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October 2, 2016 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

One day I will reach the source again

There at my beginnings

Another peace

Will welcome me

— “The River Flows Back” by Kumalau Tawali (Papua New Guinea)

 

It’s local election voting time. Queue Phil Goff turning up at the Mangere Markets; queue the campaign adverts on MaiFM (in between the ads for Instant Finance); queue the think pieces lamenting low Pasifika turnout but don’t focus on generational political disengagement.

Full disclosure I’m an international student, who has only voted on online Beyoncé polls (long story with coups d’etat) and even I know it’s damn near impossible to be a Pasifika student and not be acutely aware of the politics of place: the pit in your stomach, the too familiar feeling when $10 land becomes $20 million land, the death stares we get in the library during “raucous” language week festivities, the “special treatment” conversation, whatever news story about NCEA that week. Whatever the case—it’s there.

As the inimitable Haunani Kay-Trask wrote “culture is political.” For me that means bringing the fear I felt during the 2006 coup in Fiji into every political science class. It means finding camaraderie in my PASI301 classmates when we’re challenging the academic theories even when, quite frankly, we don’t feel qualified to do so. Looking up to Dr Pala Molisa at VBS looking at sustainable accounting and Dr Teresia Teaiwa and the rest of Va’aomanū Pasifika—the very embodiment of Trask’s words.

The politics of being a Pasifika person at a university can be difficult to navigate, but the rest of us on the journey can make it easier to map out.

Vinaka,

Salote Cama

 

This column is dedicated to the student protestors at UPNG and Caleb Bagau—a West Papuan student was killed on his way to class for wearing the Morning Star flag on his backpack.

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