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My community, my heritage, a gift that is forever treasured

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Arts online magazine Pantograph Punch talked to two members of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group about the Pacific Arts Legacy Project.

First published by Pantograph Punch.

Toku kāiga, he kānava, he fau e hē uia. My community, my heritage, a gift that is forever treasured.

Lagi-Maama Academy & Consultancy had the pleasure of connecting in person with Moses Viliamu at the Mitre 10 café, Porirua in June 2021 to discuss the contribution of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group Incorporated to this Pacific Arts Legacy Project. Later on in the process we connected with another member of the group Zechariah Reuelu, both of whom were born into the Atafu collective. Utilising the collective minds and hearts of those that already gifted their knowledge and history of the group in their ‘Te Kanava Strategic Plan 2017-2021’, we worked with Moses and Zechariah to provide an insight into their collective journey with what has been gifted in this paper. The header image for this paper is of the Mulihelu vaka sailing on the waterfront at Te Awarua-o-Porirua Harbour with members of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group Inc participating in the 2019 Waitangi Day water activities run by Porirua City Council in partnership with mana whenua Ngāti Toa and Whitireia New Zealand. An insight into the significance of Mulihelu vaka as a symbol of the collective resilience, innovation and adaptation of Tokelau knowledge and culture in Aotearoa is also presented in this paper.

“Maopoopo, means to gather together and be unified, promoting a vision of Tokelau ways in Aotearoa

Atafu toku nuku pele,

Kua fai koe ma oku mitamitaga,

Ko au e tau mo koe,

E he mamoe foki,

Taku tautua mo koe.

My dear Atafu

An Island I hold close to my heart

I stand by you and represent you

My support and love for you

Will not whither.

Atafu Tokelau in Porirua

In the 1950s, immigrants who travelled from their remote coral atoll Atafu to Aotearoa New Zealand were mainly young men and women. Many Tokelau migrants became founding members of Aotearoa New Zealand Tokelau communities. Their lives significantly contributed to the establishment and social organisation of culturally distinguished urban communities. The tupulaga leaders (people of the same age group, generation), through the Atafu family kinship, revived the pre-eminent cultural principle of maopoopo, which means to gather together and be unified, promoting a vision of Tokelau ways in Aotearoa. The different physical, social and economic environments of the new home in Aotearoa were strangely different from their Tokelau homeland settings. They learned to adapt and transition to sustain their communal wellbeing. The period of adaptation drove the settlers to organise themselves into a collective group driven by social survival.

During the 1960s, the new state-housing development alongside the growth of jobs in the manufacturing industry drew many Tokelauans to Porirua City. The Porirua Atafu Tokelau families grew in numbers that caused unexpected challenges to maintaining their communal activities. The restrictions of the existing community facilities they could secure from schools and local council halls were the catalyst to motivate the Atafu families to have a communal place of their own. In 1978, five hectares was purchased in Cannons Creek and this is where Matauala was built. At this time the Atafu Tokelau Community Group was the first Pacific organisation to purchase land in Porirua. Cannons Creek, where Matauala is located, has the largest Tokelauan population residing outside Atafu village in Tokelau.

Matauala has become an investment for future generations to continue the Atafu ethos and culture, as a model that ensures our Tokelau family structures, values, culture and traditions are maintained.

To read the rest of the story click on this link for Pantograph Punch .

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