Thursday, 31 August 2017

20 year anniversary of Princess Di's death...

Prince Charles and Princess Di on their Auckland tour in 1983
A TV channel this week is dedicating evening TV sessions/doco's to the 20th year of the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.

The pics on the left are pics that I took when they were on their NZ tour with baby Prince William back in 1983 when I was in my final year as a senior in high school at Nga Tapuwae College.

At that time, we didn't have a Head boy or Head girl as many seniors didn't stay at school (most got jobs etc.) and there were only 12 or so of us and therefore I was chosen to represent the school at this most important occasion. At the time I didn't really realise the enormous interest that the world would have on Princess Di but I am grateful that I got the chance to meet with her.

I remember my form teacher who also happened to be the Deputy principal reminding me to hold onto the Royal seal on the envelope and the actual invitation to attend this auspicious occasion and I did, but now don't know what happened to it.

I remember buying a dress especially for the occasion and shoes and we were all to assemble at Government House (I think) where my dad had dropped me off. I remember meeting another girl from a private Maori girls school called Queen Victoria girls school and we hit it off and kept in contact for a while afterwards

At the Government House, the royal couple came out and Prince William played on a mat outside the house as a photo opportunity for official cameras then the couple proceeded to walk around and shake hands with the public. I happened to also shake her hand when standing in a row waiting for her to come and around and also got a couple of shots as they walked past.

However, I do remember running around to get a second hand shake from her and she didn't look too pleased so I decided to let that go and watched from afar.

As the years went past, I couldn't help but read so much about this most famous woman that I barely met and how her life was laid bare for all to read and speculate on and it was so sad to find out that she died in such a manner that didn't seem to befit her at all.

I wrote a poem about our short encounter in my poetry collection. I will show an extract of it..

When royalty dies
"When the Princess of people died
it was 1997 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 touched 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."

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Celebrating Mana Mangere Voices book launch...

Mana Mangere Writers Collective at the book launch yesterday (2 absent)
Wow! what a day yesterday as Mana Mangere Writers Collective (6 of 8) launched our first collection of short stories and poetry at Mangere Town Centre library (with the exception of two members who were absent due to important family circumstances.)

From left to right: Tofilau Fritz (my beloved and poet), Fred Zombos (poet), Saulaina Sale (poet), Afamasaga Agnes Rasmussen (poetry & non-fiction), Mahuika Anderson (novelist) and me (Penny Barnhill (short story) & Pania Newton (poetry) in absentia).

It was a neat day as we started with a welcome by Library Manager: Sonia Munro, M.C'd by my beloved and then a book blessing by local school Chaplain Janet Tuitama followed by each writer reading a chosen poem, extract etc from the book and ending with a Q and A session plus refreshments and a special cake.

I was also given a slot to talk about the book and share a little about my journey of having a dream that didn't make it off the ground for some three decades and then making the decision to go for it and the rest is history but the really neat thing was to share the joy with fellow writers whose families were able to see their writer's dream come to fruition in a book now published.

It was also such a blessing to have various people at the book launch share about some of the stories about family members or in seeing this project come to fruition that it encouraged them to seek their dreams and follow their passion towards meeting goals made.

As a writer it gave me great joy (to say the least) to see so many people enjoying the moment and sharing together in a celebration of something that was beyond us in that it was a special blessing and a time for something such as this in our community...

Friday, 25 August 2017

New editions reprints of old stories...

New cover for Mt Vaea and Apa'ula
New cover for new 'Sina and the Tuna' edition
It's been such a blessing to have had the privilege of sharing my story/stories with many and now I'm into reprinting and updating covers on the first two books that helped to begin my writing/author journey.

I suppose if people were to ask why this writing journey is important to me, I'd reply by explaining that when I first came across these stories as an adult and through research in the late 1980s, I realised that as these stories were not getting passed on that generations that stood to lose precious knowledge, the very stories that were part of what it meant to be Samoans 'back in the day'.

These stories would have been commonplace and most Samoans would have known these ancient stories or tala o le vavau. They would be equivalent to what we now know as Disney Princesses or fairy tales of old that we were brought up with such as: the three pigs; Goldilocks and the three bears; Snow White; Cinderella etc.

