Photo by Margaret
O le a lou manatu i le uiga o le savali i le pogisa faaleagaga?
What do you think it means to walk in spiritual darkness?
One word for 2019
Mā te whakapapa tūhonotia ai ngā mea katoa, whai māramatanga ai hoki ngā kōrero atua, kōrero tuku iho, ngā hītori, ngā mātauranga, ngā tikanga, ngā āria me ngā wairuatanga ki tēnā whakatipuranga ki tēnā (Te Ara 2015). / Whakapapa binds all things and clarifies mythology, legend, history, knowledge, customary practices, philosophies and spiritualities and their transmission from one generation to the next.
Every year, I think of a Maori word that I hear in my educational context but do not really understand. I take that word and find out as much as I can about it to deepen my understanding. This year my one word is Wairuatanga. In Samoan the word is ‘Faaleagaga.’
Last year, I learnt to use my Samoan language to help with unpacking Maori concepts. The challenge I have is that I am not of Maori blood. However I am Samoan and historically we share ancestors and traditional spiritual practices that are intertwined with our environment.
When I refer to the introductory statement in Samoan I think back to Fanaafi, when she wrote: ‘A leai se gagana, ua leai se aganuu, a leai se aganuu ona po lea o le nuu.’ When you lose your language, you lose your culture and when there is no longer a living culture, darkness descends on the village.
Yesterday at my nephew’s wedding, my eldest son shone a light on our Samoan culture as he proudly stood up in his ‘ie faitaga’ and his ‘ofutino elei’ wearing an ‘ula fala’. He had been practising a translation in Samoan to say at the wedding. And he did it. As a Samoan mum, I could not have been more proud. He had also made some Ula Lole and made a big fuss with presenting them. The couple received 2 strands each and one strand had $10.00 notes in between. So if you can visualise this very handsome young man calling ‘Tiuhoo’ and racing up before the ceremony began to present his gift. Behind the couple we faced the beach so Tagaloa was our backdrop. In front of the couple the ‘Uo ma Aiga’ had gathered and were seated. So we have all the next generation witnessing something like this for their first time and therefore the transmission of a practice. Around us we have our ‘Faalupega’ both living and deceased so there is live history happening.
At a wedding, the focus is always on the newly wedded couple. However if we dig deeper we can see the occasion as an opportunity to revitalise who we are, make connections to our past, our ‘gagana’ and our ‘aganuu.’ The chance is there to do something about ‘Wairuatanga’. If you just think about it, the moment to act is soon gone.
The backdrop of Tagaloa is a timely reminder too to act. The wedding allows us the opportunity to reflect about what we say and do. Tagaloa and who we are as Pasifika are so intertwined. As inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean our islands are drowning in plastic and so the reminder is there to look after our natural resource.
So my son our customary practice of gifting ‘Ula Lole’ does need a revamp. Maybe our next ones do away with all the plastic and we just weave money into natural materials. As we sat making them you and I discussed how creating these gifts sets a benchmark for the next wedding in your generation. So let us take up the challenge together and see if we can create something just as stunning, but with a lot less plastic. At the same time, hold your head high. As a young man, you already have all the qualities we hold dear. Your knowledge of our legends, our family history, our customary practices, philosophies and ‘faaleagaga’ holds you up as a light in my heart.