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“Islands and Migration” 

Research Symposium Proceedings

27 November 2021

SICRI & Centre for Global Migrations – University of Otago

This one-day co-hosted online symposium sought to advance Interdisciplinary knowledge on islands and migration. The event highlighted the impact of migration on small islands.

Click the thumbnail to watch the full presentation on YouTube

Intro Symposium Proceedings

01 Quarantine Islands by Yuki Kihara.png

Quarantine Islands

Yuki Kihara:
The Quarantine Islands (2021) series is an extension of 'Mass Grave, Vaimoso' (2013/2014) in which Salome visits the site where Sāmoa buried close to one fifth of its population (approximately 8500 people) who died from the 1918 influenza pandemic brought there by the Talune, a trader ship that left Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.  The series explores how the colonial perception of an island being peripheral, distant, isolated, remote and undeveloped (as alluded to in ʻOur Sea of Islands’ by Fijian Tongan writer Epeli Hauʻofa), was a highly sought after strategic location for maintaining and sustaining ʻmainland’ interests. The series depicts Salome visiting islands located near Aotearoa New Zealandʻs main ports which were formerly used to quarantine people and animals with contagious diseases. Quarantine Islands (2021) series uncovers the history and the hidden cost behind the management of deadly viruses, and considers what wisdom the stories of these islands may offer in the post-Covid 19 era.

02 The effects of migration on migrants, diaspora communities in NZ and on the Pacific Isl

The effects of migration on migrants, diaspora communities in NZ and on the Pacific Island communities of Samoa, Niue and Tonga

Daisy Bentley-Gray, Ioane Aleke Fa’avae and Venusi Taumoepeau (Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland NZ)

Inter and intra-island migration in the Pacific predates European explorations of the 1700s and 1800s. Pacific peoples are known for their remarkable craftsmanship and navigational skills, which surpass their time. However, migration within contemporary times has led to some irreversible changes in the Pacific.  Migration to New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s was particularly impactful on Pacific Island societies and the Pacific diaspora communities formed in Auckland. This presentation explores the impact of migration of Samoan, Niuean and Tongan migrants to New Zealand on their Pacific Island countries; the effects on MIRAB economies, and the traditional ways of being in the islands and IN NZ. This presentation reflects the narratives of migrants and presenters’ own lived experiences and an analysis of literature on the topic.

03 Moanaroa-  The Pacifica Mamas.png

Moanaroa: The Pacifica Mamas

Jarcinda Stowers-Ama and Tu Raa (The Pacifica Mamas Collective, Auckland NZ)

The Pacifica Mamas:

The Pacifica Mamas (and Papas) are a collective of respected pacific heritage artists and cultural leaders, brought together by a shared passion for the arts and culture of their pacific homelands. Formed in the late 1980s the Pacifica Mamas are all the first generation pacific immigrants to New Zealand, originally from island nations including the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, Tokelau, Kiribati and Niue. This group of highly acclaimed Pacific Heritage artists comprises,  weavers, tivaevae makers, carvers, tapa artists, orators, performing artists and more.  They meet regularly at the Pacifica Arts Centre to fellowship, exchange stories,and strengthen their pacific arts skills and knowledge. The Pacifica Mamas activities include a school pacific education programme, art exhibitions and workshops at local and international events. Their hands-on teaching style is engaging and fun-filled for any age group, and it is that very style that makes them popular at schools;  Pacific Art exhibitions;  community level, national, and international events; They were awarded the Creative New Zealand Pacific Heritage Arts Award in 2012, and the Aotearoa Arts Access Corrections Community Award 2015.  They’ve been recognised far and wide for the contribution to Pacifica Arts both in New Zealand and abroad.

04 Maintaining and promoting Niue Pacific heritage artform in New Zealand.png

Maintaining and promoting Niue Pacific heritage artform in New Zealand

Zora Felola Osikai Feilo (Tupumaiaga A Niue Trust, Auckland NZ)

Zora Felola Osikai Feilo:
Tupumaiaga A Niue Trust won the 2021 Pacific Heritage Art Award from Creative NZ worth $10,000 – The award recognises an artist or group who has made a major contribution to maintaining, reviving or promoting a Pacific heritage artform in New Zealand.  Since its 2007 start, the Auckland-based Tupumaiga Trust has played an active role in growing the wellbeing of Niuean people through creative and heritage arts workshops run during school holidays, reaching communities across Aotearoa, Australia and Niue. These have included making model vaka, war spears (katoua), log drums, weaving, pillowcase embroidery and sewing traditional bedsheets. Participants also learn language through performance arts such as the meke, ta me and the takalo war dance. The Trust also provides youth mentorship, supporting youth to be future Niue leaders and professionals, and gain valuable experience in Trust management. The Tupumaiaga a Niue Trust welcomes anyone who wants to learn about Niuean people, language, heritage arts and culture.