I now share these stories with individuals, schools, groups and explain the importance of knowing and being comfortable with your indigenous roots (even with non-indigenous backgrounds) and then being successful in whatever you do in with your identity as a base of confidence.

I have a couple of speaking engagements in the next week and looking forward to our book launch tomorrow to encourage more to share their stories and be comfortable with the skin that they/we walk around in...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Mangere East - Middlemore - Must Go! - Bob Lemalu

 It's finally being sold! We bought this property some 10+ years ago as an investment property and I must say that I've learnt a lot in that time from living with my parents to buying a new home with my dear husband for our small family and then to investing in this property which was my beloved's idea but it did come with its ups and downs.

One of the things that I'm grateful for the opportunity of having been able to do this. I think one of the saddest things for this generation of NZers is that many won't have the opportunity to be able to own their own homes. It definitely meant not always being able to buy those flash things that others bought in wanting to pay off the mortgage but it certainly has paid off.

In a way, I think we're going to miss having the responsibility of ensuring that we as 'landlords' are complying with the various things that we needed to do like maintaining the house, painting it and the upkeep between tenants but at the same time I'm happy not to have so much paperwork to work through with the annual taxes with the accountant and sorting out issues of missed rent etc.

Still it was a season and am grateful for the blessing of now looking at the possibility of the next chapter of our lives but will see what the days, months, weeks, years ahead provides for us, Lord willing...

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Researching Genealogy links...

A couple of weeks ago, I was so blessed by being able to view a copy of a circa. 1893 document that listed the details of my German great, great Grandfather who married my great, great Grandmother who was from Falealupo. They had a daughter called Eleni and I was named after my great grandmother and am known as Helen.

It's like it was meant to be as I had wondered about this German 'fella' coming all the way from a hometown in Germany in the mid 1800s and then travelling all the way to find himself married to a Samoan lady from Falealupo in the 1880s, away from the capital of Apia and then raising children together there before moving with their children to Faleula where my grandfather and mother were born and raised. Such an amazing find!

So funny also in how I wrote a poem about the two of us (not even knowing that this document existed) some 100 years apart in my 'Pacific Hibiscus' poetry collection in that in the 1980s, I was in Samoa researching the stories of ancient Samoa (and still am) and that was where they had lived for a time and I hadn't been aware of those facts when I was researching information for my Masters degree.

It's a story that I'm considering to compile and write a historical novel about as there were some turbulent years ahead and this document reminds me of some of the historical events that were to take place some years after but that is another story...

Saturday, 19 August 2017


Yesterday, I went to a Professional development session at work which was to help develop corporate leadership training for staff within the organisation.

We were asked to answer over 100 short questions of around 20 mins and then as a result of our answers, 5 main strengths would be recorded.

My main strengths were: Activator, Belief, Input, Stategic and Relator, which aligned with my need to get things done i.e. to walk the talk; my Christian faith as a base for whatever I do; my interest in facts through inputting information - research; that I'm strategic thinker and relate to a close group of people.

This was neat to know but also knowing that there are also areas that still need development. There are also a lot of these on FaceBook which I do from time to time as a bit of a joke but it was good to do as a reminder of what things are possible through your giftings and your personality...

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Small business management study...

Image result for certificate small business management te wananga o aotearoaThe last two weeks I've given my doctoral studies a rest (to come back to) and have instead wanted to continue studying in Small business management at my place of work and already it's started to help me to consider the different things that need to happen for running a small business.

There are many definitions for a small business and NZ is known as one of a few western countries where it is easy to start up a small business, however, there is a problem in that so few small business in NZ continue after the first 12 months.

So within the first week I've already started reconsidering the vision, mission, core values etc. of our business 'Pacific Hibiscus' and looking at what needs to happen to continue growing the business and this is pretty exciting.

It's also neat to be in a class sharing different ideas and coming from different backgrounds from those who have been running different businesses over time to those who have business ideas and are considering making the big leap.

I also have some pretty relevant assignments that I have to complete and that's very encouraging in that it will help to build a solid foundation for all of us as both business owner/entrepreneurs and those considering business ideas. Watch this space with more to share as it comes to fruition...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Genealogy, whakapapa, gafa... generations

Yesterday, I took my class to the Auckland Family History Expo and it was a interesting day out watching Western Research in action and participating or rather listening to the some of the discussions.

