Making REM Fashionable

Globally renowned poet and ‘mother of Pacific education’ Professor Konai Helu-Thaman called on the need to make reconnections to ecology or reweaving ecology fashionable for Pacific Islanders at one of two seminars on the topic in Suva, Fiji.

Professor Helu-Thaman said making reweaving the ecological mat for the Pacific Islands means reclaiming our local, cultural and indigenous knowledge in order that we survive problems like climate change together.

The seminar, organized by the Oceania Centre for Culture, Arts and Pacific Studies is one in a series part of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat project coordinated by the Institute for Mission and Research, a programme of PTC.

Professor Helu-Thaman emphasized the importance of indigenous knowledge being studied in educational institutions across the Pacific to make for quality education because it’s our cultures that connects us to the oceans and one another.

She added as the world globalizes and homogenizes we become more modern and less and less Pacific Islanders.

‘Modernity has a conforming influence on all of us, we are even trying to measure ourselves and our work using the standards of foreigners,’ she said.

‘The modern culture has this threatening homogenizing effect on all of us in our Pacific Islands. We are proud of our identity, the problem is in becoming modern, and we are becoming less Pacific Islanders.’

The dangerous thing about that, according to Professor Helu-Thaman we lose our indigenous knowledge systems, our holistic view of life, where all life is connected and circular, the past is the future, where the trees and species are our brothers and sisters and there is a spirituality that promotes respect for all life.

‘The problem with globalisation because it sees the world as rich and poor and the lifestyle of the rich is non-negotiable,’ she added.

‘We cannot survive the threat of climate change if we continue with this type of market driven culture.’

She added current education systems reinforce the market driven culture.

‘We need to reweave a new mat, where learning of indigenous knowledge is made vital,’ she said.

Professor Helu-Thaman said times have changed, where once indigenous knowledge was labeled as primitive, pre-logical and inferior, it is now considered by scientists and researchers as superior and important in resolving global environmental problems.

‘Now we hear they want to document this knowledge but they mean the just the physical aspects of it,’ Professor Helu-Thaman said.

She said indigenous knowledge and value system must be documented because they are important in themselves – all of it from the physical environment, leadership in communities, spiritual values attached to it – all spheres.