Over the past thirty years, Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua’s experiences in formal education and advocating politically for social justice developed into a community focused endevour in which he continues to demonstrate and engage in today. As a New Zealand born, the late 1970’s saw the young Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua embark on a journey which lead him through a period of turmoil for Pacific immigrants as NZ Immigration Officials searched for overstayers during dawn raids on houses and random checks on the streets. It was during that time, Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua alongside with other young Māori and Pacific Island people, formed a movement called the Polynesian Panthers. Together they held protests at public meetings advocating for Māori and Pacific Island human rights.
Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua began writing poetry during the time the Waitangi and Springbok protests began in the early 1980s. His poetry has been described as powerful, emotional and raw with themes that focused on social justice. Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua is a co-founder of Street Poets Black which was a group of Pasifikan poets, dancers, actors, comedians, and storytellers. The group has taken their unique Pasifika street theatre performances on tour around New Zealand.
In 1990, Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua was ordained as a minister and eventually moved to Auckland to work at the Tagata Pasifika Resource Centre. The centre runs social work and community education courses in Karangahape Rd, two blocks away from the Pacific Islanders Church (P.I.C) where he grew up.
It is with great honour that I present Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua as a special guest to this blog. He has generously given his time to share his reflections and thoughts which provide us with a glimpse into his life over the past 30 years. I am inspired by his continual dedication to our Pasifika communities within New Zealand. He is a man whose works I greatly respect. With gratitude, I present a part of Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua’s empowering story.
Thank you Rev. Mua Stickson-Pua for your time and for sharing your wonderful experiences and inspirational works on this blog. I truly appreciate it. Malo ‘aupito, Maryanne Pale xox
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
[A] I TUA/BACKGROUND:
In the 1970s, I was one of the first generation New Zealand born Samoans from the communities of P.I.C. Pacific Islanders Church Newton where our families were Cook Islanders, Niueans, Tokelau, Palagi (Pakeha or European) and the New Zealand borns. Central Auckland, off Karangahape road, was our Church from the ‘hood’ of Ponsonby and Grey Lynn when it was predominantly Brown and working class the corridor for new migrants. As one of my poems notorious lines goes “before there was a southside there was only Ponsonby and Grey Lynn”. Rejected by Auckland Grammar so off I went to Mount Albert Grammar with all the boys where we found racism. We were reminded that we were a minority and that there was little educational hope yet being with the brothers was awesome. Our Greasers club made up of Pasifikan students, armed with humour as our academic weapons, crudely and unpretentiously chased “University Entrance”. Oh how we laughed our way to University and cried our way out of University.
In those days the church was the centre of our being, our existence and survival. Being a teenager meant Bible Class was where all the New Zealand borns gathered for Religious foundations and Faith expressions. Together we felt that we could do anything. Here we were being affirmed away from that Palagi (European) world outside becoming that new tupulaga (children/youth) that our parents prayed for. With that humble knowledge and belief, we battled on the streets, playing fields and play grounds forever justifying our existence. Did I mention that is where we got to meet the girls? Yep, that was our time as teenagers.
Our aiga was famous or infamous (it depends on who you tell this story to) for being radical because our family played soccer as opposed to being Pacific rugby mad and/or rugby league fanatics. We were coconut toast but like the pese (the waiata or the song) says, it made us stronger. My poor Dad wanted an All Black because he knew then that it opened doors for migrants’. Thank you Bryan Williams M.A.G.S. old boy. At that time, brown boys who wanted to play for the All Whites (New Zealand’s national soccer team) was tragic but that’s what we had hoped for. Our local brown soccer team was based at the YMCA and our special football project was called Un Civilised Savages (U.C.S) and the Palagis feared us. We played a Brazilian attacking centred game which was highly expressive and stylistic and it was a tough Pacific defensive game contrary to the staid Palagi English game of the day. Yes we loved Brazil because they were brown and world champions! Thank you Pele and Ali, who were our black sports role models who played against the odds.
