Sonya Apa Temata proudly wore a Cook Islands garment of great significance to the “Our-March”– a gay pride march focusing on inequities still experienced in the rainbow community around New Zealand and the Pacific.
Temata says the garment – her great grandmother’s rainbow tivaevae – represents resilience and mana (strength) to have a voice and to stand up and speak up as a woman on issues pertaining equal rights and social justice.
The strong and passionate LGBT+ advocate was among hundreds of people who took part in the march held in New Zealand on Friday.
Temata, who described herself as aka tutu tane “tomboy” or takataapui, has attended the LGBT+ march for over 20 years but this is the first year she adorned the family heirloom.
The rainbow tivaevae has been passed down to her, from her late mother.
“My mother Tuakana Temata was my number one advocate and supporter of LGTBI rights, her acceptance of my sexual orientation and that of my two brothers allowed us to be who we are, and to love whom we wanted to be with regardless of sexuality, gender and sexual orientation,” Temata said.
“My mother, great grandma Mama Mii Cummings Ngaata and her mother before hers, instilled in me strong values of Aka’nga teitei (respect), Aka’aka (humility) and Ariki’anga (acceptance). They also taught me the ‘art of compassion’, to give unto others as they would give unto us.”
“The significance of our tivaevae are the lived experiences, stories of our culture, papa’anga (genealogy), knowledge, our traditions are interweaved throughout each methodical stitch, pattern, colour and design, where the weaving process is passed down from one generation to the next.”
Temata said their teaching and upbringing is reflected in the work she does as a nurse, an activist, a feminist, a humanitarian, an advocate and a leader.
“Their knowledge speaks through our tivaevae, it also speaks of the resilience and mana (strength) to have a voice, to stand up and speak up as a woman.”
Temata marched in honour of all those women who have paved the way for her to be where she is today.
“My mother is a survivor of family violence and abuse, she passed onto me the same passion and determination to provide advocacy, support and assistance to women and children fleeing from violence and trauma and those less fortunate, especially from our Rainbow LGTBI community.”
“Our-March” brought together LGBT+ community in support of Pride Cook Islands anau, Te Tiare Association and many other Rainbow Pasifika diverse groups that continue to face homophobia, stigma and discrimination in their homelands.
Temata said societies continue to experience “oppressive and archaic pieces of colonial policies and legislation that exists across Te Moana Nui o Kiva”.
Cook Islands MPs are yet to decide whether to decriminalise homosexuality which is banned, between two males, in the current law.