P.I.C Museum - Celebrating 70 years
PIC church that beacon of Pacific Islandness in the middle of Krd, has been a home to generations of Pacific people and was the original hub for early migrants to form new communities in Aotearoa. The extraordinary legacy of this church is celebrated in an exhibition of images and memorabilia that spans the decades since it first opened. Check out some of the amazing Pacificans that were brought up at the church, and the many events and initiatives over the years that cemented our Pacific identity in Aotearoa.
Roz Tuitama (pictured above) coordinated the 'living museum project' and she shared her vision with us.
"At the entrance when you first walk in there's a scripture that says 'Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see'. If you look at the journey from the 40s through until the present day, our people literally stepped off the boat, came and set up home here in faith. So we wanted to honour and tell their story because a lot of people don't know their story. It should be in the annals of Auckland history but it isn't - hopefully it will be. We wanted to tell the story of those that came, the very first Pacific Island people, came to this place to worship.
The significance of having it in the Maori Hall is like a symbolism of Tangata Whenua embracing the Pacific nations which is fantastic and this is why we're in this hall. The hall was gifted to the PIC in 1972 by the Maori senate of the Presbytarian church.
I'm calling it a living Museum of Faith because it's probably the only Museum in the world where you walk out the door one day and then come in the next and there are different things up. People are coming in and seeing family, they're seeing relationships - the records of marriage are right there and they want to bring whats hanging in their living room.
The vision was that as you walk through the corridor you feel like you're walking into someones house and if you grew up here in the 70s everything was a Museum. So we're honouring our God, honouring our Mothers and Fathers, honouring the people who came 70 years ago and set it up. It's a legacy altar I would say.
You'll see that the Cook Islands tivaevae hangs first because they were the first to set up church, then the Niueans came and then the Samoans came - the ie koga symbolises that. We've also got the Siapo which is a Fijian one but represents all nations because our church is quite multi cultural now.
It's an on-going timeline that goes into the 21st century now and we've put the founding mothers & fathers up around us so they're looking over us.
Past and present members of the PIC also shared their memories growing up in the church.
What's your most vivid memory growing up in the PIC?
"The most vivid memory for me at the PIC Newton, was how competitive and challenging the Sunday School Competitions were. Back in the 1960s & 1970s it was very competitive with the likes of the Yandall Sisters, the Atiga Sisters, the Lelaulu girls, the Ripleys, the Lauese family and Cathy Jones to name a few dominated the vocals department. Well l did not have a great voice l still don't so l enacted a Bible Scripture Character. Well that was the only time l won first prize. The character l played was Stephen the Martyr. Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews. You can say l refused to die and kept getting up and saying my lines with much emotion and passion l refused to roll over & die. I should have been a actor. God works in mysterious ways" - Fia'ailetoa Ken Moala. 1960s
"As a child, being happy with my father & his family & friends, how they supported each other & maintained the extended church community." - Linda T. December
"My most vivid memory of PIPC is the choir. I was brought up in the choir and started my whole love of music through it. I think it helped me to develop my musicality which in turn developed my movement skills and dance. Choir singing is also about playing your part in the hamonies and making sure you work together to get the sound balanced and even ... pretty much like life lol!" - Sefa Enari
"I think it's the fellowship!" - Roz Tuitama
"My most vivid memory is of my Dad, cos Dad was one of those guys who was never embarassed to do things, sing in choirs or perform on stage. My Dad was the one who'd just grab the mic and take it up to the son (laughs) and you'd have to talk or you'd have to sing" - William Iosia
"I can recall coming to church for the 5pm service which was the Samoan service. It wasn't negotiable - we all turned up in our Holden special station wagon. There were 8 of us so Dad would go in, then Mum and then we'd all go in and all of the families were like that. We might have started out like that, where we had to go and then later on in my journey I found God myself" - Nanai John Tuitama
How significant was it to you as a young Pacific Islander growing up in Auckland?
"At church we learnt lifelong skills, how to sing, how to learn for exams, how to be patient, how to communicate with a range of people, especially if you didn't like them, how to have FAITH in the unseens of the universe, praying for all the misinformed many Christians of the world." - Linda T. December
"There were little differences in the experiences of the young Pacific Islander when l was growing up and now. The significant factor was that so much expectation was put on us to perform well in education and to succeed in our careers. Our parents like many migrant parents wanted so much for us to succeed in the land of milk and honey. Our parents would struggle working 2 or 3 jobs to put food on the table. I am in awe of our pioneer parents who sacrificed so much for us leaving their lsland Homelands so we can have what they didn't have. Our earlier generations of NZ born Pacific Islanders comprised of a lot of gifted talented skilled intelligent young people in all areas set an amazing bench mark for future generations to emulate. The theme for the PIPC Newton BC Reunion 2018 which spanned the 1960s to the present was and is very apt today. 'Honour the past, Celebrate the present and Embrace the future'." - Fia'ailetoa Ken Moala.1960s.
"It's part of what moulded us. I really enjoyed my youth, there was a group of us who all had the same mindset, we all got into missions and all of us lived in each others back pocket basically and yeah, we're still friends today. Even though they're in different countries and churches it's like we can just pick up where we left off" - Nanai John Tuitama
"I went to Sacred Heart College a fairly palagi school. So going to PIPC grounded me as an islander youth and through PIPC maintained the Samoan culture through our make shift malae lol! PIPC was more than a church, it was as base for our community to worship as well as gather as Pacific migrants or diaspora." - Sefa Enari
"You grew up in a household where you were Samoan at home but when you walked out the door you walked out into a Eurocentric world and then you had to balance both worlds, but church was all PI and you could be Samoan hardout so that was an extension of 'village life' and everything else you experienced" - Roz Tuitama
"We grew up in a real safe environment where it was alright for us to be Samoan, it was good for us to understand who we were and more importantly that was the planting of the seed for us in regards to 'Who's God?' Definitely where I found Jehovah was here" - William Iosia
The PIC Museum will be open until next Thursday the 6th of December. You can check the PIC Newton Facebook page for opening times here.