As the first generation of New Zealand born Pacific urban teenagers, we were just beginning to hang out with our crew affectionately known as the Monster Club. Now looking back on it, yeah I ask myself ‘like why?’ In reference to our name, back then it made sense as we had the boys from the following families (surnames); Toleafoa, Fa’asalele, Banse, Manase and of course the Pua (my family). We loved just being together sharing everything the bad to the good. Our parents were founding church members of P.I.C Newton and they were also devoted Labour Party activists. The Union movement was just an extension of our church choir. So maybe it was no surprise that the (older) young people created the Polynesian Panthers. We were all in awe of the Toleafoa family and they were inspirational. Knowing a Polynesian Panther at that time was cool but knowing the entire family now that’s island styles. So of course we all belonged to the Polynesian Panthers Home Work Group and I must say what an education! Having access to the black library and reading about the black philosophers such as Malcolm X and Ali, I could not help but be inspired.
Our parents were amazing with their Ministry and their Community work. It would take time and experience to learn this Poto (Matauranga or Wisdom). We underwent the Police Investigation Group (P.I.G) patrol following police with law students and we recorded the practices of Police in relation to our people and seeing the reality out on our streets made us realize that justice was a foreign concept.
At home we were also the first Television generation and the first in the neighbourhood to get our colour TV to watch the Ali rumble in the jungle boxing match all the families and friends gathered at home just like back at the villages of Samoa watching those western cowboy films. The era of Kung fu films at Kingsland picture theatre and Blaxploitation films were making its impact from Bruce Lee to Shaft Asia to Black America. At that time, we were only just beginning to explore and express our Pasifikaness. In our homes, our living rooms had paintings of Jesus Christ and the Last Supper hung up next to Elvis Priestly images. Also, Bruce Lee images also became urban Pacific and just as iconic as these images of the seventies were. The Samoan Yandall Sisters were dominating the radio and TV music scene plus Herbs were originally a Pacific Island Reggae band before becoming famous as a Māori band.
When I was at Mount Albert Grammar the only books at school I enjoyed and remembered were Pounamu and Tangi (thank you Witi Ihimaera). This islander had to confront that he did not know really anything Māori yet here they were raising questions about my own Samoaness in Aotearoa. My Dad brought home ‘that’ book Sons for The Return Home by Albert Wendt 1973. My Dad conned me into reading this book by saying that “I cannot read this book it’s got too much sex in it” and when I started to read it, I was hooked. This was a book that grabbed my attention. When I went to Palmerston North to live and study at Massey University my mates (a Palagi and two Māori Wahine) and I could not find take away open one night as we wanted to buy some burgers. So off we went to Wellington on a spontaneous adventure. That night, I told them about the book Sons For The Return Home and so we went to Victoria University (with that book in hand) seeking out the locations on campus and where he (the main character in the book) met her (the main character’s girlfriend) which was at the library escaping Todd Motors hahaha (or how sad). Oh yes, we managed to have the burgers at Porirua, comical like the advert says, “priceless”. Readers you are correct, I had a great social life at University my alagaupu for University were to experience new things, pass the exams and don’t forget our people.
New Zealand history pages expressed our experiences very differently. For example, Bastion Point, Hamilton Golf course, Māori land marches, Waitangi protest, rugby protest, and then we were rudely awakened when it was our turn, our time to write that history book with our peoples blood. Yes the price was paid and we shall not forget the overstayers and the Dawn Raids. In addition, we rediscovered our own Mau movement and Bloody Friday to the Influenza that killed a third of our people back in Samoa. Dear New Zealand, how white is your pages now with brown people and red blood drowned by injustice? On reflection, our parents’ generation were dedicated believers, and they made sacrifices for my brown bourgeoisie lifestyle that humbly reminds me where sacrifices have been made. I have a responsibility to my family, our families, communities and nations and with this calling for Ministry and community work. I have struggled with this calling but as treasured matua (elders) have passed away, I continue to share with others what has become obvious, that is, a lived and a life practice of alofa (aroha or agape).
I hope this reflection sets the mood for my conversation with Maryanne Pale and that this is a reminder that our people are noble, that memories are honoured and that our stories now are our history. Thank you Maryanne for this opportunity to share my story. Atua blessings of peace. (Please note: MP = Maryanne Pale)
MP: How did your path in writing and performing poetry begin for you?
