Culture as a Foundation for Pacific Development

An interesting article written by By Dr. APISALOME MOVONO and Dr. REGINA SCHEYVENS appeared in the Solomon Times about how Pacific communities have been able to turn to traditional culture and customary systems in order to support livelihoods and wellbeing during the pandemic.

During the pandemic there have been extraordinary signs of resilience in Pacific Island states. This is despite the economic hardship caused by over two years of border closures in some countries.

Most employees in Fiji’s biggest industry, tourism, lost their jobs and struggled for months on end without any form of wage subsidy. It was a similar story in Samoa, Vanuatu, and some other tourism-dependent countries. Yet we heard no reports of mass hunger, or widespread civic unrest, in the face of such challenges. Why is this?

One major reason is the fact that Pacific communities have been able to turn to traditional culture and customary systems in order to support livelihoods and wellbeing during the pandemic. Despite this success, the benefits of these practices and traditions for Pacific development are not widely appreciated.

For example, the customary ownership of land has long been seen as a constraint to economic development which impairs investment. Yet customary land ownership allows Pacific communities to allocate, manage, and develop land as they see fit, and in accordance with their customary and spiritual beliefs.

Many development partners and groups have attempted to abolish these systems, as they feel it places constraints on what they see as the land’s best use. However, in the face of dispossession caused by the pandemic, customary tenure has literally been a lifesaver. It has proven to be the basis for survival, in terms of the provision of food.

In interviews we have conducted over the past two years, nearly every individual talked about ‘returning to the land and sea’ as a source of livelihood. As one individual in Samoa explained, “for some things, I’ve had to relearn skills that have not been used for years, skills in planting and especially in fishing”.

“I am very happy with the plantation of mixed crops I have now and feeling confident we will be ok moving forward in these times of uncertainty,” they added.

Contrary to popular belief, customary land has also been the basis for new forms of entrepreneurialism. Many Pacific peoples utilised their land to set up businesses associated with selling cash crops or excess produce, as well as adding value through selling cooked foods. Thus customary tenure, which ensures that many Pacific peoples can access land on which to grow food, is a very useful tool for locally-driven economic development.

It is often asserted that the collective nature of Pacific Island cultures does not foster the individualism required to be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, a lot of the innovation and entrepreneurialism that has been on show during the pandemic is founded upon customary systems and cultural connections. Many, for example, have called upon cultural and community relationships to set up online trading and fundraising systems.

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Photo by ICAS

There were also signs of cultural revival during the pandemic, which saw people reconnecting with their extended families or clans, their traditions, and their land.

This revival had significant benefits for social and mental wellbeing. One waiter, who lost his job at a busy resort, noted: “We’ve had so much more time together. It is good to be out in the open and getting dirty…the quiet in the plantation allows us to relax while working. [There is] less stress and this feels natural.”

The transmission of cultural knowledge during the pandemic – such as uncles teaching nephews how to fish and women practising traditional crafts – also helped to support people’s wellbeing.

Despite all odds, many people expressed an amazing sense of resilience to the great economic loss they were experiencing. This was, in part, thanks to supportive cultural and family systems.

“When the pandemic struck, and I lost my job at the hotel, my family were supporting me with money. Now, I have opened my small canteen, sell food, and put on BBQs every Friday,” one Fijian respondent.

“I think it’s good because we know our family are there to help us but also, we can find new means to earn such as small side businesses.”

Pacific leaders, who have worked hard to protect customary tenure in the face of external pressure from development banks that fail to appreciate its value, should be applauded. Conversely, development partners need to act with humility and ensure that an appreciation of culture and customary systems is central to their support for Pacific countries post-pandemic.

In the face of increasing uncertainty, development must complement the Pacific way and uplift the mana of Pacific peoples – not seek to replace it.

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Strengthening Palauan Culture

Recently the Island Times Palau posted an interesting article written by Leilani Reklai about how Johnson Toribiong, former President and former chief Ngiraked of Airai, called upon the traditional chiefs of Palau to strengthen their positions and titles as traditional leaders, otherwise, Palau’s culture could die out.

“Alsekum eng mad a diemiu eng mad a klechibelau er kid” (if your titles die out, our culture will die out as well), cautioned Toribiong.

