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  • Vaetoeifaga Apelu

I Know That You Know That We Know

Words by Vaetoeifaga Apelu (she/her)

What comes to mind when folks talk about Pasifika arts and culture? It’s food, fashion, celebrations, music, dance, and language. Of course, these visible forms of culture are important, and writing about these things takes a powerful pride in our culture. We embrace these tangible art forms as crucial parts of our way of life… the islander life. 

For this article, however, I have decided to go beyond the face value arts and culture. I want to explore the essence behind island food, past our native languages and underneath the clothes we wear. The spirit of relationships, relatives, and ancestry. The cultural core that connects me to a friend’s aunt's sister or a neighbor’s brother’s kid. It’s what makes us Pacific people a family, regardless of whether we’re blood related.

Ever since I left home, I’ve felt immensely homesick, almost like I’m soaking in sadness. I now feel the need to call home every week and like I’m missing out.

I’m really grateful for the Pasifika community here in Wellington, they’ve become a new home for me. You would think that it would be hard for islanders in a university as big as VUW to meet and get to know each other, but thanks to spaces like the Pasifika Student Council, we can. We can all relate to each other because we’re all from the islands, so conversations come easy and relationships can form naturally. 

We are not called ‘One people, One Ocean’ for no reason, we’re all connected in one way or another. Obviously, we’re still all individuals within that. We each have our own unique differences with individual experiences. But regardless, we’re all intertwined within the Pasi way.

It’s doing the dishes and then getting smacked for not doing the dishes fast enough.

It's asking for permission to go to a friend’s house at the age of 26. A yes never comes easy, no matter how old we get.


It’s meeting your girlfriend’s hamo dad, who is nice, but without a smile.  

It’s sending money home because your cousin wants to buy a new Alcatel phone.

It’s making sure that everyone walks home with a good deal of kai in their puku, or else, you risk becoming the talk of the town. 

Yes, these are stereotypes. But to be honest, for a lot of us, these little things are our way of life. At least they are for me… as a brown Pasi kid. These are our dynamics, this is what lies beneath the beautiful visual aspects of our culture. 

I know that you know, that we all know, this is the islander life. 

It’s never anything serious with us. Just a good laugh over the simple things as we watch our relationships build, memories form, and lives unfold.


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