Category Archives: essay

Reigniting Old Passions

My very first experience strumming a guitar was when I was 7 years old. My mothers younger brother (15 years apart in age) had migrated to New Zealand from Manihiki, Cook Islands on scholarship for secondary schooling and he brought with him his guitar. It was a classical guitar and it looked so monstrous, in my view it did as a child. The guitar was in the guitar case, with the lid open and calling me to strum it’s strings. And so I did!. I couldn’t help myself but I remember my mother saying “No Hina, don’t touch Uncles guitar”. My Uncle walked into the lounge just as my mother was saying it and he instantly took his guitar out of the case and allowed me to strum it. He then placed the guitar across my lap and encouraged me to get accustomed to strumming the guitar. I was wrapped with excitement and immediately accepted the invitation. I am thankful to my Uncle for introducing me to such a beautiful instrument.

Later on he taught me my very first chords D, G and A. I advanced very quickly and was playing very well before the age of 10 years old. I was 11 years old when I began music lessons during my Intermediate Schooling years. Our music teacher Mr Darrah was a classical guitarist and when he heard me play, he began teaching me a little more. I was later asked by the Māori Culture group teacher to play the guitar for their song items and so I agreed. Many of the students and teachers were very surprised to see and hear my guitar playing and how confident I was in this instrument. In reality I felt that it was a part of me, to the point that when I slept I could hear myself playing and making sure to hit every note correctly.

I was 10 years old when a friend of the family Neville Smith bought an acoustic Spanish guitar for me and surprised me when he returned from his trip to Spain. He owned a chain of music stores in New Zealand and so he travelled a lot looking for the best musical instruments etc. for his stores. I was so grateful for his beautiful gift, for it was a hand made Spanish guitar. So beautifully hand crafted and polished with love and care. My first classical guitar lesson with Mr Darrah was to learn a piece called “Spanish Romance” we chose that piece, representing my guitar and it’s birth place. I was so pedantic in playing it well and made sure I put every time I had into practicing it. I had my first recital by the end of the second term and performed it on stage in front of the entire school, it was an amazing feeling to be sharing it, alongside other students playing their recitals. I surprising wasn’t nervous at all and why? because I loved my guitar and I chose to give it the respect it deserved and play it’s harmony in my left hand with the melody in my right hand, with pride. Strange thing is, my fingers on my left hand are longer by half a centimetre than the fingers on my right hand, that’s how you can pick out a classical guitarist hehehe…

I continued playing the guitar during my College years, with music classes at school with our teacher Mr Crooks. I was 13 years old going on 14 years old and expanded my music talents in taking up piano lessons as well, Mr Crooks was a pianist and again it didn’t take me long to learn how to play the piano. I also joined the school choir which helped and bettered me tremendously with reading music. I continued playing both the guitar and piano and went onto assisting the school band in school musical productions, as well as playing major roles in the theatrical part of Drama in acting. But in my final year of College my younger sister played the main role as Beauty in “Beauty and the Beast” and so Mr Crooks asked me to play the piano in the school band, in which I did. It was so lovely to be able to play the theme song and watch my baby sister dance the waltz on stage, under the spot light. It was her moment and I wanted to make it special by playing every note perfectly, just for her. Something I will always treasure and remember.

In my final year I decided to pursue my Science subjects and dropped out on sitting Bursary for Music, Mr Crooks was not happy and I’m sure Mr Darrah would have been as well, if he knew. I went onto having a career in Nursing as well as joining a Band called “White Sands” and sang as a back up vocalist for 11 years. I ceased to play the guitar and the piano and you may ask why? I guess I was disappointed in myself for not continuing my passion and just couldn’t play either instrument any longer. I felt I had abandoned and betrayed them, like they were children that I had left on the way side. But for some unknown reason I have had an urge to start playing the guitar again, I can’t explain it, maybe it’s a reigniting of old passions.

God Bless xox



Culture is such a topic that is common worldwide. Each ethnic group is built on culture, of their own beliefs, ideas, customs and social behaviours. What is your culture about? Do you know of your culture? How significant is it to you? Over the past 20 years I have met people who’s great grandparents have migrated to another country and they have absolutely no idea of their culture of origin. I know that may seem absurd, but I find it so sad that, that is the reality for some. A friend of ours is 5th generation Scottish but was born and raised in Australia. But seriously he strongly has the traits of a Scotsman, red hair, freckles etc. I encouraged him to visit Scotland and hopefully to find a sense of belonging.

Who has watched the U.S TV series “Who do you think you are?”. For those who haven’t, it is a genealogy documentary tv series, show casing celebrities tracing their family tree. The series that astounded me was Brooke Shields, even she herself was shocked to discover her lineage. All her life she thought she was American, but then to find that she descended from French Nobles, gobsmacked this beautiful woman. That is culture for you, it is believed, practiced and evolved through the ancestors, which in turn becomes embedded in the descendants. Even when you don’t know it, it is part of you.