A particularly interesting seminar was by a representative from of whom gave helpful tips and ideas about how to use the website for its useful data whilst saving some $ along the way.

He also spoke about the DNA kits that are around $150 with some 3 million people who have completed the 'spit test' and have given their saliva to be analysed which is something that I am particularly interested in to find out more about my German DNA side.

The only downside of the expo was that I took my class to a seminar about Maori whakapapa, i.e. genealogy which was delivered by some Maori librarians and as it went over time, there were some people waiting to come inside and one of the volunteers was quite rude in saying that they were waiting and that the speakers had gone way over time although it was only 2 mins over the time that the next group was to start.

Incidentally, my class was researching the differences between Western and Indigenous researchers as a topic and this brought the issues to a fore in that the thank you speeches were being brought to a close and when that incident happened, the students were disgusted at the way he had rudely spoken to the group and had opened the doors wide. The question that was asked was whether he would have acted in a similar manner if it was a pakeha or European speaker and I think he would not have.

As a result, I walked out of that seminar appalled at his behaviour and knew that I would address the matter but after first of all going to the Pacific stand and asking about my Great, great grandfather and through the person there, finding a written entry from one of the experts on a digital data base of the date that he had been married to my grandmother of which I was over the moon about.

So after receiving that great news, I went back to the organiser and made a complaint on behalf of the class about the volunteer and received an apology. I wanted the organiser to know that from my perspective and my classes' it wasn't acceptable behaviour and that although I wasn't Maori, I knew that his behaviour was unnecessarily warranted. The speaker had been speaking in Maori and was almost complete the organiser apologied profusely but it was the wrong person apologizing. I could see the man hovering further away and I kept eye contact with him during the discussion.

Back in class, we discussed the incident and it was an eye opener for some and it made others angry. I recalled times growing up when I had wanted to say things and do things to address blatant racism, unseemly behaviours and comments/actions that I knew came from prejudices, biases, ignorance etc. that I used to steam over and mull over.

I no longer do that, I now make complaints, air my views, sort out what the principles are that are bugging me and no longer own those issues. I now give it to the 'authorities' to sort out, whoever they might be and sometimes I win those battles, and sometimes I lose but the main thing for me is that I didn't sit back and allow those 'bullies' to continue to go unchecked.

So now when issues to come, I deal with them with the pen as the sword (through a complaints process) and let my hands to the walking and I don't mean through fisty cuffs but through an investigative process that allows me to go home, have a cup of tea and let the principles do the talking...

Monday, 7 August 2017

Auckland Family History Expo on this weekend...

Auckland Family History Expo
11 - 13 August 2017 at the Fickling Convention Centre, Mt Roskill
Looking forward to taking my class on another research fieldtrip this weekend to the Auckland Family History Expo which this year is hosted in Mt Albert. It's a 3 day event with over 40 seminars and family history/historian guest speakers from all over.

I'm particularly interested in exposing my class to Western Research/researchers in action and particularly in regards to whakapapa (Maori word for genealogy), gafa (Samoa word for genealogy) which is so important as often names have of mana (esoteric power and prestige) of themselves and are often associated with land, whenua (Maori), fanua (Samoan).

For my students, I'm particularly interested in exposing them to the many tools and graphic/software displays that are used and the various ways of documenting genealogy digitally, within a family history book or videography etc.

This is going to be quite exciting for me too, as a writer, as I'm particularly interested in researching and to write stories related to my earlier ancestors and parents, some stories of which I've gathered over the years and would like to incorporate into a novel/s. This is going to be a great platform to learn from...

Sunday, 6 August 2017

NZ Book Festival 11 Nov at Mt Eden Memorial Hall...

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor
Pic courtesy of NZ Book Festival (2016)
 Looking forward to the NZ Book Festival that's confirmed to be held in November in Mt Eden, Auckland this year. It will be the third event that I've attended since it's inaugural exhibition in 2014. I was blessed enough to start with my first exhibit in 2015 as a self published author over on the North Shore.

Which reminds me that I'd better register myself and begin to get ready for the various things that I need to do for the occasion. As you can see in the pic above, my author table is in the foreground with the yellow and blue tablecloths (I've probably left to pick up some lunch) and yes, I wanted my colours to stand out of the crowd rather than your run of the mill black.

