Cold Islanders: Moana Pasifika/Oceania Identified Artists Creating and Occupying Respectful Stances of Strength and Confidence in Aotearoa
People of the Moana/Pacific/Oceanic diaspora living in Aotearoa New Zealand experience the uniqueness of belonging in a genealogical sense to Māori through the first Pacific migration about 800 years ago, while simultaneously holding the status of ‘tauiwi’ or non-indigenous. These children and next generations are distanced from the day-to-day nuances of being an ‘islander’ in their ancestral homes. This research considers how this geographical shift has separated first and second generations of children of the Pacific/Oceanic diaspora from those who remain indigenous in their Pacific homelands. This shift has naturally diminished contact with ‘home’ and all the things that ‘home’ could potentially mean. Successive generations of the diaspora have had little choice but to assimilate or attempt to guess at, or use inventive essentialist strategies, to try to feel more at home in their own bodies.
For those raised by Islands-born parents, there remains evidence of cultural legacy upon which to build, and cultural distance issues are therefore less pronounced. However, for many others who learned the ways of Aotearoa Pākehā, and engaged with Māoritanga, a sense of cultural insecurity lingers through an unconscious distancing from perceived ‘islandness’. To date, I have not found language sufficient enough to articulate this phenomenon of feeling cultural unease effectively. I have coined a phrase which has assisted a move toward a more efficient and accessible vocabulary with which to describe a physical and metaphysical state: The Cold Islanders (henceforth written as CIs). It is not a term that necessitates any uptake by future readers, but one which states succinctly the way I feel in this world. Not born in the nurturing heat of our island homes, but in a place that experiences frost and snow; to be cold in the sense that to be ‘left out in the cold’ is to feel a sense of exclusion. To be a CI is to contend with self-hood continually and piecing bits of cultures that belong partially to one’s parents and grandparents, or also to European Aotearoa/New Zealand.
I have designed a culturally safe navigational approach toward respectful ways that CIs can claim their indigeneity with confidence. I hope it assists in ensuring we are not intruding-upon or re-colonising Māori. A respectful space can occur for CIs in their making of art. My theory endeavours to establish that diasporic dislocation in one’s place of birth creates a new kind of Pasifika/Oceanic person. One, who is unable to be bound to their ancestral home, nor to their current one: that is, that there is physical and socially normative distance between us here in Aotearoa and the island homelands. And, that in fact, this time-space overlap occurs within their bodies, thus supporting my notions of the metaphysical space which I call the Cold Islands. I propose that the Cold Islanders’ bodies’ and art practice construct their Tūrangawaewae, their own indigenous metaphysical place to stand, manifesting in the Vā, where they claim, celebrate, and inhabit all of these disparate lands at once.