Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi
Speech at Launch of the Creative Hub Literary Education Trust, Fresh Factory, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand, 22 August 2018)
Emeritus Professor Afioga Maualaivao Albert Wendt,
Associate Professor Selina Marsh, NZ Poet Laureate,
Executive Director of Huia Publishers, Mr Brian Morris,
Trustees of the Creative Hub Library Education Trust, Ms Karen Mills, Mr John Cranna and Mr Dermot Ross,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me start by saying that all of us oldies were once kids. When I was a kid in Samoa one of my favourite English nursery rhymes was “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. We would sing:
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are.
This ditty captures not only the hopeful, dreamy, colour-blind compassion and imagination of a child, but also the profoundnessof the mysteries,riddles and limits of our knowing.
Stars represent something wondrous and magical but are also functional and hope-filled. Karen Mill’s Tasting Stars novel is testament to the power of a child’s dream and determination to survive and strive for the stars.
Most of us know only the first stanza of ‘Twinkle,Twinkle’ but there are four others. These four other stanzastalk about how these little stars helped travellers find their way across the ocean in search of new homes and destinations. These little stars formed the constellations and star charts that guided our Polynesian ancestors across Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, from the Northern most point of the Pacific Ocean to the Southern, Eastern and Western. The Polynesian tupuna of Aotearoa knew these little stars like the back of their hands. They were their GPS.
I congratulate The Creative Hub Literary Education Trust –its Trustees: Karen, John and Dermot - for taking this first step in setting up an organisation dedicated to making the dreams of truly gifted but marginalised young writers or artists come true – those writers/artists who, but for their life circumstances,would have had the opportunity to grow their talent and have that talent properly recognised.Supporting these young peoplewillhave its share of challenges, especially when there are cross-cultural differences and funding constraints.But, as the common saying goes, where there is a will there is a way. I commend you Karen, John and Dermot for your vision and courage. I acknowledge your commitment to creating scholarships and other writing and publishing support.
TheGaualofa Trust, of which I am the chairperson, shares a similar commitment to nurturing the best in our Pacific children and young people.We have been blessed to meet the wonderful Karen Mills and we are inspired to work together with her and their Trust to not onlypartner in the provision of scholarships, but also to ensure that in growing the literary talents of our young Maori and Pacific people that we also inspire them to explore the richness of their indigenous heritages, cultures and histories.
When I was a young man trying to study at Victoria University of Wellington in the late 1950s, early 1960s, I loved poetry and the arts. I used to follow Maualaivao Albert Wendt, who we affectionately called ‘Al’, around, and it was through Al that I met Jimmy Baxter. I was inspired by Jimmy and Al’s natural gifts. Jimmy had an encyclopaedic mind and photographic memory. I used to love sharing conversations with him because he could talk about anything. He was a man for all seasons. He used to write down his thoughts and poems on anything he could get his hands on and then he used to give them to us. Jimmy had beautiful poetic turns of phrases that reminded me a lot of the way my Samoan mentors would talk. So, whenever I got nostalgic for them I’d visit the Educational Department where Jimmy worked, and we’d go for coffee or for maybe something stronger and have a chat. Al and Jimmy were my literary heroes. Still are. Even adults need the guidance and twinkling of stars.
I end with the other four stanzas of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’. The words are meant to make us think about the role of stars in supporting dreams and in helping us find our way.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
‘Till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark.
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Thank you to Creative Hub Literary Education Trust for the honour of speaking today. I look forward to finding our way together. Have a wonderful night. Soifua.