Malo ni, ko toku igoa ko Hoe, Zoe So'otaga.
Tulou ko au e taumafai ki taku gagana Tokelau.
Ko oku matua ko Ana ma Mauailegalu Mathew So’otaga,
Ko na matua o toku tamana, Ko Kolotita ma Tuaiao So’otaga.
Ko na matua o toku matua ko Phillip Venning ma Nive Ahelemo Venning
E toka fa te matou fanauga, e toka lua oku tuagane ko Wyatt ma Vele, ma toku uho tamaiti te matou ki muli ko Mia, ko au te ulumatua, kua lua hefulu tolu oku tauhaga.
From a young age, as many of us do (afa-kasi’s in particular) – I experienced extreme identity issues. As a half Samoan, quarter Tokelauan, NZ european fatupaepae I found the expectations from all cultures as well as modern day New Zealand born and raised challenging, but I would never admit it.
I found on occasions that I would try to connect through language or traditions, and would be shut down or laughed at for trying.
Countless times I’d hear that I was ‘too white’...but I also felt too ‘brown’ for the white world. It felt like an endless worm hole that made me swallow all my emotions towards the subject.
I am grateful for my fanau for always being accepting of me, where ever I sat in the ‘Samoan enough’ societal scale. In particular my aunties and uncles, I always felt like I was good enough for them and it was the only place I felt comfortable slipping up trying to be the best pasifika girl I could be.
My grandparents always pushing me to be more and more Samoan/Tokelauan, it was hard and confusing at the time but I am grateful. I still don’t speak my mother tongues, but put me in an i’e and tell me to serve the front table – I know how to do it.
I carry traditions in my values of respect and service to my people. I hold my identity and story on my skin within my tatau.
This Tokelau tatau was inspired by one of the very little sources out there on Tokelau tatau. Figure 23 on Sean Mallons research ‘The history of Tokelau tatau’ show’s an image of a ‘lupe’ around the womans waist.
In Gordon Macgregor’s research for ‘Ethnology of Tokelau islands’ pg 144 it notes that “All women were tattooed with a band (lupe) below the waist line, commencing at the iliac crest and extending around the back just above the buttocks or sometimes converging from the sides into a point over the lower part of the sacrum (fig. 23, d). This band was covered by the leaf skirt (titi) and was never tattooed until the woman was married”.
Although I am not married I decided in discussion with my mum and Tyla Vaeau that there is a need for the revival of these traditions and waiting for my marriage is far too long to wait (haha). Our culture is dying and language is not the only way we can revive all the traditions. My first step to this is my pasison and talent in the arts and traditions of tatau.
My lupe is a representation of my commitment and binding with my Tokelau identity and culture – like a couple vowing loyalty and commitment to each other.
My ‘why’ for everything has and always will come back to my passion for my people. The revival of our beautiful culture will take the weaving of every individuals strengths in our many customary practices such as: oral teaching, traditional food and gathering, hiva and fatele, story telling, navigation, lalanga and for me - tatau.
Fa’afetai lava Tyla Vaeau , whakawhetai lahi lele mo te avanoa.