How do we know what knowledge is? How do we attain it? And how do we measure it’s worth? Western-thinking associates knowledge with written literature. But knowledge existed long before people could read and write. Across the Pacific, many years before European contact, countless ways of thinking, knowing and being were shared between people, families, villages and islands. It’s important to recognise we were not, and are still not, noble savages.

We can’t deny colonialism and the impact it’s had on our thinking. Neither can or should we disregard ancient Pacific knowledge. How do we merge the past with the future? How do we decolonise our minds? How do we preserve the many different cultures across the Pacific, while adapting in a new a dynamic future?

As a Tongan-Fijian woman today, my answer is that it’s more important than ever to recognise the value in Pacific ways of knowing, being and doing, and to apply them to how we learn in today’s world. This means I make the most of what I know, what has been taught to me, as a Pacific woman, to improve my learning, to help make better informed choices, and overall – to lead a more ethical life.

This piece, Wherever, you belong, you are not alone is an expression of a western art form, poetry, and an ancient Pacific form of sharing knowledge – storytelling. It tells a story that shares an insight into the views that inform my choices, and my belief that as a Pacific woman, I will always be connected with my people, and I will always belong.

Pacific Woman
You belong.
Regardless of where you sit,
Or stand,
You belong.

Your roots have nourished you
Enough to travel
From here to wherever your branches
Spread to

Everything your hands touch,
Everywhere your leaves land
Will never be the same
Forever altered,
With the mark of who you are

Wherever you go,
In whatever you do,
Let the words of your father
Echo in your ears:

“Wherever you find yourself
my daughter,
wherever you are elevated to,
or however low you must sit,
always –
dola-va na kātuba
vei ira na weka-mu.”

The world says,
Every man for himself
Every woman for a man.
But you know better,
You know the truth

That every man lives
For one another
And every woman
Craves connection
That we can only ever find
In relation with one another.

My world is not simply
My world is holistic
I see
I hear
I feel
I taste
I smell
I love
I live for
Relates to me,
And I relate to it.

No woman is an island
Nor does she deserve to be
For in this wide world
We are never alone
Unless we choose to be.

– Wherever, you belong, you are not alone by Arieta Tegeilolo Talanoa Tora Rika

Photo by @moeythedirector.