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: Well I have been writing and performing urban Pasifika poetry for thirty years hence a lot of time to reflect on this very good question. In my younger days, I would rave about “I” or “Me”, “the individual” which is important but over time, “our”, “We”, “Us”, “Collective”, a “Communal Identity” kicks in. For me, it all began at home with my parents. My Father, Pua Sofi Tulafale, was an Orator, Lay Preacher, Elder, Radio broadcaster, former Headmaster, Labour Party activist, Union representative PSA, Chairman of numerous Pacific committees and boards, scholar, philosopher, theologian, witty speaker spoke 7 languages and believed in our future. My Mother, Vaitulu Purcell, supposedly the second in command but now as a Grandmother, I acknowledge that she was “the boss” and her nickname was earned. She loved her aiga (family) Purcell, our motherland Samoa and ultimately she was strong in her faith. My siblings and I were raised in the Christian faith and looking back on it, I am grateful. My Mum had an awesome sense of humour. People loved her jokes and when she laughed, the whole world knew. Growing up, we had a happy home even though our home was the centre of our aigas universe new migrants, families per room, halfway house for troubled times, family meetings. We were also surrounded by people of different ethnicities, such as; Niueans, Cook Islanders, Tokelauans, Māori, Palagi, Chinese, Indians and more. They were all our family, colourful and rich with humanity, how can you not become a writer, a poet, a performance artist, a lavalava artist, a multimedia artist, a story teller, a comedian, an urban oral historian. Becoming “I”, “Me” connects to “We”, “Us”.
I wish to honour my siblings Christina, Peter, Vaitulu, William, Marianne, and Sofi for allowing their part-time brother to explore and express myself over the years and then to be welcomed home because in that malaga (journey), my Mum and Dad were right, I always had home to return to. However, my sisters and brothers kicked my butt and constantly gave me a reality check haha! I am honoured to be their eldest brother. My siblings are the most talented scholars, community writers, poets, choreographers, directors and artists hence one of my life art themes is the Art Of Aiga (family). The Church gave my sibings and I those initial opportunities to share those gifts and then formal education opened up pathways to the unknown. My Father’s side has a long line of humble orators and my Mother’s family were famous Samoan composers. When I think about “I”, “Me”, “my genetics”, “my Whakapapa”, it speaks of my people and our shared achievements which is grounded in “our”, “We”, “Us”. At home we were encouraged to speak and perform at family gatherings, at Church White Sunday meant performance thank you Bible Class and Rev. Sio believed that we the young had to speak out, and School/University took us to another level temporarily away from our families but returning to take up our roles for our Matuas Elders and the next generation.
Honest story as my students would say my first school prize was for writing a story about Samoa even though at the time I had never been to Samoa. Our Parents were so proud and they made a big deal which left a mark and it was then that I decided that I would be a writer or a lawyer. My parents smiled. In 1982, I was married, a father and a frustrated student at Massey University. I was surviving in a Bachelor of Social Work course and as a former gang worker with the King Cobras, returned from the most social political upheaval Aotearoa the Anti ‘81 Springbok Tour arrested and politicized. It was during this time that I started writing poetry. My wife, Linda Ann Strickson-Pua, noticed all my scrawled up paper frustrations which littered the floor. She rushed into our study really excited and with proud a smile on her face she said, “Hey you didn’t tell me that I married a poet! I love your poems! They are raw and honest and you have got potential!” Well she and I cracked up laughing. However, I looked at those early poems and discovered that those poems hurt emotionally. From a counselling perspective, the healing process contributed to social change. Hence the Street Poets Black became a reality and opened new doors for Māori, Tangata Whenua, Treaty of Waitangi and being a Samoan amongst these amazing people of the land forged a special relationship that Linda and I treasure and honour. Linda and I have also served Māori Nations and communities in the past thirty years. My writings have been influenced by these experiences, blessings and taonga (treasures). I wish to publicly express our thanks and alofa (love) to Māori who have generously given to our aiga becoming whanau relinked, reconnected, and rejuvenated.
MP: How does your cultural heritage inform your writing?
