919 in Samoa and turns 97 years young today. In fact, we were very worried earlier this year as she had been sick and the doctor wasn't expecting her to recover given her age and condition but she surprised even the doctor and it was such a blessing to us all to witness her recovery - a big miracle! to say the least.

Growing up, I remember clearly that my Grandma was such a strong woman and very sure in her faith in God. She would go to church regularly, tithe regularly and would pray and fast regularly. She was also very strict and ran a tight household of which I was mindful of never wanting to cross her, so I would also mind my manners around her.

She was a pioneering woman and when I spoke to my aunties and my dad about her when she was younger, she assisted in bringing a lot of our family members from Samoa to Auckland and many stayed with her until they were able to set themselves up with a job and other families. She really cared about family and always wanted to do the right thing as she knew it to be.

She shared a special relationship, although I was often busy with my studies and then career and now with my own family but I learnt a lot of lessons from her in life and hope to pass them on to my own family too. Her faith has always been strong and she has never wavered in her faith in God and when she became a widow she continued to trust in him for all her needs and was always generous in giving away much of what was given to her.

Over the weekend, my family had a special lunch for her but I was unable to attend and will be instead visiting her on her birthday. It also happens to be Halloween but because my family doesn't celebrate it we will instead be enjoying time with her and thanking God for the special part that she plays in my family's life with their Great Grandmother for whom I am especially grateful for...

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Auckland University library with 6 of our books...

So great to see that at Auckland University, where I first started my University studies as an undergraduate in the mid to late 1980s, now holds 6 of our books in circulation. Wow! never ever dreamed that this would ever happen!

I remember as a 20 something year old knowing that I wanted to write or be a writer and that's why I took a Creative writing paper in 1990 to start my journey off with Albert Wendt as my lecturer but even in the classes where we would share our writing, I was still not very confident.

What I felt I lacked at that time was life experience and I knew that I wanted to write something regarding South Auckland where I lived as there was no writing about where I lived in Mangere, a multicultural community, as it was often described as.

Now, I feel humbled and I thank God in surpassing my dream of now being self-published. This is like a stamp of approval in validating what I had always believed in, that the stories were worthy to be written about and in now being self published under the right conditions i.e. having full control of the process from beginning to the end. Wow! dreams can come true....

Thursday, 27 October 2016

"Loimata o Apa'ula" disappeared?... Why I do what I do...

"Loimata o Apa'ula" (1989) with youth from Nofoalii village after climbing Mt. Vaea.
(Me in front with blue T sleeveless T shirt.)
As I'm working away on my presentation for the symposium tomorrow, it's given me time to reflect on my experiences since starting on my re-search journey those many years ago. It's what I continue to write about some 25+ years after and will now probably become my life's work.

It's amazing to think that when this picture was taken those many years ago as a fresh post graduate from the University of Auckland, that there was much that I would learn and many doors would open in the arena of education that I hadn't really envisaged that I would enter into.

My first loves have always been art, music, writing, reading, academics in no particular order and I was brought up in a household where anything was possible with the belief that with good work ethics and values would bring about endless possibilities despite the lack of finances, experience and role models. We just did the hard yards i.e. studying for school and kept trying against the odds.

I'll always be grateful for my parents for believing in me and for encouraging me even when I wasn't always so sure about what I was doing. I always felt my parents praying for me and I was brought up with strong family values and continue to dedicate my books to them.

This pic also reminds me of a time when I was able to dive into "Loimata o Apa'ula" and even wrote a poem about it that was published in my first poetry collection "Pacific Hibiscus" (2016) called "Lessons from Mt. Vaea". As far as I'm aware, when I went to visit the pool and waterfall the signpost and path took me to a knee high wading pool and my assumption is that it was buried for some reason that is unknown to me. Please do tell me if this is not the case.

And this is the reason why I write about knowledge and values that are not always being passed on in wanting to preserve the stories of an almost forgotten past to inform current generations for their future...

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Te Ihu Rangahau Symposium - Our word, our way (from a Samoan perspective) ...

