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Pasifika spirituality brings ‘niu’ flavour to new lives

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pasifika spirituality brings ‘niu’ flavour to new lives

The enduring power of spirituality for the Pasifika diaspora in every aspect of life, from sport to education, is a unifying theme of the Talanoa Oceania 2011 conference at Massey University’s Albany campus next week.

“A recurring theme in the conference papers is that our spirituality is alive and well, despite the upheavals of being part of the Pasifika diaspora,” says Massey’s Director Pasifika Professor Sitaleki Finau.

He says diverse spiritual and cultural values and practices are the focus of many research papers, including in netball and rugby league, being presented at the three-day annual conference.

Around 30 academics from New Zealand, Australian, Hawaiian and Pacific Island universities will speak on topics including psychology from a Pasifika perspective, health, sexuality and HIV stigma, parenting, trade, economics and industrial relations, language teaching, education of gifted Pasifika children, and contemporary, traditional, visual and performance arts and crafts.

“This conference, subtitled Niu Flavours, is about celebrating the achievements of the Pacific Islands in diaspora,” says Professor Finau. Niu Flavours plays on cross-cultural, multiple meanings of the word “niu”, which has two meanings in Pacific languages – most commonly referring to the coconut, the ancient, resilient ‘tree of life’ in most island environments, and in pidgin meaning new, novel or different.

“Talanoa Oceania 2011 invites Pacific Islanders to be both – to display not only what and who we are, but also what we have invented and/or accomplished,” he says. Talanoa means “talking, storytelling” in Tongan).

“Niu Flavours is about how the generations of Pacific diaspora readjusted their cultures to fit their new homes away from their home islands. Talanoa Oceania 2011 hopes to display every flavour that Pacific Islanders have discovered or invented along the process of transition in diaspora.”

Other themes are diaspora Identities, human rights, food and nutrition, indigenous notions of wellbeing, disaster management and climate change, social justice, empowerment and social policy, and women and community development. The conference runs from November 28 to 30 at the Albany campus’ Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatres’ building.

Several new publications of Pasifika-related research on health, education, literature and community development will be launched at the conference by Massey’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Maori and Pasifika) Professor Sir Mason Durie, as part of the Pasifika@Massey series.

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