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: I am very aware my cultural identification is Ngati Hamoa Saina Aotearoa born Samoan Chinese Irish currently getting used to acknowledging my Irish side Tipuna Ned Purcell. Being born in New Zealand, I have reacted by identifying with our Samoan and Chinese Gafa Whakapapa though over time I need to honour my Mother’s side Purcell of Malaela Upolu Samoa. Though recently finding out about my Irish side originally came from France with William the Conqueror to Britain thus Purcells’ were rewarded land in Ireland. The first four years of my life was in Gagana Samoa Samoan language till I went to primary school hence like our Māori whanau our migrant parents believed to assist our education we were not to speak Samoan at home but speak English. Though looking back Samoan language was present with all the aiga meetings and Lotus’. By high school our parents wanted us to converse in Samoan at home our cultural dynamics had shifted though our parents had set a beach head a bridge that we could return to our Samoa. Sadly, I am not a confident speaker of Samoan though I do understand Samoan. Linda and I have served 7 years in predominant Māori communities in Palmerston North Ngati Raukawa and Dunedin Ngai Tahu thus the Māori malaga (journey) has always been a humble reminder I am Ngati Hamoa though over time I am more inclined to use Te Reo Māori words for the context of Aotearoa and our inter cultural generation. Tangata whenua Māori has become an important element of understanding who I am as Tagata Pasifika Ngati Hamoa Saina New Zealand born in Aotearoa New Zealand.
YOU ARE NOT A REAL SAMOAN
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
I have been raised
on the phrase
you are not
a real Samoan.
In the beginning
it was a statement
which brought me
As time wore on
it would be the phrase
and inspired me.
I am a Samoan
[Matua 2006 pg 81]
Hence when talking about my cultural heritage these are important identity markers that make my writing unique and why some people explore my malaga (journey) because they too are resolving these issues of belonging, understanding and how to process these spiritually, culturally and politically. I have begun to understand that the Pasifika sense of belonging and coming from Te Moana nui a kiwa our region of the South Pacific in these times of globalisation our Asia Pacific region acknowledged by some as Oceania the court is still out for me. My cultural heritage is a means for understanding the bicultural and multicultural implications of rationale and praxis when referring to the Treaty of Waitangi for Māori to Pakeha (European) and Treaty of Friendship for Samoa and New Zealand. My poetry and writing does not exist in a vacuum but rather they are dynamic and they are a holistic reality which demonstrates my experiences, my understanding of my cultural heritage in relation to the poet, activist, therapist, healer and community developmentalist, that exists in my arts practice.
OUR PACIFIC IS NOT SMALL
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
Our Pacific is not small.
Vast is our ocean.
Stretching from the east
to the west.
How deep is the South Pacific?
emerald green to sky blue
and darkest blue seas.
Four winds blowing
In the changes of time.
Pasifikan do not forget
who you are and where you
This is home and home of our
Follow your heart
do not be small in mind, spirit
because our Pacific
is not small.
[Matua 2006 pg 76 & 77]
MP: You have been in the poetry scene in New Zealand for the last few decades. Please explain how that has been for you.
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: 1982 poetry, street theatre and performance changed my very predictable mundane life from being an ethnic geeky religious nerd to a radical activist who then had to create a safe process of spiritual, cultural political outlet. Moving through as a poet, counsellor, therapist, community developmentalist of “We”, “Us” critically reflecting on my life experiences, my realities with theoretical paradigms or intellectual come mental masturbation or cerebral paralysis. I am grateful to our parents, our families, our communities for the “We”, “Us” in making sure that there was transparency and accountability, for kicking our butts when we needed it and for keeping us grounded. Typical the first time I was at University I was gifted James K Baxter’s Testament and Hone Tuwhare’s No Ordinary Rain plus being taken to see the Wizard of Christchurch, Gary McCormack and Sam Hunt thinking what was all the fuss about. The poetry books I found heavy going initially and the poetry performances for me was about reacting to Palagi and not having a cultural handle on this situation. After my baptism of gang work and political activism then returning to university I rediscovered those books with life experience eyes setting on fire an appreciation of Baxter and Hone Tuwhare but now shocked to discover that I now wrote verse that shared their love of Atua, Aotearoa and Aroha. I was still critical of Palagi poetry performances because of its middle class mono-cultural assumptions and practices but now finding that spiritually, culturally and politically we contribute to the whole changing landscape we know as Aotearoa, Te Moana nui a kiwa and our global village these are exciting times indeed.
CAGED FRANGIPANI PART 2
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
there are caged frangipanis’
I think there are
to many plastic flowers’
MP: Your collection of poetry Matua represents you and your family as shown in the photo of your parents that you used on the cover. Please explain how this collection is significant to you?