Rangahau Symposium poster pic (above)
Gearing up for a symposium presentation at our Te Wananga o Aotearoa (Mangere Campus) biennial rangahau (research) symposium which is on this Friday at the Jet Inn in Mangere with the theme as "Celebrating Rangahau, Our word our way".

My contribution is looking at "Tofa sa'ili - Rangahau in action from a Samoan perspective" whereby I'll be sharing some of my journey as a post-graduate student back at Auckland University with my first major research project going back to my roots in Falealupo, Savaii (the big Island) in Samoa and what I have learnt since that day.

I'll be tracing my re-search journey in my 20s and acknowledging the faaSamoa ways that my parents and aiga taught me about in being able to successfully complete my first Masters degree in a field of study that was very new (to me) and to the Geography department at the time in the field of Geo-mentality.

I'll then quickly whisk through the various Ministry of Education research projects that I found myself in that were not at all in keeping with the Indigenous Research principles, roles and responsibilities that I'm now teaching about and then will discuss my first attempt to study towards my PhD in Geography which felt very wrong at the time to now where I am taking stock of my EdD studies ensuring that I am true to myself and my spiritual/cultural upbringing and then ending with a poem.

With so much work do between launching books, marking and teaching assignments and looking after my family, it's a wonder I get anything done but I thank God for strength and wonderful people surrounding me who inspire, encourage and love me in knowing that there is more to do for another day.

As usual, looking forward to the weekend after the presentation. Roll on the weekend...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Pentatonix - "Hallelujah"...

My lil' sister Maria first introduced me to the music of the Pentatonix years ago when she was still in high school and have come to love their Capella music using their best vocal instruments. What's so neat was watching them starting out as a group of friends come together, a few years ago, and now they are an international music sensation.

This is yet another neat rendition of a cover that I've liked even before "Shrek" (the movie) brought it out of obscurity. It's amazing to listen and to think that there are no musical instruments used to layer the song. My all time favourite probably is still their "Daft Punk Medley".

Have always loved music from my Samoan upbringing with the music that encouraged me to learn to play guitar and ukelele (still love drums too), and singing in church choir in learning to harmonize (on the third - alto). Also learnt to play the piano (classical music) and studied classical music in high school and also to read music but unfortunately didn't carry it on.

Also listened to a lot of the radio music that was current in the late 1970s through to the 1990s, especially the disco music and music of the 1980s which surprises my daughters when they share some of their music with me and I'm singing along and I have to explain that it's a newer version. Ha ha - some music is just timeless.

So I really appreciate musical talent that is a little different and also music that you can dance too. Yes, I used to enjoy dancing growing up. Just thought I was a little ahead of my time as a teenager as there weren't a lot of opportunities for youth who were interested in the arts: music, art, writing in addition to culture but now it's all out there! yeah!...

Friday, 21 October 2016

"Kiwi consciousness" my first painting exhibited in Treviso, Italy :) ...

It's been a real privilege to have one of my paintings exhibited in Treviso, Italy with a number of works from 210 Aotearoa, NZ contemporary artists both emerging and those who are established. The information below is copied from the official Facebook page to give further details.

"Presentation of the collection New Zealand: Kiwi Consciousness. Contemporary Artists from New Zealand by Imago Mundi, the non-profit contemporary art project promoted by Luciano Benetton, under the auspices of Fondazione Benetton. The collection will present us with works measuring 10x12 centimetres, the results of the creativity of 210 artists, young and emerging as well as established masters of colour, as do all of the collections of the project (currently more than 100) which, in the name of intercultural dialogue, has involved more than eighteen thousand artists from around the world.
Together with Rosa Maria Falvo, curator of the collection, a group of artists from the Māori community will also participate, whose works are part of the collection and who, for this event, will perform a ceremony of traditional song and dance." (Facebook: Imago Mundi Art)

If you have a close look at the pic above, my painting is in the 3rd row from the top and 4th column from the left (on the right of the face painting). What I really enjoyed about painting the canvas was that we were given freedom of expression to paint whatever we wished with the theme of "Kiwi Consciousness".

