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Being a woman of the village

Friday March 08, 2013 Written by Published in Return to Pukapuka
Being a woman of the village

Dr Amelia Hokule’a Borofsky, who grew up in Pukapuka and Hawaii, 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 college and university level. She is a regular contributor to CI News and the Atlantic online health channel.

It’s a privilege to have been named a wawine or a woman of Loto Village, the same village my parents belonged to in Pukapuka back in the late seventies. I have moved from being a visitor spoiled last year with three-foot tuna and kaveau to this year becoming a wawine. Being a woman of the village is a full-time job. It means cooking plates for fifty to one hundred people for the numerous imukai. It means waking up with the six in the morning rooster to go to the ui to weed, plant taro and plod through the mud. It means belonging to a rotating pule that caretakes the motu. Our pule, apele kula or red apples has its own uniform and we gather uto together and play cards while watching over the ecological reserve. It means going to village meetings twice a month and participating in singing practice as well as singing at funerals and other events. It means dance practice and dance performances for village events as well as preparations for Te Maire Nui. It means weaving mats, fans and hats together. When the tele party from Australia came to visit, each woman of Ngake and Loto had to make three fans each. Each woman of Yato village had to make ten fans since the tele party primarily came from Yato village. This week, all the women have been weaving mats. Luckily, my lack of weaving abilities means I sit on the side and play cards.

“I love everything about being part of Loto village,” says Teumua Malo. And I agree.

I love the sense of belonging and the singing, dancing, eating and even washing the dishes all together. In some ways I have been looking for my village ever since I left Pukapuka as a child. “You never lost your village,” a friend reminds me. And it’s true, Loto village is still the village of my parents and of my Pukapukan family.

Every New Year, adolescents pass from childhood to adulthood becoming an akatane or an akawawine of their village. This year Loto Village had two akatane and one akawawine. One of them complained about the transition saying, “I still want to be a child or a tamaliki.” It is a big transition from enjoying the freedom of childhood to the obligations of village adulthood. Now in my thirties, I have long bypassed the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Loto Village briefly debated if I fell under akawawine but concluded that I fall under the returning wawine category. I am proud to be a wawine of Loto.

Some complain that all the village obligations doesn’t allow time for taking care of one’s own family and individual homes. Missing village events can mean a fine of two dollars. Luckily, one doesn’t have to attend every event and “if you feel like it,” remains a popular wale saying. Also, I can get away with attending less village events than the other women. If I actually attended every church service, every imukai and every singing practice on top of looking after our individual home and taro patch, I would have no time to swim in the mornings, nap in the heat of the day, help out at the school or write. Most people don’t think of Pukapuka as a busy place and yet it is very busy. Nassau also has a busy village life and they play volleyball against each other every afternoon. The losing team has to then fish for the whole island. In Pukapuka, I woke up the other day to hear the sound of Loto’s pate. I went down to the beach and the Ngake men had returned from fishing at Motu Ko. They had lots of extra fish and so they shared it out evenly for each villager from Loto. All the food sharing and village events makes Pukapuka the original Polynesian commune. As Pio Lavalua, chairman of the Kau Wo Wolo said, “Pukpuka invented the real communism.” The Pukapukan village system of Loto, Ngake and Yato still remains strong in Rarotonga, New Zealand and Australia. And in Wale, it remains super, super strong.

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