Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Happy Birthday 99 years Grenma...

Today would have been the 99th birthday of my Grenma (my special name for my granma as a child) as it's the first year that we won't be celebrating her birthday as a family as she passed away last year soon after her 98th birthday.

Next week we will be celebrating the Ah Siu family reunion, the family from which her paternal grandfather came from, in China, and also the unveiling of the inscription on her tombstone.

She played a large role in my life having been the matriarch of our family for almost all of my life and it still brings to tears know that she has passed on as we shared some close memories over the years and I learnt a lot from her.

Her personality was characterised by fierce determination, independence, faith in God and she was quite the pioneer being one of the first members of our aiga (family) to travel to NZ in the 1950s and from here she helped to sponsor many family members to NZ including my father.

There's a family book that I've started working but that's a work in progress as I look towards family working together on it for launching on the memorial of her 100th birthday which I hope to celebrate with family in Samoa.

So that even though she has passed on to a better place, her memory and legacy live on in her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren etc. No doubt in the following weekend, we'll be sharing some stories about Grandma and the hard case that she was at times and also the softer moments.

She is definitely a role model for me in being stoic in what she believed in and there have been times when things have gotten pretty tough that I've thought about what my grandmother would have done and that reminds me to be courageous, to take heart and to not let anyone push their agenda around especially when I know that it's not the right thing to do. My grandmother was one tough lady, as pioneers had to be back in the day, but she also had a heart for people with her generousity.

So this Halloween day when children are running around 'trick or treating' I'll spend some time reflecting on the special times we spent together with her as a family, we'll visit her tombstone this evening and remind my children to consider some of the important things that she taught us in looking forward to the family reunion that she made us a part of and I thank God for her...

Monday, 29 October 2018

SPOTLIGHT on: Michel Mulipola artist extraordinaire...

This weekend has been full on and it got me thinking that each month, in this blog, I'll like to feature some of the amazing things that are happening for our Pasifika people out there.

This weekend I had the privilege of speaking at and participating in the inaugural 'South Auckland writers Festival' which was held during the weekend at the Mangere East village community halls and although the numbers were small (I've been accustomed to in our community with various events) I really enjoyed listening to the experiences and perspectives of different writers and artists.

One of those artists was Michel Mulipola (please excuse the spelling mistake on the pic as it was sent to me by someone else at the talk) and what was fascinating about him was that he shared about being an international artist (comic drawings), a professional wrestler and an International gamer who had made it recently to Las Vegas to represent NZ! So that not only was he good at drawing, which had been his dream in school but also in two other arena as well.

He represents himself as a Samoan artist brought up in Mangere and it was neat to listen to his down to earth, and funny, humble way of describing some pretty amazing artwork that he's done - which is an accomplishment for a self taught artist (as he describes himself).

For example: he's designed book covers for school Journals, illustrated David Riley's Pasifika heroes books, illustrated for school journals, and now currently drawing for various comic books in USA and particularly for Professional Wrestling comic books. As well as that he also defends his title in the NZ pro wrestling arena and teaches professional wrestling to trainees. He is also a gamer in his spare time having travelled to USA on several occasions for various tournaments and came second in an International competition this month.

He's definitely a speaker that I would highly recommend for our young people to listen to and to learn from about how you can make a dream happen by just taking that first step of giving it a go. He also was very humble in not taking himself too serious in just enjoying what he is doing at the moment and was very encouraging in that his office is in his backpack which he takes everywhere with him so that people can consider different ways of working and not having to sit behind a desk or stay within four walls.

He is definitely a Samoan artist, professional wrestler, ardent gamer who is living the dream...

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Whakatane...

Masters and Doctoral Theses at Awanuiarangi
Yesterday I arrived in Whakatane with our youngest to refine my PhD topic. Te campus of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi is a beautiful campus located right in the town with lots of eateries around and much to see and do.

However, because I'm not here on a sightseeing tourist visit, I've purposed to get much of my thinking and clarifying done which has been neat for me.

Yesterday, I also got to have a look at the library theses that have been submitted in the various Masters and Doctoral programmes over the years. It was also good to see a couple of Samoan Masters theses from the Apulu family who have been associated with Te Wananga o Aotearoa for many years and a Cook Islands thesis (although I might have missed a few). It has been good to see Pasifika people engaging with indigenous ideas in the academic landscape because come from a navigating spirit which has lain dormant and been lost for but is now reviving.

It's also been neat to see some of my colleagues from Te Wananga o Aotearoa and people whom I've met in my life's journey studying here for their Masters or Doctoral studies. This week many people have converged on the campus for PhD and Masters engagement with international speakers, catching up with the supervisors and writing, writing, writing.

For me now, it's about finishing what I started and going on a journey that hopefully will bring back much for our next generations...

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Tonga's 'Sea of Red' the real winners...

If you don't know what the 'Sea of Red' refers to then you probably aren't aware of Tonga's efforts to support their Rugby League team with the slogan 'Mate Ma'a Tonga' (die hard Tongan) to the international stage which has done wonders for Tongan morale and community spirit as the rest of us New Zealanders and the rest of the world watches on.