Invited to open the first meeting of Palau’s traditional chiefs, Mr. Toribiong who has held distinguished positions over the years including being the drafter of the 1st and 2nd Palau Constitutions, President of the Republic of Palau, and high chief Ngiraked of Airai State including a traditional title of Pohnpei, explained the position traditional chiefs occupy under the current constitutional government.

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Palau, photo by ICAS

More so, he expounded on the origins and roles the traditional chiefly titles have had in the known history of Palau.

Palau, he said, is a very old country with long-established governments run by the chiefs.  Citing recent archeological findings that revealed people buried on the highest crowns of Palau’s earthen terraces dating back before Christ.

Palau’s legends even go as far back as the flood, like the flood in the Bible, he said.

“Chiefs before you kept and maintained these titles to pass on to you.  “Ng di mlak de mucheracheb el mo dibus” – They did not die out or disappear because of threats), challenging the chiefs.

Urging the chiefs to actively exercise their traditional roles, Toribiong said,  “Palauan customs have now become the reason we have conflicts between brothers and sisters, families and clans.”

“Kemiu a mla er ngii okedong el me er kemiu el mla er a rebladek.  A Belau, a lak obomkeldibel e ke doriid a kmal betok el llechud … ma teleteled a rechad er Belau.” – “The call for you to meet, was a call from the ancestors.  If you don’t meet, Belau will lose a lot of our customary laws and traditions.”

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Traditional Palauan canoe, photo by ICAS

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Pacific Ocean Legacy

I came across another opinion editorial written by Robert Richmond who is a Research Professor and Director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory of the University of Hawaii. He is also a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, Aldo Leopold Fellow in Environmental Leadership and Fellow of the International Coral Reef Society. I believe his piece is worth sharing…

In a vast ocean area with around 30,000 known islands, traditional navigators of the Pacific have been known to say, ‘first you choose your destination, then you figure out how to get there’.

The health of our ocean and all who depend on it are facing a multitude of threats. If our destination is an ocean that provides sustenance and support for present and future generations, we have a lot of navigating to do, including a major course correction from our present path.

Indigenous communities know what’s required to preserve our oceans. Island people have developed some of the most effective practices to support the sustainable use of coastal resources from fishing techniques, tools and timing, to wise land-use practices in watersheds affecting coral reefs and offshore ecosystems.

For example, some fishers on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia, use kites made from native breadfruit leaves and pandanus spines to carry their coconut fibre fishing lines over the reef.

They use shark muscle bands instead of hooks. They can only catch long-nose needlefish and avoid other species so nothing goes to waste.

Chiefs in Palau close off fishing in reef channels during grouper spawning events (this practice is known as a “bul”) to protect these important species when they are most productive and vulnerable.

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Fiji. Photo from ICAS.

Palauans also protect mangrove forests and use taro fields to protect coastal coral reef ecosystems from damage from terrestrial runoff and sedimentation.

However, these traditional tenure systems did not have to address present-day problems.

The ocean is suffering from the push-pull of too many toxic things being inputted, and too many valuable resources extracted at levels that undermine the health and longevity of marine ecosystems.

Human-based sources of pollution and the use of pesticides, microplastics, mercury accumulating in tuna, large-scale toxic sewage outfalls, oil spills, industrial level overfishing, illegal fishing, as well as global climate change are all contributing to the ocean’s destruction.

While the problems appear daunting, solutions exist. Each of us can make decisions on the products we buy, such as avoiding single-use plastics and personal care products with microbeads, and researching the food we eat.

Farming responsibly

Several mobile phone apps such as Seafood Watch help consumers identify whether their fish is caught or farmed responsibly. Consumers can also put pressure on companies to reduce the use of things like glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), which is not only used for killing weeds but to dry oats.

All of these examples work, but effectiveness comes down to scale, consistency, broad engagement and access to reliable information. Understanding the psychology of sustainability and effective climate change communication is essential in shifting behaviours at scales that matter.

If each person influences ten others to make changes that matter, there is hope, as one begets ten, which begets 100 and affects 1000. It’s human nature to experience action fatigue and end up making a few gestures while continuing a majority of bad behaviours that are unsustainable.

Politicians and decision-makers can drive change. But the lack of political will to support ocean sustainability is the result of a combination of insufficiently and poorly communicated information (including from the scientific community), disengagement, voter cynicism, and false advertising from those who can gain financially from inaction.

