Celebrating our diversity

Monday February 25, 2013 Written by Published in Return to Pukapuka

Dr Amelia Hokule’a Borofsky, who grew up in Pukapuka and Hawai’i, has returned to the atoll to live, listen, learn and write.

She holds her doctorate in community and cross-cultural psychology and has taught at aq and university level. She is a regular contributor to CI News and the Atlantic online health channel. She welcomes questions, feedback and community ideas at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am writing to clear up any confusion regarding the article entitled ‘Myths of Pukapuka’ (Saturday, February 23).

I heard these myths in Rarotonga, these tala wanonga ko ye tika. These myths about Pukapuka are not true. I tried to come up with my own explanations of how they may have arisen but by no means does this represent the only truth.

Every writer, every ‘objective’ journalist has a point of view. I wrote about a sensitive subject and I hope that the article can be read very carefully. Any stories I write about Pukapuka represent my own point of view and experience. I do not represent ‘the Pukapukan view’. Besides, there is no such thing as one Pukapukan view. There is much diversity. I am explaining what I think makes Pukapuka so awesome, special and unique.

Honestly, I heard a lot of negative things said about Pukapuka and felt tired of hearing them. On my first visit back here last year, a woman in immigration said, “why do you want to go to Pukapuka? We don’t recommend that people go there.” A Pukapukan friend born and raised in New Zealand was told at work in Rarotonga, “are you sure you’re Pukapukan? Your English is so good.” I also heard from a government official, “the wives don’t like us to send contract workers to Pukapuka.”

In regards to the last comment, I again want to emphasize that Pukapukan women are like women all over the world. Women are sexual beings and sexuality ought to be celebrated. Perhaps Pukapukan women live less in denial of their sexual power. Outside men also go after Pukapukan women; it takes two to tango. Pukapukan women have strength, beauty and work hard.

Myths about Pukapukans do not differ that much from racist stereotypes about Hawaiians who also regularly get labeled “lazy,” or racist stereotypes about Maoris and Aborigines. African-American women and men, usually from working classes, in the United States also get labeled “hyper-sexual.” To me it is about understanding and celebrating various differences that may, or may not exist, and coming to a clearer appreciation of our diversity. Pukapuka has a special uniqueness in Polynesia as one of the last, thriving atolls that functions on a village and motu system. I hope that the next generation can celebrate the skills they have to offer. The Cook Islands has a lot of uniqueness worth protecting, much of which has been lost in Hawaii. I would hate to see any of this get lost in the name of industrialized “Western values” and “progress.”

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