I must say that as a SamoaNZ, I look on with surprise, support and am pleased at how Tonga is representing on the world stage with their fervour, passion and red and white flags that have been seen blowing about on cars, house, fences and hands etc. especially in South Auckland.

You only had to drive around the suburbs of South Auckland to see houses decked out in red and white with cars decorated with red and white flags, tapa cloth and many wearing supporters red shirts, face painting, hair etc. to see that this was a real important event for many a Tongan with their high interest in sports and supporting their team which has a history all of its own i.e. in that high paying Tongan sporting heroes giving up high pay checks in Australia Rugby League to play for their country.

It was also amazing to watch the Rugby match live on TV last night with Australia vs Tonga. It was expected that Australia would win but in watching how the audience were almost all dressed in red and white with the lone Australian flag spotted, and singing their lungs out, the Tongans were the real winners.

The atmosphere seemed electric and English fans thought that they could sing their hearts out at their rugby/football matches but the Tongan songs that I think were meant to inspire the team was out of this world. Some, I overheard in one Tongan Rugby fans conversation with another, had even flown in from Tonga especially for match!

Tonga definitely made it proud and there were many winners in their efforts i.e. the companies who sold Tongan flags did very well, as did the sold out stadium, the Tongan Rugby league companies' paraphenalia, the airlines who sold extra plane tickets for the game and those who call themselves Tongan. Definitely team supporters to watch out for in the future...

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Mahana movie based on Witi Ihimaera's book...

Have since recovered after White Sunday where I noticed that there were far less children and families attending and also watched the New Zealand movie 'Mahana' about a Maori family with a patriarchal leader who rules with an iron fist played by Temurera Morrison.

It's set in the 1950's and is a retelling of one of Witi Ihimaera's books 'Bulibusha', who happens to be one of my fave Maori authors. I read the book many years ago and enjoyed his style of storytelling which often deals with issues with Maori land, culture and European clashes etc.

The ending of the movie was really interesting as it reminded me of some Samoan patriarchal male traits that often splits families apart i.e. having my way or the highway and when families are put under that kind of stress the children usually suffer and there are almost irreconcilable differences that are still not resolved after the death of the patriarch.

It's definitely a movie worth watching and interesting to watch the fave director, Lee Tamihori, in action as he directed the movie and some of the interesting scenes that took place like two Maori families racing to church in their cars to get to get to a funeral.

Have a neat week out there...

Friday, 12 October 2018

SSAB Sei Oriana shopping for White Sunday...

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing This year we've gone for supporting our local SSAB Samoan Stationery and Books store, Sei Oriana, located next to Mangere Town Centre Shopping centre for jewellery and our youngest's outfit. I'm thinking the same for when Christmas comes along too.

Unfortunately, a lot of other stores have jumped on the bandwagon of 'White Sunday' clothing and have started sewing up or acquiring white outfits that our Pasifika people pay megabucks for each year and they make significant profits from them too.

Might I suggest that we begin to use our $ wisely by either buying products made by our Samoan and Pasifika businesses (although shoes can be problematic unless there is a Pasifika business out there) or by making them up ourselves or paying a Samoan dressmaker like Cara's in old Papatoetoe or Yeng Tung in Mangere (I hope that spelling's correct).

Not only does it become tailored to your taste and made with love but you're also supporting local Samoan or Pasifika businesses and not those who are only wanting to acquire in profits without any obligation or commitment to our communities.

I say this in being aware that there are shop owners out there who are quite happy to make our Pasifika clothes or cook our foods but don't eat it themselves and are not interested in the health aspects of ensuring that the meat is of high quality and is not saturated in fats.

It's the same for our Pasifika clothes, often they are made for profits with little regard for those who are wearing it or for the reasons of why we are celebrating this event. As Pasifika people, we need to commit to supporting those who genuinely wish to support our communities and that is why I'll be supporting our local Pasifika/Samoan businesses, who work ethically, whenever possible...

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Lotu Tamaiti - White Sunday preparations...

This week is the last week for the annual 'Lotu Tamaiti' or White Sunday preparations. It's been held for decades since the missionaries docked on Samoa's harbour and proclaimed that the children needed a Sunday whereby they could wear white clothes, recite bible verses, sing hymns, perform Christian stories and receive a big to'ona'i (feast) at the end of it.

My parents both said that it was like Christmas where the children were served first in the toonai and getting new white clothes (or recycling the old ones) were like a very big celebration unless one didn't do very well in performing their part on the church stage, as they might be ridiculed.

Over the years I've had my fair share of Lotu Tamaiti roles starting with my father's inaugural induction of myself and my two siblings reciting Psalm 1 in Samoan to our church in acknowledging Lotu Tamaiti in Samoa in the late 1970s (before it was ever a part of our NZ church culture) and then from there playing Jesus (earlier blog), conducting the choir, singing various songs, bible readings or recitals, plays, you name it - I've probably done it and now that my children have experienced it, it's been interesting to watch their reactions too.

This year, two or our children are participating with our youngest doing a dance to Annie's song 'Iesu e lo'u uo alofa' which is one of my favourites of her songs. It has a fast tempo and when I watched my daughter's class dancing to the song, I think they did a good job.