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Global climate change is the biggest threat to the world’s oceans and our entire planet. Substantial effects are already being felt from elevated sea surface temperatures resulting in mass coral reef bleaching events, reduced ocean productivity from acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity impacting marine ecosystems, sea level rise damaging coastal areas and the migration of open-sea fish due to warming waters.

Reducing local level stressors is a strategy to buy time and address climate change impacts, including using online calculators to track our carbon footprint and adjusting accordingly.

But there is an urgency as levels of atmospheric CO2 have already exceeded healthy limits. Reducing greenhouse gases, while still critical, will no longer be sufficient to protect many ecosystems, and carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide) will need to be considered on a wider scale.

Traditional leaders and stakeholders in the Pacific Islands always consider actions in the context of the legacy they leave to their future generations. The longevity of what they leave behind does not match the myopic vision of electoral cycles that guide many politicians.

If our precious ocean ecosystems are to be protected for future generations, we need leaders who will act on the abundance of sound science we already possess. The clock is ticking and the worst action is inaction. Our ocean is threatened but not doomed, and the outcome is totally up to us.

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Understanding the World of Fa’a Samoa Through Lauga

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Susana Suisuiki, recently wrote an interesting piece about Sāmoan oratory, lāuga, which is performed at formal and ceremonial gatherings. It is an integral part of the Sāmoan cultural and political landscape. It is ubiquitous, found at every level of Sāmoan life from the village fono to the Parliament.

For Victoria University academic, Lupematasila Fata Le’ausalilo ‘Au’afa Sadat Muaiava, encouraging young Sāmoans to reconnect with their culture is a life-long passion. It inspired him to write ‘Lāuga: Understanding Samoan oratory’ a text which explains and propounds this vital tradition. The intended audience includes the world-wide Sāmoan diaspora, who may not have grown up around lāuga.

Muaiava’s goal is to share the knowledge and skills that underpin Lāuga, so that all Sāmoan people can appreciate Fa’a Sāmoa, the Sāmoan way.

To Muaiava, lāuga, is more than just delivering speeches. “To most people, lāuga, is oratory, means oratory, and most understood to be formal speech-making or formal oratory, but it’s more than that,” he said.

“Lāuga, is much more than – it’s more layered and complex and just really beautiful. To me, lāuga ,is a way of knowing, and it’s a way of seeing the world and understanding the world of Fa’a Sāmoa. We find explanations of why we do the things the way we do.”

While writing his book Muaiava consulted with Te Papa’s Senior Curator Sean Mallon, who authored a book about traditional Samoan tatooing, Tatau. This practice survived the colonization of Sāmoa, despite being banned by Missionaries in other Pacific nations. Mallon said Sāmoa’s ability to hold on to many of its cultural practices such as the tatau and lāuga, is due to Sāmoans valuing their place in society.

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“I think that the reason why these practices persist is that Sāmoans value what they do for society and what they do for them as people, how they uphold their social status in their community, how they preserve the knowledge and stories of different villages and families and districts and those are some of the things that Sāmoan people value.”

Porirua community leader, Le’autuli’ilagi Taotua Malaeta Sauvao said although the lāuga is commonly performed by men, Sāmoan women can also partake in the practice.

Le’autuli’ilagi, who is notable for teaching the Sāmoan language said the lāuga,can only be undertaken by those who have a ‘tulafale’ or chiefly oratory title.

“Honestly, it’s not strictly for Sāmoan men, it’s for those who hold the oratory title – they’re the ones who perform the lauga, not the untitled men nor the untitled women. As a Sāmoan woman myself, I would like to see more of our Sāmoan women who hold the oratory title or the tulafale title perform the lāuga, – they can – provided they have the confidence to speak publicly in that way.”

Although Muaiava is listed as the book’s author he credits its creation to a group of writers who are passionate about promoting Sāmoan culture .

“It’s been put together by a community of writers, so it’s like from one community to another with the hope that we can all share narratives and histories and stories with each other to help better ourselves and to not learn about the beauty of lāuga, but the beauty of indigenous cultures.”

The book was launched during the week of Samoa’s 60th Independence Day celebrations.

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Fund for Marshallese Women Entrepreneurs

Radio New Zealand Pacific correspondent, Giff Johnson, wrote an article last month about how a recently launched Taiwan-funded small loan program for Marshall Islands women entrepreneurs has issued over US$200,000 in its first four months of operation.