05 Brutal Lives - Mo'ui Faingata'a – Hear from the Producer Sandra Kailahi and the directo

Brutal Lives - Mo'ui Faingata'a

Hear from the Producer Sandra Kailahi and the director Vela Manusaute

Sandra Kailahi  & Vela Manusaute: Brutal Lives – Mo’ui Faingata’a is the first ever Tongan bilingual drama funded by NZ On Air. Set in South Auckland, the six-part web series follows a fallen boxing champion who returns home after 20 years when his father dies. He must face his three children that he left behind, especially his daughter, Lupe. At the same time, an ancient Tongan spirit warrior seeks revenge for the sins of the Valu family actions over 500 years ago. Brutal Lives won Best Male Performance, Best Sound Design, Best Emsemble Cast at the London International Web & Short Film Festival

06 Tongan diasporic media and its influence on island politics.png

Tongan diasporic media and its influence on island politics

Philip Cass (Otago Polytechnic, NZ)

Sandra Kailahi  & Vela Manusaute: Brutal Lives – Mo’ui Faingata’a is the first ever Tongan bilingual drama funded by NZ On Air. Set in South Auckland, the six-part web series follows a fallen boxing champion who returns home after 20 years when his father dies. He must face his three children that he left behind, especially his daughter, Lupe. At the same time, an ancient Tongan spirit warrior seeks revenge for the sins of the Valu family actions over 500 years ago. Brutal Lives won Best Male Performance, Best Sound Design, Best Emsemble Cast at the London International Web & Short Film Festival

07 “Teu le va”- mediating Va through mobile communication in Samoa and its diaspora Marion

“Teu le va”: mediating Va through mobile communication in Samoa and its diaspora

Marion Muliaumaseali'I (Indigenography and Design)

How does  the mobile phone teu le va  -nurture the space in-between, connect people, create community, and nurture relationships with kin in diaspora? My research describes mediated spaces as an intangible property of the mobile phone making a distinct connection with the intangible properties of va.  Described as “the space between, the between-ness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that-is-All” (Grace, Hau'Ofa, Hanlon, Long, Lyons, Marsh, & Wood, H. 1999). They both share an ambiguous quality that enables connection with others in another location. The mobile phone has eliminated the requirement for location or place to be a factor in connecting to someone and people are now connecting in the same communicative space (Miller and Sinanan, 2014), creating a feeling of presence (Lee, 2004).  This presentation explores the symmetry of these intangible elements through mobile use in a traditional Samoan village where families have migrated to foreign lands in search of a ‘better’ life.

08 Refugees as Homo Sacer-  visualising the exercise of Australia’s neo-colonial bio-power

Refugees as Homo Sacer: visualising the exercise of Australia’s neo-colonial bio-power in ‘offshore’ detention Kasun Ubayasiri (Griffith University, Queensland, Australia)

This non-traditional research project centres around the post-hoc theorisation of a photojournalistic project on refugee and asylum-seeker protests at the Kangaroo Point Detention Centre in Brisbane between April 2, 2020 and April 14, 2021, and a long-form slow-journalism project documenting their migration narratives in the past two years. Within such theorisation, the experience of the Kangaroo Point refugees can be viewed against a backdrop of Australian neo-colonial­ism – where successive Australian governments have used former colonies in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea as offshore detention ‘facili­ties’ –  a dumping ground for asylum-seekers. This neo-colonial imagining represents a biopower that defines and shapes both the refugees and the inhabitants of Australia’s former, and indeed current, colonies through a dispersed network of security, territory and borders.  This presentation will first present a brief overview of the KP project that is at the heart of the photojournalism project, before looking at three elements within the post-hoc theorisation of the images – the polymorphous nature of the Australian border; the Homo Sacer biopower othering of refugees; and the neo-colonial imagining of the Pacific as a refugee dumping ground. These theoretical matters will be discussed in concert with a presentation of the photojournalistic and photodocumentary output produced through the pre-research photography. 

09 A Quest for Identity.png

A Quest for Identity: First Daughters of Tongan Migrants in New Zealand - A Talanoa Approach to Cultural Identity, Gender Roles and Tongan Diaspora Fakama’opo’opo

Milika Fatai (Auckland NZ)

This presentation is based on a recent research that aimed to explore the narratives of the daughters who belong to the Tongan diaspora in Aotearoa/New Zealand through applying talanoa method. This creative research project involved workshops (talanoa sessions), weaving and reflective diary entries by five Tongan women including myself as the researcher and co-participant over a period of three months. The participants who are all women of Tongan descent referred to as ‘The First daughters’ or ‘The First Daughters’ club’. The talanoa (talking face-to-face) sessions engaged the first daughters in a conversation on how gender and culture influence the role of a Tongan first daughter in New Zealand’s diasporic Tongan family and extended community. The creative collaboration of weaving a traditional strip as part of a ta’ovala (a Tongan girdle worn around the waist) while talanoa represents identity and culture while the reflective diary entries produced by all participants including the researcher captured the daily lives representing the roles and experiences of the first daughters of migrants. The creative outcome of this research included in this presentation is a weblog

10 Migration and #Metoo- Feminist Activism and the Pacific Diaspora.png

Migration and #Metoo: Feminist Activism and the Pacific Diaspora

Agnieszka Dziakowska  (James Cook University, Cairns Australia)