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: Matua our work is not yet finished [Matua 2006 pg 9]
Matua for me the Poet is a gift to Linda, our children Ejay, Feleti, Byron and mokopuna’s Wilco Byron, Dremayer Liberty Choir, Che’den Sofi and Jane Filemu then for our aiga, whanau, families and friends. From Aotearoa to Samoa to England, the book also acknowledges my Chinese and Irish whakapapa. Matua honours my Mother, Vaitulu Purcell, and my Father Pua Sofi, and those loving amazing migrant parent generations who invested in our future with hope. Matua is a connection to sacrifices turned into legacies by our people and that our children and mokopunas know who they are and that they know their stories about our history and where they belong. At one level it is the Strickson-Pua family story come poetry, come poementary, yet it has a universal story of humanity which I hope other Pasifikans will be empowered, educated and uplifted. Matua tells our children, our mokopunas, how much we love them and how much we loved our parents and that our people are treasured. As our son Feleti has created Pasifika Hip Hop that celebrates being Pasifikan and sharing that message of hope, we have gifted them a Pasifika literary legacy of hope.
Matua on a personal level has allowed the poet artist, the producer poet and artist curator to explore faith, culture and politics whilst implementing the Pasifika Art and Therapy for Healing (P.A.T.H) programme at Tagata Pasifika Resources & Development currently with Alternative Education. Tagata has allowed me to create this process of poementary with students, families and communities. Over twenty years of poetry community development praxis, it has been an honour and a privilege. Before there was South Auckland Poets Collective (SAPC) there was Pasifika Poets Collective K’rd with Daren Kamali and before that there was Street Poets Black, yes a Pasifika legacy a history waiting to be rediscovered and reclaimed.
By Rev. Mua
to these shores
armed with expectations.
yet to fulfill.
[Matua 2006 pg 8]
Matua is a celebration of Pasifika, Matua is aroha, alofa, agape. Matua is Hope.
MP: You were a co-founder for Street Poets Black which was a group made up of Pasifikan poets, dancers, actors, comedians and storytellers. Please explain your experiences with writing and performing with this group.
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: Firstly we were Māori and Pasifikan social work students at Massey University Palmerston North who belonged to the Māori and Pacific study group. The other Co-founder was Leland Ruwhiu now the esteemed Dr Ruwhiu of CYPF head office Wellington. We were young and fired up having to explain our developing cultural praxis and identity to Pakeha staff yet we began to perform our cultural dilemmas on the concourse to a predominantly conservative Pakeha (European) audience. It was a moment of realising that through the protocol of performance one was able to unleash the anger, pain and scars and process the healing taking place but initially a rage at racism, injustice and suffering which was also confrontational in nature yet we became these radical performance poets, orators and story tellers who in turn also became campus celebrities depending on who you spoke to because we were now being recognized as those Māori and Pacific Islanders who were political, radicals and deviants.
Within our group originally Mua and Leland spoke out standing up on our developing Kaupapa of Justice not realising we were attracting other Māori and Pasifikan students talking about our performances. They recognised our spiritual, cultural and political dilemmas of who were we becoming and asking the questions’ how do we help our people which also meant we needed to help ourselves. Our whanau and aiga came together which was pretty radical and not the norm yet we learnt so much from each other from the Treaty of Waitangi of Aotearoa to the Treaty of Friendship Samoa. We began to unite on those spiritual, cultural and political Kaupapa of performance. We were beginning to recognize the therapeutic protocol, process and practice and empowerment of our members to stand up for themselves in turn their families and communities.
New whanau members added their unique contributions as comedians, singers, composers, Te reo Māori instrumentalists, our performances became more sophisticated and were beginning to build up a political profile then an artistic presence. From the conservative Palmerston North, our membership began to make local impact back in the cities and towns we came from hence there were Street Poet Black chapters in Wellington and Auckland. This would lead up to our National Street tour from Auckland, Tokoroa, Hamilton, Rotorua, Hastings, Napier, Porirua East and Wellington also funded by the NZ Arts Council. 24th January 1986 Māori and Pacific Islands Festival Wellington were spiritually, culturally and politically shocked. Street Poets Black performed our brand of urban Māori & Pacific street theatre bringing together those delicated fine mat strands of Treaty of Waitangi, Racism, Gangs, Rape, Treaty of Friendship, Sexuality, Dawn Raids, Overstayers. The stunned silence of that conservative religious Iwis, Kapa Haka groups, Churches, cultural performance groups, pakeha, yes the silence was deafening. There are still Pacific members of that Wellington community who will remind me of that moment when they realised poetry would never be the same again. The Auckland chapter consisted of Linda T, Va’a Malo, Tai George, Tai Paitai, Imi Tovia, William Pua, and Sofi Pua. Thus making us one the first touring Pasifika poets and Pacific street theatre and it was about getting our message back to the people, communities, and nations.
