By Leki Jackson-Bourke*
Opinion – Author and trainer Leki Jackson-Bourke questions what else might be executed to maintain Pacific mom tongues alive along with language weeks in Aotearoa. And he shares his personal private journey of language studying with the Pacific Cooperation Basis’s (PCF) Pacific Voices sequence, because the Aotearoa Languages Weeks start with per week lengthy celebration of the Rotuman language.
We gown up, we wave our flags, we copy and paste from the newest templates to embellish our auto-generated e mail salutations.
However is that it? How a lot worth and mana will we truly place on our languages? Are we susceptible to turning our cultures right into a one-week parade with hashtags and hype?
Don’t get me fallacious – I like our language weeks as a lot as everyone. The query is – along with language weeks, what else can we do to maintain our mom tongues alive?
In 2013 Statistics New Zealand revealed that 7.5 p.c of New Zealand- born Niueans have been competent in talking Vagahau Niue (the Niue language). Let’s name a spade a spade – our stats usually are not good.
Vagahau Niue is at risk of extinction, and we’re in a battle for survival. Auckland prides itself on being the biggest Polynesian metropolis on this planet (when it fits).
So the place are all our younger language warriors?
We accomplish that effectively throughout language weeks, however then after all of the noise, many people are responsible of falling off the vaka and taking a nap beneath the mango tree.
I typically go to Niue neighborhood occasions, and I’m consistently disheartened to see the dearth of younger folks in attendance. Possibly we aren’t passionate sufficient. Possibly a few of us are comfy with conforming to the plastic mould of the pan-Pacific identification. Or perhaps it is the poisonous Niue neighborhood politics that many younger folks discover unattractive.
We’re at battle with ourselves and we threat shedding all the pieces on the swing of our personal swords. We have to do higher.
For years I’ve labored in a lot of Tongan, Samoan and Niuean neighborhood circles selling identification, language and tradition via the humanities. My work is primarily targeted on reconnecting New Zealand- born youth with tradition. I take advantage of the humanities to make language accessible as a result of so a lot of my New Zealand born brothers and sisters wrestle to seek out their place within the village.
I get it – I grew up being known as plastic. And I do know the sensation of discomfort whenever you stroll into these cultural areas and everyone stares. I can let you know – it is not going to all the time be the identical.
At present, I work as a Niue language trainer for youngsters aged 11 to 13 years, and there’s no scarcity of neighborhood gatekeepers who consistently problem my work. Via this, I’ve come to understand the significance of resilience. We owe it to our ancestors to push past our personal private insecurities. We’d like everybody to combat in their very own areas to advertise, preserve and uplift Vagahau Niue.
Aucklanders – the world doesn’t revolve round us. We should not neglect our cousins out within the areas who’re additionally combating the identical combat as us.
Final yr, I led an intergenerational digital mission which noticed 120 Niueans carry out conventional songs and dances of Niue. The mission united younger and previous, introduced Niueans collectively from throughout Aotearoa, and cleared house for our beloved Vagahau Niue to shine on stage.
The expertise highlighted the significance of language studying in an intergenerational surroundings. After we be taught from our elders, it’s our job to go it on. After we sing and we dance, we’re actively retaining our language, our tradition, and our ancestors alive. Our language is a taonga that lives and breathes, and the humanities are key if we ever hope to reverse our language statistics.
As a neighborhood we make investments a lot time and useful resource into educational areas, however is it sufficient? Do we actually want extra books on language? Maybe one other language class out in South Auckland? While all these educational initiatives are helpful in their very own proper, it’s time to critically mirror on what is definitely working. Who’s funding all this and why?
My humble request to all the main gamers is to recollect and recognise the contributions that the humanities and artists could make to this significant dialog. Our artists’ works are typically misunderstood as mere leisure. Nevertheless, as creators artists play a really significant position in retaining cultures alive; they’re typically among the many unsung warriors of cultural preservation.
So, don’t simply invite us to return sing and dance on the fono in entrance of your funders. Invite us to the desk to eat the cheese and crackers and to be part of the thrilling talanoa that we’re all so enthusiastic about.
Our artistic sector serves within the revitalisation, upkeep, and preservation of indigenous languages. For hundreds of years Pasifika languages have been sustained and promoted by the humanities. With the innumerable types of expression together with: music, tune, dance, choreography, storytelling, poetry, tapa cloths, tattoos and trend, the humanities permit our languages to talk via many voices.
Allow us to bear in mind this.
*Leki Jackson-Bourke is a multi-disciplinary artist and trainer. He was the PCF Younger Pasifika Male of Affect award winner within the 2020 inaugural PCF Youth Management Awards.