The Kora Fund issued its first loan to an Ebeye woman as part of its official launch for Kwajalein Atoll, expanding its program to the second urban center in the Marshall Islands.

The fund plan came about as a result of collaboration between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Hilda Heine, who was Marshalls’ president from 2016-2020. The two leaders developed the plan and Tsai agreed to invest US$1 million in the fund to encourage Marshallese women entrepreneurs.

A team of Kora (women’s) Fund and Bank of Marshall Islands officials went to Ebeye for the launch and to run a series of informational and training sessions about the new loan program. Hundreds of women turned out for the launch and the information sessions about the new small loan opportunity.

The launch featured remarks from Iroojlaplap (traditional chief) and Nitijela Member Mike Kabua, Kwajalein Mayor Hirata Kabua, Kora Fund Vice Chair Marie Maddison, and Education Minister Kitlang Kabua.

Following the speeches, the first loan was presented to Leilani Kemem to support her new business venture for ice-making. In her speech, Leilani mentioned that the reason she wanted to start an ice cube-making business on Ebeye is because “every time I go to buy ice, they say emoj an Iroojlaplap Mike wiaki aolep ice ko” (Iroojlaplap Mike has bought all the ice) – which sparked laughter among those at the launch.

The new fund was launched in Majuro earlier this year and has already issued small loans valued at over $200,000. With the $5,000 loan to Kemem, the total provided by the Kora Fund to Marshall Islands women as of this past weekend was $214,600, according to Monique Graham, the fund’s administrator.

The Kora Fund works with Bank of Marshall Islands to managed the loan program. As of May 23, the fund had issued 74 small loans to women since the inception of the program in January this year. These 74 loans injected $214,600 into the local economy though Marshallese women entrepreneurs.

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Photo by Kora Funa

Graham provided statistics showing that the loans to date have ranged from a low of $500 to a high of $10,000. The average of the 74 loans is $2,900.

The largest number of loans have gone for handicraft or retail business initiatives with 25 percent of the loan funds for each of these two areas. In addition to handicraft and retail, loans are supporting a range of business areas, including sewing, clothing, food processing, design, resort development, copra and agriculture.

To date, the small loans are supporting business developments on Majuro, Kwajalein, Ailinglaplap, Ujae, Mejit, Ebon, Arno and Wotje.

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The Pacific People Are People of the Moana

Here is an opinion piece that I believe is worth sharing. It is written by Sefanaia Nawadra, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), who said, “The Pacific people are people of the moana. Our Ocean is part of us as much as we are part of the vast moana Pasifika and its awesome surrounding.”

In Samoa where I am based and in all our island Member states when I visited, pre-Covid-19, I see this connection every day. In the villages, fishermen and women head to the sea to collect fish and seafood for daily consumption and revenue. In the evenings, young people and children join their elders when they take to the moana for recreational activities, paddling, outrigger canoeing as well as casual swimming among others. During Covid-19 it is the sea that many turned to when the economy slowed down, for sustenance and to eke out a livelihood.

The tides and the waves herald seasons. Village elders, who learned from their forebears, would congregate on the foreshore, observe the tidal patterns, feel the wind direction in their faces, observe the phases of the moon and they would know what is up ahead. Young people need to observe and learn the knowledge they too will use and pass on to the unborn generations. Such is our intricate and intimate relationship with the moana. The Ocean defines us as a Pacific people; it underpins our livelihoods. It has been and will always be the way of life, Pacific Island life.

As we develop, sadly, the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity, and pollution threaten our way of life. The crises have damaged the Ocean and we see the negative impact every day. Although most SPREP Members have small populations and economies, they are Large Ocean Island States responsible for managing more than ten percent of the planet’s oceans. Approximately 98% of this area, totalling over 30 million square kilometres, is contained within the Exclusive Economic Zones of SPREP Members.

We know our Ocean. We also know what we are talking about when it comes to challenges. We see it. Every day. In our pursuit of answers, we turn to Science. What we find saddens us. Science tells us that human activities, to which Pacific populations have contributed the least, have threatened the ocean’s health and ability to sustain life. Ocean acidification, marine litter and pollution, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and the loss of habitats and biodiversity are among the biggest threats. The negative impacts from these have been exacerbated by climate change. Science also tells us that these problems will only get worse as the world population grows and human activities increase.