We recognised initially we were a brown bourgeoisie tertiary group performing to a tamed middle class Pakeha (European) audience which had its educational value but we chose the streets of Broadway avenue and the abusive racist reality of New Zealand quickly woke us up and sharpened our performances. Individually you did a lot of growing up, soul searching and coming to an understanding or just recognition of a beginning. Collectively and communally the incredible whanau wairua where we could express our doubts to anger to solutions and then artistically to have an instant audience giving you feedback, challenges and constructive criticism. Our homes and flats became these spiritual, cultural and political hot house incubators of change and healing. We were celebrating being Māori and Pacific Islanders together performing our unity our Kaupapa this was incredibly powerful and at an important part of our development. As we poetically started as “I”, “Me” “the individual” we rediscovered our “We”, “Us” collective, a sense of communal belonging which answered deep fundamental questions of existence, purpose and justice. In that short period between 1982 and 1985 we did so many street performances to street theatres, workshops, speaking engagements, radio, television and print media presence within and around the north island. From the Street Poets Black experience I would put together our unique poetry writing and performance modules for Tagata Pasifika Resources & Development Trust and currently Alternative Education.
It is about taking the learnings and experiences to share with the next generation of servant leaders come artists, writers, dancers, film makers, composers, fashion designers etc. thus maintaining continuity to equip our Māori and Pasifika people for their malaga, that journey of hope. Street Poets Black for me gave me an artistic group whanau aiga to explore, experiment, express spiritually, culturally and politically in such socially radical ways which still influence me today the Poet, Artist, Curator, Gang worker, Youth worker, Community worker that Minister person it is appreciating the holistic tapa tapestry which we find ourselves in illuminating our truths for others to find their truths. Scholars amuse me when they ask me how do I know about these creative processes of change and healing? It was simple, I have lived these truths and others have shared alofa (aroha or agape) graciously in my life. Now my mokopunas’ (Grandchildren) are teaching me to be a better person and I love their commitment. Street Poets Black I want to honour all those poets, singers, composers, dancers, comedians, story tellers and instrumentalists. They have all gone back to their families, communities, Iwis’ and nations contributing fully in a richness of alofa (aroha and agape).
STREET POETS BLACK 2005 REMIX
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
Street Poets Black
were performing, preaching, raving
creating with what was happening.
All around us in the now mode
mindful of our past and especially our future.
It was a powerful process of creativity
and empowering artists and communities.
[Dreadlocks interrupted Vol. 3 2006 pg 62]
Street Poets Black
were a group of friends
from Tangata Whenua
and Tagata Pasifika
who shared of their heart,
mind and soul
at a special time and place.
Sorting out our lives
of our people.
[Dreadlocks Interrupted Vol. 3 2006 pg 66]
MP: You are a proud father and grandfather. Your exhibition “Lavalava” displayed your personal history and work from your whole family. Please share more about your family and also about this exhibition.
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: Tangata I akona ki te kainga, tunga ki te marae, tau ana. [Whakatauki Māori]
A person trained at home will stand on the Marae with dignity. [Māori Proverb]
By Rev. Mua
in my heart.
[Matua 2006 pg 20]
Being married to Linda (pictured below) has taught and made me proactive about celebrating her English Pakeha Whakapapa and Gafa hence with our children and mokopunas (Grandchildren) they are very aware of their Strickson, Peterborough England connections. We show that cultural respect back to our Strickson family connection which is special for our aiga. We have also been very active in the dialogue of Whanau Aiga of mixed heritage and celebrating our diversity which Linda and I have been guest speakers and lecturers. Again alofa (aroha and agape) Linda is the Mother of our Strickson-Pua clan and we honour her amazing contributions our family, our story or history.