Some authors went all out and had promo boards and author advertisement flags which I'm now considering to purchase as I now have some 11 different books on offer. This year it's still at the Mt Eden Memorial hall on the 11th of November which is a Saturday and looking forward to engaging with some of the public and other self-published writers as I did last year...

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Samoan language going global...

Image result for Samoan language Recently I've heard/read some comments on Facebook and individuals regarding some Samoan people not being happy about Samoan language being attested for NCEA National Certificate in Education Achievement or for NZQA New Zealand Qualifications Authority levels.

I think their positions are rather short sighted and not future thinking. MIT Manukau Institute of Technology is currently gathering data through on online survey to garner the interest in Samoan language being taught and assessed through their various levels for the Auckland community. There are some Samoans who think that this is a bad idea and that Samoans should return to Samoa to learn the language in an authentic situation which does make sense to me if we lived in an ideal world where that was possible for all.

However, we don't live in an idea world and there are many young people as well as adults who are ashamed and wished that they had learnt the Samoan language growing up but due to not living in Samoa or having access to travelling too and from NZ then that has not been an option for them. Also through colonisation (which is still happening today) some parents didn't even want to teach their children the language so that as a result through no fault of their own, children do not know how to speak the language and in some families it was only the  great/grandparents who can speak Samoan.

All the international languages that are taught in school eg. French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and also Samoan can continued to be studied at the University level. I remember many years ago in working with teachers of the Samoan language, the fight that they had on their hands to firstly get the language onto the curriculum framework and now we have large numbers of young Samoans learning and conversing in Samoan because they had the opportunity to learn it at school.

We only have to look at the example of Te reo (Maori language) in NZ to see that if we don't keep our younger generation learning the language as a child and throughout school that if a generation loses the language in it will continue through the generations until someone picks it up to learn it. As a result, Maori is taught in many places, through Marae courses, the Wananga, now through Kura (Maori Medium schools) at Early childhood centres etc. everywhere where there are Maori wanting to learn then opportunities are set up for them.

We need to take a page from their history and instead of having a meltdown because people aren't returning to Samoa to learn the language (although they possibly will be more inclined to visit having learnt the language) that we support whatever opportunities there are for our children to learn this amazing language and the knowledge that our ancestors passed on to us.

I, for one, will be endorsing and supporting any opportunity that our children and adults have to learn Samoan and I'll probably take up one of the courses to continue to grow in my heritage language, my first language because I may have degrees in English but my Samoan language is not reflected in my qualifications and maybe I need to go back to school/ing to learn this...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Announcing our latest collaborative publication... Mana Mangere Voices

It gives me great pleasure to announce the upcoming book launch of a collaborative effort from local writers of the: Mana Mangere writers' collective on Saturday 26 Aug at 1.30pm at the Mangere Town centre library.

This has been a labour of love and thanks to the art funding via the Mangere Otahuhu local boards who made this publication possible through their generous support. I'd also like to mention Sally, the arts broker and also Sonia who manages the Mangere Town centre library as their neat support has also contributed in making this publication possible.

It's been a neat experience but also daunting in trying to get a variety of voices from Mangere with varied backgrounds and especially for those who have been writing for a while but haven't been able to find a publishing outlet. I hope that this publication will inspire them to continue but also to inspire others within the community to keep striving and working towards their goals.

Many of the group have been writing and serving within the community of Mangere either having worked or lived, studied or shopped there and I am so very proud and humbled to have assisted in editing the book to its final form.

The actual cover of the book brought together some of the things that I love about my local community: with Mangere Mountain, also known as 'Te Pani o te Mataoho' in the background with the airport (and lookout tower). In the foreground is a small waka (outrigger canoe) where I first learned waka ama then a symbolic Marae like Te Puea which was the first Marae I visited as a child with the lines representing market gardening which was prevalent in Mangere many years ago. The coconut tree symbol depicts the 60% of Pasifika peoples who live in Mangere and the cross represents Christianity as in Mangere being one of the suburbs that has many churches in South Auckland. 275 representing the prefix of our early suburban telephone numbers and the blue koru pattern represents the family i.e. of the older generation and the younger generation. The brown lattice type structure depicts the Mangere Arts centre that gives space for the arts to thrive in Mangere.

Still so much to do but neat that we are almost there...