It's also a dream come true in that I had applied to Elam (Ak Uni) art school but didn't get in and instead continued with a degree in the Arts but I always knew that I wanted to get back to painting at some stage and always thought that it would probably be when I retired. However, when I started self-publishing my books last year and started painting alongside it opened doors, such as this one, and gave me a chance to exhibit my work (albeit) a small one to the world and starting with a painting in Italy. 

And now with more to come...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Next book: The sacred steps of Tigilau...

Now looking forward to Christmas and our last contribution for this year as our latest book that is currently in production for a December launch is "Sacred steps of Tigilau" it's in the play series with now only 2 more plays to launch next year before my more current writings can be published and launched.

This, so far, has been such an exciting journey in seeing my plays and books being picked up by Public libraries in Auckland, at University book stores and book sellers around NZ as well as a lot of interest around the world through my blogs and in just talking with fellow interested readers.

It's such a joy and a privilege especially as I'm now teaching in the Indigenous Research space and studying alongside being able to share my practical application in class. There is still much to do but I feel that many good things are coming out of conversations and awareness in our class.

As for the latest book, this year will mark the 21st year since writing the story. I still marvel that I was writing with so much enthusiasm back then especially when I knew that at the time it wasn't getting published but with a passion to see students in High school performing plays that were written for them in South Auckland.

This particular play was written for the students of Nga Tapuwae College a.k.a. Southern Cross Campus, as it is now known as the former name is now recognised as the Maori kura (school) which resides next to my former school.

I'm still not sure about where to launch it and considering maybe locally in Mangere or in Otara but will see how things plan out. Readers are most welcome to give feedback and I look forward to seeing this story in the public arena as it shares the love story of Vaea and Apa'ula in play form.

Roll on Christmas, here we come... Lights, camera, action!...

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

One "CIDANZ" Cook Islands community S.H.E.D...

Kia orana! One of the neat things that I love about teaching in the Indigenous Research space is being able to share with our students the very innovative initiatives that many of our Pasifika peoples are working in as well as the challenges that our Indigenous peoples often face.

So this last weekend, while it was pouring down with rain, on and off, we were kindly allowed the privilege by one of the staff (Ina) at CIDANZ: Cook Islands Development Agency NZ to view their newly refurbished Community S.H.E.D. (Social Human Economic Development) Facility that is launched last year, opened on Oct 29, 2015 according to the Pasifika Futures website.

It was so neat that we were taken on a journey from where 7 years ago, the shed was used as a church for Cook Islanders to attend and it also had Zumba/exercise classes at around 6 am and now they've opened up a community garden growing organic vegetables as pictured below and have a place one can buy Cook Islands dresses, tivaevae (Cook Islands quilts), pareu (lavalava), handcrafts, Noni juice, coconut oils etc.

Really enjoyed learning about the neat developments with an early childhood centre set to go and an even bigger facility with tours and more enterprises with so much to offer the Cook Islands community, the local community and Auckland tourism.

A big thank you for sharing with us your story and all the best for the future and looking forward to driving past and seeing where the journey takes you all. Meitaki...

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Introducing "A Midsummer Night's Dream with a taste of Polensia" book launch today...

Am so happy to be finally allowing this play to see the light of day some 20 years after it was written in 1996. As an English teacher, I really wanted to push myself as a writer (at the time) to see what I could do with re-writing a Shakespearean play into a Pasifika/Polynesian setting hence the "Polensia" which is my take on the word Polynesia as I knew it growing up.

Having studied Shakespearean plays since high school through to University, I was surprised when I, myself became a teacher and was told at the time that it was too difficult to teach to at the South Auckland school to pupils who wouldn't be able to understand it.

Yes, maybe the old English language or the way it was taught, although when my senior classes watched the videos, the actions spoke louder than words and they were able to understand but I also thought that it was a lot of nonsense because I got a teach about issues and ideas of the play which often discussed universal themes about the battle between good and evil (for tragedies) and the roles of different societies etc.

So here we are like a mother having given birth (metaphorically to a play) but then waiting 20 years until I was finally ready (plus technologically and with opportunities) to reveal the play to a global audience.