I myself come from a family that is very strong in our cultural upbringing. I was born and raised in New Zealand, first generation Kiwi. My grandfather migrated to New Zealand in the late 1960’s and my father later in the early 1970’s. Many Cook Islanders migrated around that era, as the New Zealand government was promoting secured jobs for labourers. My father however migrated for education on a scholarship, he met my mother and had me instead. Gave up the tertiary education and worked full time to support us. He later attended University and received his Bachelors degree, better late than never I say. But with all the transition of migrating from Manihiki, Cook Islands to New Zealand I was blessed to have my grandfather, my father and other family members bring with them, our culture. I was taught and told stories of my parents homeland, my homeland, my ancestral beliefs, customs and way of life, like it was from a land of mystery.

I was told the story of where my name originated from, like it was a fairytale. I grew up listening to all of these ancestral histories that have been passed down for generations and what amazes me is how great my ancestors were during their time. They were Warriors of the great Pacific Ocean, great sea farers of their time, adventuring into the unknown and beyond. Discoverers of other lands, venturing distances miles away from the comforts and loved ones back home. To mention, a well known ancestor amongst the Cook Island Māori and New Zealand Māori is my ancestor Kupe, who discovered New Zealand hundreds of years before Captain James Cook. Kupe was from the Island, Te Whoturangaranga known today as Manihiki, from the village Te Matawhorua known today as Tukao. After discovering New Zealand in which he named Aotearoa meaning “Land of the long white cloud” he returned to Te Whoturangaranga (Manihiki) and renamed our family Marae (Land/Homestead) from Toi Tu Rahui Tepapa Te Rautea, to it’s new name Te Marae Te Hono O Te Aotea, connecting his new founded land to his birth home. To mention, his double hulled canoe (vaka) was also named after our village Te Matawhorua (Tukao), specifically connecting him to our village. If you visit the Auckland Museum there is a replica of a waka (canoe) with a plaque of history about Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa. I am glad to have visited my home of origin Manihiki, first in 1989 and then again in 2006 and hope to visit again soon.

Culture is also your language, your mother tongue. My parents always spoke Manihikian to me but I always responded with the English language. I grew up understanding the Manihikian language but never spoke it, not until I started  relations with my now husband, who is half Manihikian/Atiuan but was born and raised in Manihiki and so then he speaks the language fluently. However I must admit my writing Manihikian is alot fluent than my spoken, but I’m getting there, Better late than never. It’s NEVER too late to learn your Reo (Language).

My families are also very involved with our customary dance culture, which plays a significant part in who we are. It expresses history in our legends and song, which has been handed down from generation to generation. This is not only for my Island Manihiki but also for all the other 14 Islands that make up the Cook Islands. Every year each Island gathers together to perform in several categories, sharing and competing to see which Island has the best story telling skills, in dance and song. It’s such an eventful time, exciting and appreciating of the love for our Cook Islands culture.

As much as I love and am proud to be of Cook Island heritage, I also descend from a few of the other Islands in the Cook Islands and other ethnic backgrounds. I also descend from Pukapuka (3rd generation), Rakahanga (3rd generation), Aitutaki & Rarotonga (4th generation), Samoa (6th generation), Tonga (10th generation), English (5th generation), French (9th generation) and Jewish (10th generation). I was never really interested in the genealogy aspect of my culture but because of the influence of my father, I was swept up into it like a whirlwind and it’s been great connecting families with each other, through the knowledge shared by my father.

Love and hold on tight to your culture, your heritage and be proud of who and where you are from. And be kind and appreciating of other ethnic cultures, for you never know, you just may be part of them too.

God Bless xox

Fear Of Heights

At the end of the day, some you win, some you don’t. So I’m glad that I’m here with some friends that I know. Always there with a smile, saying you’re not alone. Say it la la la la caesura.

My daughter has been walking around the house singing this jovial song. She attended her school camp last week and came back a totally different person. She was so excited to let me know that she had over come her fear of heights. The camp supervisors and instructors had a number of activities set for the 3 days that all the students were there.

The children all participated in “Team” activities. My daughter was the first to raise her hand and join the opposition team to balance out the numbers and she said that the instructor praised her for doing so. He said that she was the first one to take the first step in team participation. I was so proud of her, because it’s something I would’ve done and it felt good that in doing that, she reflected what we have taught her. Be a part of something good.

She then went on to telling me that she attempted to take part in all the activities, even if was only once. She is terrified of heights and I was so worried for her after reading her school letter. All the students were asked to take a camera along to the camp, I was happy with that, being a photographer, I love making record of events such as that. So she scrolled through her camera and played a video that her friend had recorded for her.

And there she was, on the high rope with her safety gear on and walking along so confidently. She took her time but she had completed the task and as a parent it was amazing to watch my empowering child reach the end of her fear. It was over! And I found myself hugging her so tightly, kissing her head and face and congratulating her on her achievement. She stood there laughing and saying “Mum, I can’t breathe!”.

She did say that if it weren’t for the encouragement of her friends and her team, she probably wouldn’t have taken that leap of faith. She’s known her friends since we moved here to the Gold Coast, since she was 6 years old. This is their final year together at school and her best and closest friend will be attending a different school next year. However, they have promised to keep in contact. So this is the reason why I haven’t minded her singing this song repeatedly.

At the end of the day, some you win, some you don’t. So I’m glad that I’m here with some friends that I know. Always there with a smile, saying you’re not alone. Say it la la la la caesura.

This time around, She WON!!

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