While as Pacific nations we rightly identify ourselves as stewards of the Ocean, the fact is we cannot turn things around by ourselves. This is why the upcoming 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, with the theme “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal14: Stocktaking, partnerships, and solutions” is critical. We need a collective global effort to address some of the most defining ocean issues of our time.

SPREP and Pacific countries have not been sitting idle. We have been working with our Member states, the Council of the Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies, and our supporters and partners to increase their capacity to address ocean issues and build ocean resilience. We are working together to address the impacts of ocean acidification and climate change. With our ocean projects are designed to access finance through United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change financial and funding mechanisms. These projects provide negotiation support for ongoing global negotiations processes and for national implementation through adaptation and mitigation policy and planning support, and support for National Meteorological Services through the Pacific Meteorology Desk Partnership.

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We have worked collectively to address our ocean priorities regarding ship-sourced and land-based sources of marine pollution, as well as assistance in addressing legacy waste such as

WWII wrecks and nuclear waste. This action is under the Pacific Regional Integrated Waste and Pollution Management Strategy 2016-2025: Cleaner Pacific 2025, a strategy that addresses solid, hazardous, and chemical waste and pollution control.

SPREP Members have contributed to saving our whales by declaring over 12 million square kilometres of the EEZs of Pacific Island countries and territories as whale sanctuaries, and as their populations recover, whale-watching is becoming an important revenue earner in our region, demonstrating the economic benefits that conservation can bring. Our Pacific Island Leaders have endorsed the Vision and Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, under which all our island states, regional agencies, and NGOs work together for a sustainable Pacific Ocean environment. We are now formulating the Pacific’s 2050 Strategy to realise our Leaders’ Vison for a “Blue Pacific Continent” that our Leaders will consider in July. Our future environmental and economic security demands that we jointly set in place these higher environmental and social standards for ocean uses.

There is a lot more work being done, and we look forward to working with you all in anticipation of the increasing severity of ocean ecosystem impacts. While we are hopeful for a better outcome for all of us, we are also realistic. Our elders tell us that a number of fish and seafood species have disappeared. Our fishermen and women have to work twice as hard to collect enough seafood for their daily sustenance. It has become difficult for villages to read the tides because they have become very unpredictable, and sometimes they appear angry.

We need to take urgent global action now to save our moana. The Pacific demands effective leadership through innovations to mobilise action, based on science to sustainably manage and preserve our Ocean for generations of today and tomorrow.

As people of the moana or tamata ni Wasawasa, we remain hopeful, but we need your help!

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International Archives Week 2022

Be part of the fourth International Archives Week #IAW2022, which kicks off on Monday! During #IAW2022, the International Council on Archives will offer a full program of webinars and an interactive map to show the world why and how #ArchivesAreYou.

The events are going to be displayed in the #IAW2022 interactive map.

#IAW2022 Interactive Map

The events are going to be displayed in the #IAW2022 interactive map.This year, the program of webinars is built with 5 main sessions that will cover different topics of discussion. On the first day of the week, the ICA will start International Archives Week with a special webinar about Records, Archives, and Emerging Technologies. This event will be a virtual conversation (in English but with interpretation services in French) with our members about what emerging technologies will mean for our field.

On the second day, the Active New Professionals 2022 will host a virtual talk titled New Professionals: Who we are, what we do and how you can support us, in which they will introduce their project ahead of the conference in Rome.

For the third day we have scheduled two virtual Q&As sessions about the New Professionals Programme (NPP) in English and French. For those who are interested in applying to this programme, you will have the opportunity to share a moment with former New Professionals, the NPP leadership, and members of the ICA staff to talk about the origins of this programme, the current call for applications, and the contribution of this programme to the future of the profession.

On the 9th, which is International Archives Day, the ICA new Secretariat team will offer a virtual “open house” to present the current professional programmes, the ICA membership benefits and our upcoming publications. This session will close with a survey to ask our members and extended community about their expectations for the ICA 75th Anniversary next year.

Enjoy the week!

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Samoa’s 60th Anniversary of Independence

Reporter, Aden Miles Morunga, wrote an article for Radio New Zealand about Samoa who are celebrating their 60th Anniversary of Independence. 

When Samoan matai Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu speaks of his cherished home, his words resonate with immense pride. His pride for his nation and his people is brimming as his community prepares to mark 60 years of independence for Samoa.

Samoa became the first Pacific Island to gain independence from the administration of New Zealand 60-years-ago. Next weekend festivities around the Waikato will honour Samoa’s history.

Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu, who is the chairperson of the Waikato Samoa 60th Independence Celebration organising committee, and the vice president of the Waikato Samoan Association, says this year’s event is historic. “This is a very special and important event not only in terms of remembering the history and the struggles our forefathers encountered during the colonial era,” he said.

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“But (it) also marks a new chapter in our history books where our reigning and first ever female Prime Minister was elected into office. She is the only daughter of Samoa’s first Prime Minister in 1962, when our island country became independent, the late Matā’afa Faumuinā Fiamē Mulinu’ū II.”

“We as the people of Samoa are very proud of our country’s economic growth and development in many areas during these past years. However, there were some political issues that we experienced along the way, but that didn’t stop the government and the people of Samoa from the achievements they made so far until the present moment. Now 60 years on, we have seen Samoa, our country, developed.”

Next weekend’s event is expected to see attendee numbers exceed 3000 people, who will participate in a games afternoon for the elderly, a vibrant Samoan parade through Hamilton city, traditional ava ceremony, Samoan performance competition, church service, and a volleyball competition.

“The number of Samoans living in the Waikato region is apparently growing,” he said.

“This is evident in the number of the Samoan Parishes now established in Hamilton and surrounding towns…It is expected that around 3000 plus people will be attending and celebrating with us during the course of this event. It is really good to see many Samoan people attending this event, and apart from them, there will be a good number of non-Samoan friends that are invited as well.”

Among those expected to attend are government officials, local dignitaries, members of the private sector and church leaders.

“I am 100 percent sure, this event will benefit our community and may help give them a sure sense of pride about their identity as Samoans and their culture….May God bless Samoa,” he said.

This year’s milestone also coincides with Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa – Samoa Language Week, which celebrates the third most spoken language in New Zealand. It will run from 29 May to 4 June.

“Ierusalema e, ‘afai e galo ‘oe iā te a’u, ia galo lava i lo’u lima taumatau. ‘Afai ‘ou te lē manatua ‘oe, ia pipi’i a’e lo’u laulaufaiva i lo’u gutu. (Salamo 137:5), which says ‘If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you’…This is such a wonderful verse that will forever stay relevant [and] true to us as Samoan people living overseas. It is not easy to just forget where our origins are,” Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu said.

 

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Celebrating Wantok Musik’s 21st Anniversary

The Vanuatu Daily Post recently ran an article about the Not-for-profit organization and record label, Wantok Musik, celebrating their 21st anniversary with Wantok Musik Vol. 3, the third compilation released by the label which represents a diverse range of First Nations artists from the Oceania region.

Wantok Musik exists to help Pacific First Nations musicians share their unique music and cultural perspectives and, in doing so, transform lives and communities. In a world full of change and challenge, Wantok supports and showcases an Oceania that is ancient, diverse, creative, culturally rich and resilient.

Founded by current artistic director David Bridie and former co-artistic director Airileke Ingram, Wantok Musik has developed into one of the leading music labels in the region, nurturing artists from the beginning of their careers and releasing groundbreaking debut records from artists like Emily Wurramara, Ngaiire, Black Rock Band and Radical Son. The label has maintained long-standing relationships through multiple releases with staple artists George Telek & Frank Yamma, the latter of whom equipped the Wantok Musik record label with its first full length album release, Countryman, in 2010.

Wantok Musik aims to enable artists to become economically independent through their artistic output via CD sales, tours and events, and inclusion in television, film, and documentary licensing opportunities. Film & TV placements have included The Straits, Remote Area Nurse, Redfern Now, and feature films Putuparri and the Rainmakers, Top End Wedding, Marni, Satellite Boy, Bran Nue Dae, In a Savage Land and many more.

The label has provided a significant platform for distinct voices from the broader Oceania region to be heard on a global scale, supporting unique projects such as Kaumaakonga (Avaiki music from the Solomon Islands), Maubere Timor (Timor Leste), Nevenek (Torba Province, Vanuatu), Sambra Aikit(Sepik, PNG) and Bibirosi (Bougainville).

Wantok has helped facilitate rostered artists to perform, most significantly, as part of the collective ensemble Wantok SING SING! to represent Oceania at the 2012 London Olympic Games cultural festival. Another significant milestone for the label was Pitjantjatjara man and Wantok mainstay Frank Yamma being the first Indigenous Australian artist to showcase at WOMEX, performing at the conference in Spain in 2014. Wantok has continued to showcase artists at major international events such as WOMADelaide, the Sydney Opera House Message Sticks Festival, Bluesfest, WOMEX, a Wantok SING SING tour of India, the 2018 Midnight Oil tour of Australia, as well as individual artist tours throughout Europe, Canada, the USA and Melanesia.

