Written by Eugene Elisara, Freelance Consultant
Retreat Two of The Mana Moana Experience took place at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Kohewhata Marae and Tane Mahuta. There were so many highlights from those three days: the generosity of our Kohewhata tuakana; the mana wahine kaitiakitanga over Lake Omapere and Waipoua Forest; Tane Mahuta; NgaWha springs; kava; the new marae site at Omapere; what it meant to sleep in the wharenui; Mission (Im)possible; more kava; the kōrero and talanoa.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds were a revelation. Most of that was due to the commentary of Dan Busby, Tonotono Rangatira. Dan is a direct descendant of British Resident James Busby and recently departed taonga and tohunga, Sir Hekenukumai 'Hek' Busby. Dan reminded me that the Treaty sits in a context, like the 1835 Declaration of Independence. The Treaty also marked the birth of a nation. A formal attempt at partnership between two strange peoples. It’s part of our national history. There may not be 100% agreement about the full combined meaning of the Treaty and Tiriti. But surely that’s something we work on together? To build on the best parts of what the founders and signatories intended?
The grounding exercises on Hobson’s Beach were fun (even the unsuccessful treasure hunt!). They gave life to the Samoan proverb “E tele a’a ole tagata nai lo a’a o le la’au” - a person has many roots, more than that of the trees. Each person related their story about their Pacific roots. It was interesting to hear how many families had roots in Europe and the East. So many stories were also marked by courage - when at least one ancestor decided that the future of his or her family lay in another country. Maybe there’s something worth remembering about that sacrifice and struggle when considering our own circumstances.
Bearing in mind those strong reminders of history, Ma Moe’s challenge about a Pasifika vision resonated quite heavily with me. The Mission Impossible dinner added to that sense of enquiry.
The way this cohort interacted for that dinner challenge showed that we know how to join together in a virtual waka when we need to: to do many separate jobs for a common purpose. Many specific themes from the program were particularly highlighted to me from that evening. How tautua - service - can bring the mana of 20 plus strong individuals together. How easy it can be to achieve a positive sense of kotahitanga. How to acknowledge the wairua of the whenua around us. Of acknowledging mana and talent. Of owning and building a positive mauli of a room. Of sharing what you can. All of which is great. Surely we can take these tools and capabilities and show others their value? Not because it’s trendy. Or it’s a Pasifika or Māori language week. But because the things we saw and experienced at this retreat can help fill a need in the spaces we operate? These thoughts flowed from that:
· everyone wants to have their mana acknowledged;
· everyone likes being in an environment underpinned by fa’aaloalo;
· everyone enjoys being part of a community;
· everyone appreciates a positive mauli;
· people will help each other with fe’aus - chores;
· we know the value of service;
· we all benefit from kaitiakitanga;
· we should look after the environment;
· we recognise kotahitanga; and
· we know it’s important to be able to empathise with others.
Putting all of that into practice can be part of a journey. Is it the same as defining a Pasifika destination? Can you have a separate Pasifika vision in a modern and diverse New Zealand? Should there be? What kind of country did our forefathers want for us? Do the people we live and work with want to share this journey?
This retreat was a reminder of many small and large steps of courage taken to get us here. It also showed other steps that might improve the space we’re in - for ourselves and our loved ones and our communities. I know there are certain things my families would have wanted, or want, for me and mine. Whether you call it Pasifika or “Pasifika inspired” or plain old common sense, it can only help to have a broader and more accepting outlook in how we interact with each other and the environment.
I look forward to the remaining retreats.
Did Eugene’s story resonate with you? This is one of many purposeful and profound experiences on The Mana Moana Experience. Are you a mid-career Pasifika leader who cares for the future of New Zealand? Do you know someone who is? Then apply for our 2020 Programme - we’re accepting applications now!