Sunday, 19 March 2017

Bringing back the Pasifika vision


Image result for "pasifika festival" "ice cream"
Is this all that Pasifika means anymore? One of the world’s largest photo agencies has this image as part of it’s coverage of one of the world’s largest Polynesian festivals.

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Jason Brown
Secretary, PIMA

News media need to move beyond watermelon and ice cream imagery for the upcoming Pasifika Festival.

Instead, bring back the founding vision from the world’s largest Polynesian city.

Sure, it’s a sun and fun event, but goes so much deeper.

Declining audiences and funding for Pasifika reflect a city leadership failing to see huge economic potential right under their own noses.

A big part of that problem is a news media that ticks the boxes with a few snaps and jolly headlines, but looks at few of the underlying messages.

Marking its 25th anniversary this year, the festival was started in 1992 by Pacific Island leaders in Auckland, with the ultimate goal of using culture as a gateway to raising the profile and success of its communities.

A quarter of a century later, for this landmark anniversary, organisers from the Auckland council events body do not even have a place for the founders of this festival.

News media could mark this year’s festival by reviewing progress – or the lack of it - made to integrate Pacific Islanders into the mainstream.

A good start would be for news media to actually show up for some other island events, such as the Pasifika Fono starting tomorrow in South Auckland, and get some broader perspectives.

Better coverage for the festival includes Pasifika news media.

If our news media are not asking the hard questions, then who will?

As well Pasifika news media, our own people need to move beyond a culture of respectful silence and become much more vocal in public debate spheres.

Let’s look at the successes of Asian media in using cultural events to highlight their contributions to New Zealand society as an example of what can be achieved.

Vital that news media promote debate among Pacific Islanders, helping seek out and emulate such models to escape intergenerational cycles of poverty and missed opportunity.

Pasifika cultures have been a subject of fascination around the world, yet news media seem stuck on reporting cliches, built around a fictional movie, as promoted by the country’s tourism authorities.

Tourism New Zealand boasts of being the world’s oldest tourism organisation, but appears to have lost all sight of what makes Aotearoa unique.

Their own figures show that Lord of the Rings was only mentioned by 13% of visitors to New Zealand as a reason for coming.

News media could play a much bigger role in questioning those assumptions.

Why is that we have a huge statue of a movie dwarf in the airport arrival lounge of the world’s largest Polynesian city – but nothing about Polynesians?

Let’s also point to the release last year of the Disney movie Moana as an example where Tourism New Zealand is “badly” failing tangata whenua, and other Polynesian populations.

On the Tourism NZ site, there are hundreds of references to hobbits, but not a single one for a hugely popular film celebrating Polynesians to a global audience.

It’s time for tourism and other authorities to wake up.

Cultural celebrations go back millennia across Polynesia; are a huge source of pride for communities here and in the homelands, and could be an ongoing and permanent resource for economic empowerment.

An example from recent years:

In Germany, an exhibition of Maori artefacts in Germany attracted an estimated 200 media to an opening press conference.

The question has to be asked - why aren’t news media here picking up on these angles?

That’s the question I hope fellow PIMA executives will have time to raise over coming days.

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Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PIMA, the Pacific Islands Media Association.

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Jason Brown

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