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Social justice awareness projects have always been a strong focus for the label, with an emphasis on the continuing struggles in West Papua, which was more recently evoked through the ‘We Have Come To Testify’ combined album and book project. On UN Human Rights Day in 2018, the Wantok released ‘Song For Elijah’, which features an array of the country’s most prominent First Nations singer/songwriters including Kutcha Edwards, Archie Roach, Emma Donovan, Radical Son, Ilanna Atkinson & Tjimba Possum Burns, with the aim to set a pertinent reminder for all Australians of the heartbreak felt across the country for all Aboriginal people in a time of sorrow and mourning.

A cornerstone of Wantok’s ongoing success is our strong collaborative relationships with like minded organisations. Just a portion of the label’s collaborators include Children’s Ground, Green South Records, Mbantua Festival, PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the National Film and Sound Archive.

Excerpts from multi-disciplinary art projects such as ‘a Bit na Ta’ and ‘Sayes Arare’ also feature on the new sampler — bringing music, cultural dance, movement and visual arts together to present works exhibited in galleries in Brisbane, Melbourne, Taiwan, Germany and more. Another recent audio/visual collaboration was the ambitious and immersive installation ‘Uramat Mugas’ at QAGOMA APT10, which depicted ceremonies of the Uramat clan from Gaulim village in Papua New Guinea.

The label has also been fortunate to be involved with such anomalous projects that may have never been released otherwise, with Vanuatu Women’s Water Music, Nevenek and the upcoming Ol Sing Blong Plantesen providing deep insight into cultures, kustom and stories important to our region’s history.

“Wantok Musik continues to be one of the most creative labels for showcasing the continually developing talents of many Australian Indigenous musicians, as well as Melanesian-Polynesian artists from a number of Pacific cultures. Always warmly produced, their albums are rhythmically adventurous, occasionally challenging, often heartbreakingly beautiful and deeply moving. The Wantok roster is an essential musical window into this unique region of the world,” said Seth Jordan, music journalist.

Wantok Musik Vol. 3 is out now through Wantok Musik.

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CHamoru Voices Encourage Younger Generations

Journalist, Janessa Quitano of the Pacific Daily News recently wrote an article about how Serafin Tedtaotao, age 26, said it is up to the younger generations to keep the CHamoru culture alive.

Tedtaotao brought his four nephews to a new exhibit at the Guam Museum and studied the “unpacking terms” section of CHamoru words, historic timelines and different resources focused on the topic of self-determination.

“I just want this new generation to see that CHamoru culture, our culture, is important. This is a part of us,” Tedtaotao said.

The museum hosted “Silebra I Kotturå-ta yan i Hinanao-ta (Celebrate Our Culture And Our Journey)” on Thursday to wrap up Mes CHamoru.

The new exhibit, which opened last month, is “Fanohge CHamoru Put I Tano’-Ta: Charting Our Collective Future.” It chronicles the history of CHamoru political self-determination. “What are we without our culture? What are we without our heritage and our traditions? We are who we are,” Tedtaotao said.

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In the afternoon, Tony Mantanona from Valley of the Latte hosted weaving and coconut candy-making workshops at the museum.

The event ended with musical and cultural entertainment from the Guam Territorial Band and Para i Probechu’n i Taotao-Ta.

Not all the visitors were CHamoru, but all could learn from the exhibits.

Donally Aldis, from Pohnpei, enjoyed the presentations. “The museum tells us a lot about our ancestors. It’s amazing, and I’m glad I can see everything,” he said.

Brief remarks were given by dignitaries and sponsors, including Pacific Daily News President Rindraty Celes Limtaco.

Limtiaco spoke about her experiences growing up as a child on Guam, and how she regrets that she didn’t ask more about the CHamoru culture from her grandfather.

“I still connect to my culture and my family through those experiences from my past. But those connections don’t exist anymore for many of the younger generations,” Limtiaco said. “That’s why events like today’s are really important. It, at the very least, gives the younger generations a chance to experience some of those things that their parents, like me, took for granted,” Limtiaco said.

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