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May 29, 2017 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

Representation

Two weeks ago, in writing about Dr Teresia Teaiwa, I talked briefly about the issue of Pasifika representation. It got me thinking: How well are we represented in mainstream society? Is our presence known? If not, whose responsibility is it to change the situation? I went over these questions for a few days, and here’s what I’ve concluded:

  • We’re not represented as much as we’d like to think. When we are, it feels like a form of compensation. I mean, how many Pasifika people do we see on the city’s billboards?  And when mainstream society does “try”, it doesn’t seem to “fit” us under its umbrella. Remember why Aaradhna gave away her Tui Award? (That was an amazing example, especially at a time when “just be grateful you got something” is again being preached to minority groups).
  • But, our presence is known. We have amazing Pasifika professionals: teachers, doctors, entertainers, athletes, and journalists out there. They are slowly taking up the “watch this space” sections of the public awareness narrative — these chapters that were assumed to be blank until recently.
  • It’s our shared responsibility. The more we write, study, travel, sing — whatever we are good at — the louder our voices get. It’s our time to make ourselves known.

I said in the last column that success hardly ever looks like Pasifika people. Now I am convinced that it is up to us to make sure it is. An essential part of our social and cultural decolonisation is realising that we are enough as we are. There’s no set language that a successful person should speak, or a set colour that they should be. I look like success. You look like success.

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