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February 28, 2016 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the home of an insurmountable number of islands, each with their own complex histories, cultures, and languages. It might seem like a superfluous protocol in the beginning of Pacific events to list greetings from as many languages as possible, but this small gesture is so important to establish that we may be from one ocean, but we are very diverse. This complexity is often brushed over.

It is very easy to think of the Pacific, and Pacific people, as a discrete group of hip swaying, frangipani wearing, coconut drinking, brown people (according to Google images anyway). We might also be seen as the lazy diabetic drop-outs that are disproportionately feature in every negative statistic. However, both extremes ignore the complicated reality (but simple stories are easier to pass on).

Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Hawaii, and Fiji are islands spoken of often. We see them in sports, on TV, in movies. We hear them in our music, and we see them around university. The voices less heard come from islands such as the Solomon Islands, Rapa Nui, Tokelau, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Tuvalu, and many more that I have failed to acknowledge. This I genuinely apologise for. I understand the frustration of the invisibility some of our Pacific people feel under the shadow of the more well-known (often Polynesian) islands.

Even, or especially, when it’s easier to refer to Pacific people as one group, we must remember that within that small name (that was given to us, based on a skewed perception of our people and places) lies a richness and complexity that is often brushed over. We are bonded by our shared experiences and we mustn’t forget to acknowledge and even celebrate our differences that keep us from being one mind. We are from one ocean, but we are many people.

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Newtown, between 1908-10. Photograph taken by Sydney Charles Smith. 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library. 1/1-019663-G

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