In the context of the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, I had no idea that I would experience a sense of marginalisation and at times complete invisibility as a Pacific Islander… amongst indigenous people.
There are strong relationships between indigenous people who are minorities in their own countries. Their cultural revitalisation is a result of survival from severe acts of colonial domination and there is a natural affinity with those who have shared this experience. Maori represent the progressive and exciting potential of working in partnership with the Settler government to create all manner of opportunities for their community to prosper, reconnect and develop. Observing the nature of the relationship between Maori and the Musqueam community, the traditional landowners who have hosted the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, has been fascinating and eye-opening.
Living as a Pacific Island migrant / guest in New Zealand has never felt more apparent. Tensions exist between Maori and Pacific communities and whilst there are spaces and places where indigenous connectedness is celebrated and explored, the social dynamic is ever present. Whilst I have worked with Maori artists and curators, and artists like Margaret Aull, Leilani Kake, Janet Lilo and Cerisse Palalagi who share both Maori and Pacific Island ancestries, I don’t venture or fully immerse myself into the territory of Maori art and culture often.
Whilst the conference itself represents a breadth of research from source countries across the Pacific region, the amount of Pacific Islanders here is fairly small. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with Jeke Lagi, a Fijian artist from Suva, and sharing memories of Pacific Islandisms with Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai, Dan Taulapapa McMullin and Tarisi Vunidilo.
Feeling lonely so far away from home is quite depressing, but thank God for YouTube; this video always fills my heart with warmth.