Monday 27 February 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion
It was with great pride I watched the launch of Te Mana O te Vaka project showcasing the power prestige and authority of the Vaka in our cultural history at the Avarua wharf a week ago. It was a gorgeous evening and the wood beamed with the warmth of the sun, the colours of the grain imbued those of a sunrise and sunset, and the start and finish of our civilisation where the skills of carving, weaving, gathering and preparing of food to feed the people. All while sharing the tales of instructions and navigation through story-telling and song to preserve all that is our ancestral culture and pride.
This is the project launched by artist, activist and cultural icon master carver Mike Tavioni with his vision of bringing the old ways back into the heart, minds and hands of the present-day people. The culture that is being eroded away with electronics and complacency but with hindsight after the experience of the pandemic offers us a sustainable way in the future to feed ourselves and not be reliant on ships from overseas.
Te Mana O te Vaka was born from the people of the people for the people and with no recognition or support from our Ministry of Culture or Government who have the purse strings to ensure this is not a single event. We have the University of South Pacific and the Government of Sweden lending support but nothing in print from our own. Of course, they were all there with pride in front of the cameras on the day of the blessing, they came bringing their words of wonder happy to catch the bouquet but do nothing to carry the bricks that built the boats in the background.
Do we have a sense of pride? Do we stand up for what is right for what and how we want to be represented? If it is an individual land court hearing, yes, very loud and proud of our genealogy and our right to be on a piece of land, but as a nation do we stand up and fight for how we want our land to be used and portrayed in the world? How proud are we of our marae moana being overfished by the purse seine boats? Yes, we marched and we protested and (Henry) Puna signed it over anyway but Mark Brown did the same when he allowed them to continue at the same ridiculous rate of $8 million dollars for eight years. Are you not outraged? Are you proud to be paying $25 per kilo for fresh fish when they are killing it at 16 cents per kilo then selling it back to you in a can?
Te Mana O te Vaka is the flagship of our voyaging hearts, our DNA that had us travel and find and populate new lands. Our vaka brought us here, it brings us food, it nourishes us in more ways than we can contrive. The corporate canoe races on the weekend are part of that community spirit of working together that was borne on the blue vast ocean we are surrounded by.
The same Pacific Ocean we say we want to protect from the pollution from others like Japan while we have no shame and no pride in our actions to allow the chemical sludge that is unwanted in our drinking water running off into the very same ocean we say we are protecting.
Pride in who and what you represent in a community was celebrated in different ways over the weekend. In New Zealand, Te Matatini celebrated with immense passion for their performing arts kapa haka culture where our only presence seems to be Pa Marie Ariki meeting Jason Momoa.
In Sydney they have a week-long PRIDE festival celebrating the diversity of the LBGTQ+ community which has been present and alive for many years but has only been publicly acknowledged more recently with the Rainbow Revolution. Our own representatives are proudly gathering to support the festival with the promise of government legislation to change the law allowing decriminalisation of the act that marginalises a minority. What seemed to be a proud moment for the community when PM Mark Brown casually mentioned the scrapping of the Act just prior to the elections has been teetering on high heels since as nothing concrete has occurred.
Not everyone agrees with the decisions of the government but it’s time to talk straight, swallow their pride and say what they mean and mean what they say then stand by it proudly not with their fingers crossed behind their backs.