In 1989, we returned with our aiga (family) back to Auckland where at this time our daughter Ejay [11yrs old] was beginning to show her amazing visual arts potentials. Well Linda was so proud and as that typical pushy Samoan Father, I booked Art Station for an art exhibition. Poor Ejay was so stressed about this that I had the novel idea that Linda, Feleti (her 5 year old brother) and I would also exhibit with Ejay. Then we invited friends and families who came and also contributed their art. By the end of the week we had our first Aiga Art Exhibition with amazing feedback from the artist communities, educationalist, and especially the families loving this new cultural and artistic experience. Aiga Pua called a family meeting where we had our first art exhibition as the sons and daughters of Vaitulu Purcell and Pua Sofi plus the all the grandchildren and great grandchildren celebrating their life well there was no turning back our families and members have exhibited around Aotearoa, Fiji, Samoa, and Australia. Art of Aiga is a family concept and Kaupapa of families creatively working together telling our Pacific aiga family stories. Our aiga art works have recently appeared on Pasifika’s most successful comedy film Sione’s Wedding 2 Unfinished Business. Congratulations to my sister Vaitulu Pua and my sister in-law Meryl Ulugia-Pua.
As an aiga (family) of artists we never woke up and said ‘ok everyone we are going to be artists’ but just as radical the “We”, “Us” artists, our aiga (family) of artists came to an evolutionary process which obviously had its revolutionary elements. We are a typical family of New Zealand born Samoan Chinese Irish now married with Palagi, Chinese and Māori with tertiary qualifications thus middle class brown bourgeoisie who enjoy being together because our parents set the foundation which we have grown comfortable with. We contribute our unique ways like yes we are an aiga (a whanau, a family) who performs and exhibits together which is special. Our families and communities enjoy our shows and once again it is an honour and a privilege to tell our family, our people, our stories through poetry, hip hop and visual arts. Atua has blessed our aiga as one of the first families from the Pacific side to exhibit, perform, run workshops, guest speakers, guest lecturers on this protocol called art of aiga. Seeing our families come together to do art together is a process where our relationship, our spiritual, our cultural, our political aspects of ourselves combine. We practice this through the exhibitions, the show, the workshops living the practice of hope.
SHORT STORY: THE CHOSEN ONES, CHE’DEN AND JANE
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
On the floor lay the numerous art pieces for the next aiga Art Exhibition Che’den wanted to know why other children didn’t do art exhibitions? Jane reminded him that they came from an aiga of Artists who did art projects to make their communities happy. Tupuga and Atua had chosen them like all the artists. Che’den smiled with approval. Making others happy. A journey of Hope.
[Writing The Pacific 2007 pg 161]
In 1990 I was asked to be the Pasifika Arts Chaplain for the Auckland part of Dream Of Joseph art exhibition which was the first Pacific exhibition to go on national tour. The artists had been publicly criticised in Wellington by our own Elders and Community leaders thus Auckland Art Gallery wanted to make sure no repetition hence why I was invited by Alexia Smart to be part of this amazing history and fantastic exhibition. In the process, I was asked to set up a chapel space for that quiet spiritual contemplation possibly to appease the conservative religious Elders and Community leaders. I went home and transposed our family living room to that spiritual space well some of the art gallery staff expressed disappointment. I then explained that for Pasifikans the living room is where all the family photos, religious icons, certificates, trophies were displayed telling the story of this family but just as important this was where the family lotu (whanau karakia or family prayer) was performed hence the living room was a tapu (sacred) and spiritual space. The Pasifikan artists appreciated the creativity and not to be seen as conforming or selling out their artistic mana (pride) also now this sacred spiritual space also affirmed their personal commitment to their art and our people. Our Pua and Purcell aiga were so proud seeing Mum and Dads photos, our family photos our various university degrees, plastic flowers, the leis, the coconut ornaments, photos of Samoa, Jesus and the disciples last supper painting here in the Auckland Art Gallery. From this project I began to enjoy the crossover project as poet to a visual artist. Plus a lot of those amazing visual artist from Dream Of Joseph we are now part of their extended family that’s the Art Of Aiga.
