Age-old wayfinding for new-age challenges

BY MICHAEL DOM

Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i’s captivating debut poetry collection is a waka to enter; sit and take in the vista of her world and the world of the greatest moana on the planet. Here is a waka to shelter in, to feel the roll and swell of aroha and grief, joy and the many people – from both land and sky – who inhabit this vessel. My Grandfather is a Canoe pulses with rhythms of the Pacific: story and song, laughter and tears, drumbeat and heartbeat” — TUSIATA AVIA

My Grandfather is a Canoe, by Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i, published by Flying Geese Productions, June 4 2021, available at Flying Geese Productions

There is a lot of humour and wit in these poems which happens from a very much peopled intelligence. The basic building blocks of these poems are often in the imaginative use of the mundane and the unremarkable, the simple moments which sound the depth of a character, an experience, or an emotion. The picture they provide is vivid, sharp and contrasted.

The collection is illuminated by the sparkles of light and flashes of insight made in personal sketches. A perfect example is Miss Kat. “She came in the cat door / A small opening / Of friendship / On an island / Where portions / Are the size of small pigs”. And enjoying that is having read half the poem in the opening. The other half seals the poem in a solid box of understanding on which you may sit and contemplate the cat doors in your own life.

Faumuina’s easy reading smooth flowing prose is often hooked and barbed, twisted and bent at odd angles, making the poetic statement in its quirkiness. These pieces can reel you in like a Red Perch, with the bait caught in your gills. “Pedicure me and give me insoles / For I am an urban-footed Samoan / My feet have no purchase / On volcanic remains / Nor beaches strewn with coral”.

But the hands of this angler are gentle and kind, generous and loving with the sunshine bold strength of an aislan meri, who can write of a friend, “She is daughter, wife, mother / All things woman and all things Samoan”. Of a son, “To know what good love feels like / It should challenge him / Support him, keep him vulnerable”. And of a lover, “I want love that is truth / Cutting deep to who I am / Revealing the inner woman / Then puts me back together again”.

Ever the aislan meri, Faumuina has a strong sense of her selevah as a Pasefik islander and of our ancient history, our rich culture and the possible future, rocked by the waves of modern age challenges. As she writes in If I could be so lucky, “You should leave. Leave NOW! / And find a rental unit, / In a thriving developed nation / In a street where people can’t pronounce your name / Go from being the holder of an ancestral name / To becoming Frank or Terry or Rita / And your grandchildren / Will be left to wave a flag that knows no home soil”.

This collection of poems offers a pathway to negotiate our outrigger canoes, by using the ancient art and skill of Wayfinding.

Coming soon…: an interview with the wayfinding poetess

Go here for an interview by 531PI on Facebook

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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