The diaspora from islands throughout the Pacific plays an essential role in Oceania’s future providing the region with financial independence and cultural continuity (Van Fossen, 2005). On international social media platforms, #MeToo activism reaches Oceania and encourages women to share their stories. Social media researchers have identified two primary types of activism: call-out and call-in cultures (Woods & Ruscher, 2021).  Whereas call-out culture may not be amenable to countries where free speech is not culturally embraced, call-in culture may be a form of digital feminism that is being adjusted to local political contexts (Lee & Murdie, 2020). The prime minister of Sāmoa openly condemns news media for “Monday to Sunday” over-reporting of sex crimes (Tusani Tupufia-Ah Tong, 2020), demonstrating that open call-out culture is not considered acceptable in Pacific Island nations. Yet, in the Pacific diaspora in Aotearoa-New Zealand, the I Am Someone platform (2013-2014) illustrates ongoing rape cultures in the Pacific. This paper aims to discuss the diffusion of #MeToo digital activism migrating internationally through the Pacific diaspora, and factors which either encourage or limit women to share their stories.

11 Gender and Migration in Leyte Island.png

Gender and Migration in Leyte Island: Post-Haiyan Continuities and Transformations

Glenda Tibe Bonifacio (University of Lethbridge, Alberta Canada)

Leyte island is rich in history and culture and remains vulnerable to the impact of climate change. In November 2013, the island was central to the unprecedented destruction of supertyphoon Haiyan, local name Yolanda, which left 90% in damages to infrastructure and over 6,000 deaths. Thousands of people were evacuated, displaced, and resettled in other islands in the Visayas, Luzon, and Mindanao. Migration is the norm post-disaster. While the scale of human and economic loss was massive, it demonstrated the continuing gendered flows of migration and new modalities of risks and survival of households and individuals. This presentation examines the role of gender in the migration trajectories among rural and urban dwellers in the island province. It situates migration as a dynamic process involving return and circular migration at various points in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their communities that continue today. Data for this presentation is based on fieldwork in Leyte using interviews and focus group discussions.

12 Lifestyle migrants in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea’s islands- beyond Western-based conceptua

Lifestyle migrants in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea’s islands: beyond Western-based conceptualizations of lifestyle migration

Simona Zollet & Meng Qu (Hiroshima University Japan)

Japanese small island communities are undergoing a dramatic demographic and social-economic decline, with many facing the possibility of disappearing over the next decades. To counter these issues, local governments have launched community revitalization projects, many of which focus on attracting new residents or encouraging former out-migrants to return. Increasing hope is being placed on domestic in-migrants from urban areas, as they are considered vital for bringing population and human resources back to declining peripheral areas. Both thanks to policy efforts and to broader changes in societal conditions, an increasing number of people is indeed choosing to move to rural areas (including small islands), often in search of a better quality of life. This process has many commonalities with the concept of ‘lifestyle migration’ discussed in the international literature in relation to island and seaside destinations, but at the same time presents features that are peculiar to the Japanese contexts. Through a review of the Japanese and international literature and selected case studies from five years of fieldwork, we examine these similarities and differences, in an attempt to pave the way for a more nuanced understanding of processes of lifestyle migration to small islands and their implication for sustaining local communities.

13 Nepalese chadparva in Singapore- Physical Representations of Identity and Culture.png

Nepalese chadparva in Singapore: Physical Representations of Identity and Culture

Wendy Lee (University of Otago, Dunedin NZ)

Singapore, an island country, has a resident population that includes official categories of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Other. The Nepali ethnicity is categorized under Other and makes up one of the minority groups in the country (Department of Statistics Singapore, 2015). Chadparva, a Nepali term that embodies the meaning of festivals and related celebrations, continues to be held in Singapore. This article uses qualitative method and disciplinary approach: festivalisation, to analyse the material culture of chadparva through the presentation of festivals: Satya Narayan, Teej, Shree Krishnan Janmashtami and the Festival of Joy. Physical representations such as musical instruments, choice of venues and performance practices provide insight into the culture, emotions, and the importance of the instruments, while reflecting and representing the people and community in an urban island setting.

14 Migration, Place naming and nostalgia The paling evocation of a mythical Arthurian isla

Migration, Place naming and nostalgia: The paling evocation of a mythical Arthurian island in international settler cultures

Philip Hayward (Shima Editor, Australia)

The island of Avalon originates in British Arthurian legendry. While its existence - let alone any actual location it may have had - is unclear, it is now commonly associated with Glastonbury, in the English county of Somerset. Illustrating its enduring appeal, Avalon’s name has also been affixed to a number of international locations over the last 500 years. There have been various motivations for such place naming, including religious beliefs, migrant nostalgia and various types of boosterism, all attempting to imbue New World locales with Old World mystique through nomenclative association. This article surveys what might be regarded as the internationalisation of Avalon as a concept through place naming and examines the varying ways in which the name has been applied in different national and local contexts by migrants and others. Its survey reveals direct references to the legendary isle in place naming between the 17th and early 20th centuries and, generally, more weakly associative and/or arbitrary connections over the last century.

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