If you do get a chance to read it, please send me a review on my contact details as I'm considering to re-write 2 more plays (I'd thought about "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet") but am open to other plays and this book may be in the Auckland libraries (with the other 6 books) by the end of the year... and with more to come, Lord willing ...

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Samoan (take on) Shakespeare..

The "toloa" (bird) continuely flies but returns to the waters (translation)

These past couple of weeks have been especially busy with family and my parents visiting from Samoa for our (my birth church's) annual Samoan white Sunday or "Lotu Tamaiti" (A church service hosted for children to recite bible verses, participate in plays, dances etc. and to wear white). Working as a tutor has also been neat and learning so much in the Indigenous Research field as well as working on my own studies, researching books and other side activities that keep me busy.

The above large neat painting was gifted to me last year at our second book launch which was hosted by my birth church's Samoan pre-school of Mangere PIC Aoga Faataitai that our youngest was attending at the time. It was such a blessing to receive and have thought to add to the painting with as it has an unpainted background. Very tempting for artists to want to finish and add their own signature.

The neat thing is that the ancient Samoan proverb (as translated below the painting) is very meaningful for me in that it reminds me that although I get really busy with so much going that I can stay grounded on the things that are meaningful to me i.e. my faith and my family and in the case of the painting, it also speaks to my culture as a Samoan albeit NZ Samoan.

And am also looking forward to the book launch tomorrow at Mt Roskill library as it is an adaptation of a play written by Shakespeare that I re-wrote some 20 years ago with a Pasifika spin as a then high school English teacher. I am so glad that it can now see the light of day through my NZ Samoan lens or take on Shakespeare with one more book launch before the end of the year and so much more to come... 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Thank you for the votes...

A big thank you to all those who voted for me at the recent Mangere-Otahuhu board elections in the 1000+ votes. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful and the Labour team took it out and I wish them well in their work for the community.

Some gems that I learnt from this election:

  • Being with an already established political team helps a lot in the visibility of having advertising boards, mailbox drops etc.
  • Campaigning helps also with standing on street corners, at the markets etc.
  • Writing about all the things you've done in church, in the community etc.
I definitely wouldn't change a thing as sometimes you have to do something a little scary in life to know what's out there and I'm not afraid to try something new to continue in the pursuit of learning about things that I need to know.

Yesterday, I was at a Mangere Bridge book fair where I was able to share a couple of my poems and read one of my books to the audience. It was neat to also get feedback in that one of my poems moved a member of the audience to tears in the poem "Unconditional Love" that I wrote on the blog yesterday.

I like the poster above as it's very much about climbing mountains be it physical or mental or philosophical and I enjoyed being able to share about climbing my mountain of now being an establishing author/artist with more mountains to climb...

Friday, 7 October 2016

2 poems by Helen Tau'au Filisi...

Have been so busy with so much going on that just realised that I haven't published any poetry on my blog since launching my first poetry collection in my last books launch of "Pacific Hibiscus" on our National poetry day in August.

Here are 2 poems that I've selected with books on sale this Saturday at the Mangere Bridge's mini book fair starting at 1 - 3.30 pm. We also each have a slot to read our works or to talk about our writing. I'll see how it goes and will probably read out some poetry including the following which readers are most welcome to review and comment on...

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$ together

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?

(c) Helen Tau'au Filisi 2016

Unconditional Love
He leaves the porch light on
every night waiting, hoping – forgiving.
She ran away, looking for brighter city lights.
He is hopeful and awaits her journeys end.

*     *     *

An open grenade lands in a campsite
about to explode – others duck for cover.
He dives on it, braced to take the impact
and receives a medal in risking his life for others.

*     *     *

He lies next to her, she doesn’t recognize him.
He squeezes her wrinkled hand reassuringly.
“In sickness and in health,” he whispers and sleeps.
Her bewildered face softens with a tear.

*     *     *

A fire has disfigured her.
“I do,” he says and slips a ring on her thumb. No digits.
She smiles. “I do too.”
He steadies her and kisses where lips once were.

*     *     *

She feels the impact of the bullet.
Dying in the line of duty,
piercing what was meant for her partner.
He cradles her with an angry cry, wishing he could take her place.

