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Celebrate culture

Use your culture, don’t lose your culture. Culture gives us a sense of belonging, pride and identity.

Why celebrate culture?

There’s a source of power in your DNA. 

Not knowing where you belong and not feeling like you’re part of the crowd is a common feeling for many young people. For young Pasifika people in New Zealand, research shows that the stronger our cultural identity, the stronger our wellbeing. If we embrace and strengthen our cultural identity we strengthen wellbeing and have a happy life.

Learning more about your background gives you a better understanding of why you think, feel or act in certain ways. If the way you do these things is making you feel like you don’t fit in, try looking at it in a different way – the things that make you different also make you unique.

Knowing about your family history, ancestors and culture can help you know where you come from, and that’s a part of who you are. It can help you carry a sense of ‘home’ wherever you go, no matter where you are or who you are with. The Cook Islands proverb 'Tooku kaainga te marae rotopu i toku ai tupuna e tooku ‘aanau' translates as 'My home is the sacred centre of my ancestors and descendants.

The Samoan proverb 'O le gase a ala lalavao' translates as ‘The paths in the bush are never obliterated.’ This means your ancestors are always watching over you just like big trees, to make sure the pathways to your culture are not overgrown. Knowledge about your culture is always waiting for you if you want to pursue it. The main thing is that you’re happy with how much of your culture/s you know right now, or you choose to engage with.

In lots of ways you’re lucky – you’ve got the chance to draw on ideas from more than one culture and use them to make life better for you and your whānau.

Have fun exploring your culture/s, but don’t feel like you have to be able to do certain things, like be a fluent speaker or know all the protocols in cultural occasions. Everyone engages with their own culture at different levels, and at different times in their lifetime, so it’s not an ‘all-or-nothing’ thing.

Aunty Dee’s tips for nurturing your cultural identity

If you can speak the language, or want to learn, that’s great – having a second language is a special skill that not many Kiwis have. And it can help you connect with other people from your culture and community.

However, there are all sorts of ways of connecting and expressing your culture such as spending time with your whānau, taking part in family and community events, as well as the arts, music, food, clothing and heaps more.

  • Research your family name

Why not explore where it came from and what meaning there is behind it. Try asking whānau or looking at records, such as books, birth certificates, genealogy records and online sites. Ask them about previous generations – there could be some cool stories in your family history.

  • Check out classes, videos, or apps to learn even more

Like your language or contemporary culture… like, The Coconet, an interactive virtual Pasifika village.

  • Try making the food from your culture

Ask your relatives if they have any good recipes or go online and create your own MasterChef culinary masterpiece!

  • Join a local club or event or school group that celebrates your culture

Like Polyfest, Pasifika festival, Matatini, or Waka Ama.

  • Find the music, art and literature from your culture and be inspired to explore your own creative side

Try comparing the traditional and modern art and music from your culture – what are the themes that keep coming up? Find a play, a poem, song, rap or a short story that has been written by someone from your culture/s. Does it relate to you?  If enough stories aren’t told about your cultural experiences, you could be the one to write or create art about it!