Lavalava Art was a practical concept borrowed from my Massey University Palmerston North days when we visited Pasifikan scholarship students’ hostel rooms or flats they would arrange their family photos on lavalavas’ or mats which really looked impressive. I loved the pragmatism and practicality of the telling of one’s family story overseas with limited resources but you could not be impressed, touched and uplifted because it humbly reminded you that there was a family behind you wanting you to succeed and graduate it picked you up when you went through those hard times of self-doubt or wanting to drop out. Hence I made the connection of art being spiritual, cultural and political for empowering our families, communities and nations. As a Pasifikan artist I love the academic dialogues and critiques but at the end of the day with our families and mokopunas it’s so much fun and the Aroha Alofa and Agape flows freely. Our aiga (our whanau or our family) are our harshest critics as my brothers would take our aiga to the airport to go to Fiji, Samoa or Australia to do our Lavalava arts exhibition, performance shows, school tour, speaking and lecture engagements you realise your aiga your whanau is an important part of your art and your life so to combine the two is pragmatic and practical the Art of Aiga.
SHORT STORY: THE CHOSEN ONES, CHE’DEN AND JANE
By Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua
Yes, these young mokopunas are going to do well in this new world, but grounded with their past connected to their present which Papa and Nana felt honoured to be a part of while they journeyed to their future. Nana was right, when being at their births’, those early signs spoke of possibilities yet to be realized. So they were raised on the notion of the Chosen Ones just as they had done for their own children, Feleti and Emma-Jane.
[Writing The Pacific 2007 pg 161]
MP: In conclusion, how has your vast experiences shaped your vision for the future?
Rev Mua Strickson-Pua: Well, I was ordained as a P.I.C Presbyterian Minisiter in 1990, twenty three years before that the traditional Ministry training of seven years. From 1982 to 1985 I was a Massey University, Palmerston North undergraduate studying Education and Social Work and 1986 to 1989 Otago University Dunedin Knox Theological College post graduate Practical Theology. 1990 to 1992 National Pacific Island Youth Consultant and 1993 to 2013 Chaplain & Pasifika Development Tutor very mindful of my obligations and duties to Humanity and Atua.
FREE GOD’S CHURCH
By Rev. Mua
love the Church.
loathe the injustice.
[Matua 2006 pg 26]
I wish to personally express to the King Cobras fa’afetai lava thank you for looking after this religious geeky church nerd and for teaching me so much about myself, my faith, my culture and my politics. Also, for further opening my eyes as to why we must intervene and protect our homes our families our communities to nations the phrase Lost Tribe really shook my foundations. Being on the outside a new perspective of appreciation of our parent’s faith, culture and politics kicked in seeing our young people damaged and lost with nowhere to return a strong sense of anger and hopelessness. My poor mum struggled with my choices being amongst these gang members these gangs Black Power, Head Hunters and Mongrel Mob yet it became obvious to our aiga Pua that they were our young people and the new testament required concrete actions of alofa (aroha or agape).
My theme songs’ when working the streets of Ponsonby road, Karangahape road to Queen street was Randy Crawford with Crusaders Street Life and Rose Royce Love Don’t Live Here Anymore as they say a music of a generation that challenges me we shall not allow injustice and suffering to go unchallenged. This was when the world was introduced to the first international hip hop number one Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill Gang, I can see heads nod with a smile of approval. Coming from a Christian faith and fa’asamoa (the Samoan way) grounding and now comparing and contrasting it to my Youth Ministry, Youth Work to Gang Work experiences meets the highly politicised 1980s made for fertile soil of change. Acknowledging that this work was funded by the Government of the day Rob Muldoon’s National Party where the political connections were obtuse and obvious. I mean I carried on me an identity card supplied and sanctioned by Internal Affairs and a direct number to the Prime Ministers Department. Yes the political realities hit home the hopelessness but we are a people of this region we do not give up on our people now my faith and culture kicked in giving me that hope and political process of action. Thirty years of youth work, community work to Ministry serving our Pacific Nations communities here in Aotearoa and out amongst Te Moana nui a kiwa our beloved South Pacific has being my honour. Therefore, I continue a tradition of service that my parents lived and passed on I pray our children and mokopunas will make those connections of Hope.
By Rev. Mua
She was 13 years old
gang raped and murdered
new to the city
just a baby.
[Matua 2006 pg 64]
These different roles and life experiences have shaped my perception of our future that of being a collective communal protocol, process and practice liberating our humanity. For me the future is about hope but it has always been grounded in our Past and Present hence my limited understanding states we are people of hope.
By Rev. Mua
are the sons
continue to contribute
to our shared futures.
[Matua 2006 pg 73]
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