*     *     *

He kisses the bald head where silken hair once grew.
“You are more beautiful now than ever before.”
She forgets the treatment and brings his hand to her wet cheek.
“And so are you my love, and so are you.”

*     *     *

She visits him incarcerated, fortnight Wednesdays.
A glass panel separates them. They sit.
“I am so sorry mum.” His eyes plead in silence.
“You are still my son,” she replies with a gentle smile.

*     *     *

She almost lost her life with the last one.
“Don’t abort – no matter what!” She tells him.
Her life hangs in the balance, as his love for their baby to be.
She takes his hand to feel the tiny kicks in her belly.

*     *     *

“I’ll never do it again,” he pleads.
She’s heard it so many times before.
She takes the kids and calls for help.
He gets help and he never does it again.

*     *     *
(c) Helen Tau'au Filisi 2016

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream with a taste of Polensia Oct book launch...

Looking forward to our next book launch of a series next week on Thursday at Mt Roskill library (first library out of the South Auckland region) with the first of my Shakespeare adaptations. In fact, this book was again written some 20 years ago in being the anniversary of my leaving teaching as a High school educator and moving into tertiary and adult education.

This particular book was a rewrite of Shakespeare's most famous comedy play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" written around the 1600s when William Shakespeare was at his peak and this play is quite the sophisticated mixed sub-plots genre where there are several characters working on different agendas at the same time and culminates in order restored after quite a bit of chaos for the characters in question.

I remember enjoying studying Shakespeare at Uni and instead of reading the book, I remember going in the recording labs and listen to the origin play and following the script, in it's old English form, acted out by actors and it was like I was at the theatre (using my imagination) and using ear phones. And that was how I would teach the play by reading it out orally. I enjoyed teaching Shakespeare in unravelling the various plots and discussing the themes and intentions of play to senior high school students.

Now I can share that interest by offering a different take in setting the play in a tropical plantation setting and the characters are similar to Samoan ideas that's where the "... with a taste of Polensia" (Polynesia) comes from.

I think that other tragedies that I might consider re-writing for this series is either Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth or Othello which are plays that I also studied or taught. I remember when I was teaching that often other teachers thought that the plays were too difficult to teach to many students at the high school level but I disagreed and went on ahead in knowing that the teacher is the one who can make the biggest difference...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

My names: Faalavaau, Helen, Faamotu, Tauau, Filisi...

I've been asked about what my names represent so thought to discuss the origins of my names and explain how important history and legacy is in researching a person's history.

Faalavaau: is a chiefly matai title from Siufaga, Falelatai, that my dad asked me to consider, from his adopted mother's family, after I had turned down a couple of other titles that he had asked of me earlier.

At the time I was single and working and didn't understand the significance of chiefly titles and didn't think that I would be interested in it. After my dad recovered after being very sick, I decided to take the title in respect of the loving relationship that I have with him.

In later marrying my beloved, who is Samoan born, and raising a family, I now realise the importance of such a legacy. I also learned that the title "Faalavaau" was also a title of the late Faalavaau Galu, who was an MP from the village in the first three Parliaments of the new Independent Samoa from 1962 to the early 1970s where upon he died. He was highly respected and now I also carry the title.

My name Helen was chosen for me after my half German Great-Grandmother, on my mother's side, called Eleni. Eleni's father was Charles Louis Spitzenburg from Germany and her mother was Melea Solia from Falealupo in Savaii. They were all buried in Faleula on our family land and we now have at least 7 generations in Faleula.

My family name Tau'au: (which I deliberately added a glottal stop to for pronunciation) is from my father's side and is a chiefly title from Fasitoo, where my parents are currently residing. Tau'au was my dad's adopted father's title and my dad greatly admired and esteemed him until his death. He was given the name as a family name by his adopted parents.

Filisi: is my husband's family name. Tofilau Fritz is my beloved and we'll be celebrating our 15 years of marriage in November with 3 natural children and 2 adopted into the family sharing the Filisi family name. I also have a middle name and have written a couple of poems in my latest self-published poetry collection about the legacy of names that I was born into ...