This was one of Annie's songs in her younger years when her mother (my auntie) cut her first album. Since then she has gone on to produce two more albums of which I enjoy listening to. So I'll often hear her music at wedding receptions, at school dance performances or on the radio which is really neat. A music ministry that reaches out across the globe to many a Samoan needing inspiration.

So as the young people gear up for our annual Lotu Tamaiti this Sunday, the second Sunday of October, not only will there be a lot of white clothes and shoes snapped up, but also preparations for the feast and relief for many a child that their memorisation of long biblical passages or roles are over for another year...

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Book Festival 2015 Highlights

Looking forward to this year's NZ Book Festival to be held in Auckland at Mt Eden War Memorial Hall on Saturday 17th November from 10am - 4pm. It'll be the fourth festival that I've attended and each year they offer more for book lovers and readers and have giveaway bags for the first 100 attendees.

The above You Tube clip features the 2015 Book Festival highlights and it was the first that I attended on the North Shore, the Festival has since moved to Mt Eden. At the time I had only self-published 3 books with dreams to continue on my journey.

Now three years later and some 15 books later, I'm really enjoying the journey and constantly anticipating the next book to come. I'm currently now working on a book that commemorates the 1918 flu epidemic that took the lives of perhaps 25% of the Samoan population in 1918.

It might also be the reason why there may be some things i.e. stories, genealogies missing in our Samoan culture and through the generations that weren't passed down due to so many affected by the killer disease.

But this clip is a reminder about where I started and the continuing journey that I hope will be an encouragement to others to never give up on your dreams, no matter how long it takes to get there - it's worth the journey...

Saturday, 6 October 2018

1918, 100 years since the devastating flu epidemic...

Tonight I went with my beloved to watch '1918' a dance theatre production by Le Moana dance and storytelling group on a one night show showing at the Q Theatre on Queen Street in the city. I'd heard about it on Facebook and decided to watch their rendition of this devastating story as a part of Samoan history.

It's one of the last shows with only 3 more to go for this year and it first was in Mangere Arts centre in 2015 of which I missed (hadn't heard about it) and it's been to USA, Samoa and has been shown in different centres with many positive reviews.

For me, going to watch it is a part of the research that I'm doing both as it will feature in my Doctoral thesis but also in that I'll be releasing a book in commemoration of this event in having lost my great grandfather during this time.

For the actual production, it was interesting in the dance routines but disappointing in the storytelling. Considering that it was a very traumatic story in that Samoa lost about a quarter of its population at this time, the storytelling of the production was very light on the information that lead up to the devasting event.

After the show, there were many comments but it was the last comment of the last commentator who spoke about the elephant in the room in being that it was the New Zealand administrator at the time who in fact allowed sick people to go to Samoa which brought about genocide of a people that resulted in Samoa being the first Pacific nation to become independent and that theatre can be a vehicle to make political statements.

It's also the reason for why our next book to be released will be in December in commemoration of this traumatic event and memory of many of our ancestors who lost their lives through no fault of their own. Lest we forget...

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Weekend book launch - 'Sense of belonging'...

Image may contain: 10 people, including Agnes Rasmussen, people smiling, people standing
Photo credits: L L Sosene
 A big thanks to all who were able to attend our weekend book launch for the launch of our second latest release from the 'Mana Mangere writers collective' and guest writers. It was especially neat to have our young writers present i.e. three of them as pictured in the front in sharing their voice and perspectives of a 'sense of belonging' in our communities.

The young guest writers - contributors were:

  • Iriyahz Filisi - Robertson Road school (NZ Samoan)
  • Sheeral Nayaran - Robertson Road school (Fijian/Indian)
  • Kyler Therese Ambler - St Mary McKillop Catholic school (NZ Samoan)
The adult guest writers were from Te Wananga o te Aotearoa:
  • Lillian Tolai (NZ Samoan)
  • Leota, Alice Meredith (Samoan)
  • Graham Howard Smith (Maori)
  • TMW (Maori)
There were 6 Mana Mangere Writers collective contributors including myself and they were:
  • Afamasaga Togitogiuluau Agnes Rasmussen (Samoan)
  • Penny Barnhill (South African)
  • Saulaina Sala (Niuean)
  • Tofilau T F Filisi (Samoan)
  • Fred Zombos (Australian/Greek)
The cover art was by my younger sister Anna-Maria Tauau, who like me, took Bursary/NCEA Level 3 Senior art at high school and when I saw her picture, I bought it to be able to put on the cover. It felt like it was just meant to be.

The collection is on the theme of a 'sense of belonging' and each writer wrote from their perspective via poetry or a short story to share their thoughts and ideas. It was also a real privilege at the launch to ask each writer to read out either the whole piece or a section of their writing for the audience to listen to and each writer was given some free copies to take home to share with friends and family or to gift to local schools, community groups etc.

Copies are available via SSAB, Samoan Stationery and Books, on the corner of Bader Drive and Mason Ave (across from the town centre) or you can contact me for more details. Definitely a pleasure to be a part of...