Cultural values aid in response

Hana Halalele: "The stay home, save lives campaign has put us in good stead for keeping our...
Hana Halalele: "The stay home, save lives campaign has put us in good stead for keeping our families and communities safe." Photo: supplied
Strengthened by cultural resilience, people leaving lockdown must not lose sight of what their sacrifice has accomplished, writes  Hana Halalele, of Oamaru.

Tena koutou katoa, bula vinaka, fakaalofa lahi atu, kia orana, malo e lelei, malo ni, talofa, talofa lava, kamusta, namaste, ni hao, hola.

It’s fair to say this Covid-19 lockdown has been tough on everyone on all fronts and the novelty of staying home 24/7 has well and truly worn off.

We are at the tail end of lockdown and need to prepare for some changes for how we do things. Even in times of hardship, there are good things we can learn from staying at home. The stay home, save lives campaign has put us in good stead for keeping our families and communities safe.

What I have learned is the value of cultural resilience, in my context: Pacific cultural resilience.

The use of traditional culture and heritage helps groups of people overcome negative events or situations such as discrimination, abuse and poverty. In this context, how our culture has been used to help our community cope with Covid-19 lockdown.

I’m really proud of the way our community has been able to adapt in such unprecedented times. Our values include respect, love, family, collectivism, communitarianism and reciprocity.

Level 4 lockdown had the ability to tear the life source of our community into pieces. The concept that it takes a village to raise a child is taken literally in Pacific culture.

Although we reside in single houses, the essence of our culture is much more broad, communal, interweaving. It includes the church, the church subgroups, the homes of extended family members, the neighbour’s home, our children’s school, cultural groups, Power Up and our sports teams.

The bubble concept was really foreign and frightening for our people and asking them to cut it right down was almost like asking us to cut off one of our limbs. We rely heavily on our connection to our villages, our community and what the lockdown made me realise was that we can still have the connection, our communitarianism and ability to maintain these relationships in different ways.

We have had to do this, not only to mitigate our risk but for our community to actually survive.

This has included the social media platform and sharing posts of old school island soul food, online challenges of cultural dance and performances, maintaining our faith through online sources and plain old school family lotu. Extended family members tune in online so they feel part of it.

This helps us maintain our cultural values and heritage to stay safe in our own bubbles and use it as a means to adapt to change and build our resilience.

I have learned that our cultural resilience has allowed us to find meaningful ways to build our capacity to thrive in unexpected ways.

When we come out of lockdown I hope we don’t lose sight of what we have been able to accomplish. In the words of the late Professor Epeli Hauofa, “let us not be defined by the smallness of our islands, but the greatness of our oceans”.

Our ancestral navigator instinct has allowed us to rise above the lockdown struggle.

We shouldn’t take our culture and heritage for granted because it has helped us to strengthen our resolve and courage in such an uncertain time.

I have found that looking out for each other and valuing our culture makes us stronger and although it has been tough we will come out stronger as a community.

No reira, Tena koutou katoa, Malo aupito, Faafetai tele lava.



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