Embracing our Beautiful Exotic Melanesian Roots!

Today I am reminiscing about one of the biggest projects I had ever involved with. It involved a lot of organising, communication and networking to a degree. I had learnt a lot and taken a lot of risks to make that event happen. It was certainly heartwarming; a feel-good effect and a CV worthy. It was the Melanesia Day which happened on saturday 27th April 2013. It was organised in association with Baskets of Melanesia at the Musuem by Dr Rhys Richards, the ex NZ High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands.

The local Kapi Mana Newspaper advertised it as “Visit Melanesia for a day” which the sights, sounds, tastes and smells will come alive in a celebratory day. Check out the story here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/kapi-mana-news/entertainment/8554118/Experience-tastes-sights-sounds-of-Melanesia-at-Pataka. The Dominion Post called it “Party at Pataka” which you can follow the story here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/8606063/Party-at-Poriruas-Pataka-museum. The Pataka Musuem called it a Rip-Roaring Success! Here is the story: http://www.pataka.org.nz/melanesia-day-a-big-success/

It was such a high day for me-the adrenaline rush was overwhelmingly huge. I gave a lot of credit to my two close friends, Glo Oxenham (Solomon Islands) and Ancey Wamiri (PNG). They worked tirelessly to accomodate the Melanesian countries performances, the food and drinks organisations, the melanesian catwalk show, the arts and crafts and artefacts etc. PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were the big players in this big day but we had New Caledonia participating in the fashion show on stage. The Education Coordinator at the Pataka Musuem, Margaret Tolland was instrumental in creating a plan for the day but more importantly allowing us to craft our own Melanesian flavours into the mix. What an incredible array of culture it was and in the words of Glo Oxenham (a very talented weaver) it was an explosion of vibrant colours and creativity! Like Ancey and Glo, I would love to see a repeat of this celebratory day some day soon. Brett Childs, an Independent Facilitator Consultant in Wellington who happens to be a great mentor to me in so many ways always commented that when Leina, Glo and Ancey got together, incredible things happen!

So, what did I learn from that incredible event? A few things. In fact, many things! I wanted to the remember the event somehow so I wrote a beautiful reflective story about it which I hope to publish one day in the future. It is a 4 page piece which I hope to enter in a short story competition when the time is right. I wrote a 3 page piece on our Vanuatu traditional costumes which were modelled by the different Ni-Vanuatus living in the Wellington Region. These traditional costumes ranged from a little boy wearing a Kastom traditional red mat and the stories from Ambae (one of the Vanuatu Islands), to the colourful vibrant “mother hubbard,”the Toka Dance (Tanna) female costume to a traditional costume called “Manik larman”which means a male rooster who has status in society and maintains order in the community. Sadly, the big and small Nambas (big and small penis sheath-thats right!) missed out which come from the island of Malekula where I come from. We couldn’t find a willing model! But I would put my money on this costume that it would probably have the most pictures taken that day!

I was part of the programme at the gallery where I ran a Kastom Story Telling on my own. This was something I am still very proud of on reflection. I told a story in my language Ninde which I sang with as well. I had a little crowd listening. Little did I know that strangers would be interested in hearing me speak my own language.  This story has lived on well with me as I have also written a childrens story on which I hope to publish as well. Fortunately, I am able to translate the story into 4 languages all for marketing purposes. This includes the national languages of the three Melanesian countries; Pidgin for Solomon Islands, Tok Pisin for PNG and Bislama for Vanuatu.  Yes, French for New Caledonia and English included. I also hope to one day find an Illustrator and a Publisher to help me on this writing journey which has become very therapeutic. I have plans to adapt the book into the Maori language, Te Reo and other languages as see fit for the children of NZ to practice learning a different language. I do see it as a marketing potential in the future.

The vital lesson for me in this project was embracing my culture, my roots, my identity and showcasing it to the world. Yes my parents have taught me well. I am grateful. I can stand tall and be proud. Its very personal. There is a lot of honour and respect in one’s culture I believe. It really is a unique part of life. The world is becoming more a globall village! If you know it, be proud it. Be ecstatic about it. Celebrate it. Learn it. Dance it. Teach it. Potray it. Speak it. Do it. Taste it. Smell it. Feel it. See it. Sing it. Write it. Draw it. Tell your friends about it so they can know and can appreciate it more and love you for who you are. I did. Will you?

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