One thousand ropes

Saturday night just gone I managed to sneak out for a rare date night with hubby, to see One Thousand Ropes. Tusi Tamasese’s much anticipated second film was a stark contrast to our usual “date night” choices of Marvel characters and romcoms. Dark and foreboding, this tale was far closer to home – yet still a tale of love and everyday superheroes. The experience of the movie began in the foyer of the cinema, riding up the escalator I could hear the unmistakeable cackle of Sāmoan laughter and on reaching the top I felt immediately at home seeing multigenerational family groups jostling for their popcorn and choc-tops. In Christchurch, where the Sāmoan population sits at around 4000, we were definitely statistically over-represented in that theatre. Outside of Samoa, the last time I remember a similar scene was when I went to see Sister Act 2 in Manukau City. It was this show of support from our community, which proved that there is a great sense of pride in the work of Tusi Tamasese.

One thousand ropes poster - image supplied
One thousand ropes poster – image supplied

Like Tamasese’s first movie The Orator, the majority of the movie is in Gagana Samoa with English subtitles. This has been no obstacle to success, after rave reviews in the Berlin Film Festival. As always there are moments when things are lost in translation, and moments where there is a nod to very Sāmoan humour. But don’t be like the couple who walked out after ten minutes, I would definitely recommend sitting through it. Wedged between my Māori husband and another non-Sāmoan I could see they were equally enthralled in the story. The fact that our movie snacks remained uneaten throughout the movie is always a good measure of the quality of the film.

One Thousand Ropes follows Maea, played by Uelese Petaia (you might remember him from the screen adaption of Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home), who serves his community as a fa’atosaga (Samoan for midwife) and a baker whipping up the dough for keke pua’a (pork buns), pani popo, and German buns. Living a seemingly quiet existence, Maea is still haunted by his renounced violent past and an actual aitu or ghost – Seipua, who is played by Sima Urale. When his estranged daughter Ilisa (played by Frankie Adams) arrives suddenly on his doorstep she asks why he allows this aitu to stay, and he replies that as he has no wife, she keeps him company. The supernatural world is very much a part of our culture, and seeing Seipua hunched and wheezing in the corner of the living room, brought back very vivid memories of stories my mother would tell me as a child.

For me as a New Zealand born Samoan, Maea represented the beauty and the darkness that our older generation often carry with them. The shadows of domestic violence, our attitudes around childbirth out of wedlock, postnatal depression, abuse, and alcoholism have turned the indigenous knowledge and some of our most celebrated traditional practices into very heavy burdens for Maea. These themes weighed heavy on my mind all weekend as I tried to process this thought-provoking, and powerful piece. But on reflection, I realised that it was through the straddling of both the Western world and the Sāmoan world, and the guidance of her father that both young Ilisa and Maea find their strength.

How much will you identify with this movie? What will you see? Whatever it is you take from this tale, it is definitely one you can’t miss.

Still from One thousand ropes. Image supplied.
Still from One thousand ropes. Image supplied.

Relevant Samoan resources in our collection

Samoan Language Week 2017 runs from Sunday 28 May to Saturday 3 June.

World Autism Awareness Day

The 2nd of April was World Autism Awareness Day. Just search Twitter, Google, Facebook, or Instagram for #lightitupblue or #LIUB and you will find pictures of buildings, monuments, and the Wonders of the World all lit up blue for autism awareness. The Sydney Opera House, the Pyramids of Giza, Christ the Redeemer, and the Niagara Falls all lit up blue.

This day came to my attention about three and a half years ago. At the age of three, our son Wiremu was flagged at preschool for having very little verbal communication, and limited social interaction with other children. As our firstborn, we had dreams of raising a trilingual super-child (Samoan, Māori and English) and we assumed that because Wiremu was learning three languages, he didn’t speak as quickly. We also thought that Wiremu didn’t go out of his way to interact with other children because there simply weren’t that many children around. He loved the many adults in his life and was very close with his grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins.


When the Ministry of Education and all their specialists became involved at the beginning of what was to be more than a year long series of diagnoses, we really believed that they would find that there was nothing really different about our son. The truth is, autism is estimated to affect up to 40,000 individuals and their families just within New Zealand. It has a higher prevalence than Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy. Chances are, you know someone that is autistic or has a family member that is on the autistic spectrum.

Being the good librarian that I am, as soon as it became clear that Autism Spectrum disorder was a likely diagnosis for Wiremu, I went straight to the library catalogue and searched for resources on autism. My readings informed me that ASD is a complex developmental disorder involving delays in problems with social interaction, language, and a range of emotional, cognitive, motor and sensory abilities. Since then I have easily read, watched, and at least reserved (took one look and instantly returned) most things autism related within Christchurch City Libraries. At one stage, there was almost a whole shelf of books on autism in the relatively small community library that I was working in.


There was also lots of very informative websites like Autism NZ, and Facebook groups for parents with autistic children that were awesome e-support networks, online forums, and videos. I think as a parent or carer of a child with autism, it is firstly important to get your head around what autism is. I read book after book about these families of autists, but I found it so hard to fit what I was seeing at home into this stereotypical definition of autism. Wiremu is so loving, he is a wonderful judge of character, his smile lights up a room, and his giggles are infectious. He adores swimming, sausages, Michael Jackson, rainbows, his little brother Che and Mickey Mouse. He doesn’t know many personal boundaries, so if he likes you he will sit on your lap and give you a full kiss on the mouth.

Once you realise that autism presents itself so differently in every individual, and that there is no cure for autism it makes things easier. With the support of loving family, friends, a team of awesome specialists and some amazing teachers and teacher aides – and some good quality information – all things are possible. Wiremu is currently attending school, and is fully integrated into a Year 2 mainstream class with the help of his teacher and wonderful teacher aides. Just last month, he started writing letters without prompting and matching the letters of his name. As a family, Wiremu has taught us to slow our fast-paced lifestyle, to appreciate and celebrate the tiny but monumental achievements we make together everyday.

I have made up a reading list of some helpful autism resources for parents and families. Don’t be afraid to seek help, there are some wonderful people out there that are always willing to do what they can. And don’t always take no for an answer. #LIGHTITUPBLUE

Autism resources


Last Friday I was invited to the Aranui High School Music Block as the “library representative” to BRAVE- Daisy Poetry Promenade and her very special guests. Being the uncultured and not very creative heathen that I am, I wasn’t in the slightest prepared for this mind-blowing space collaboration of Samoan heritage, arts, music, and the poetry of Daisy herself. Just to put things into perspective, I know Daisy in a rugby-sense, that power that she exudes so effortlessly on the rugby field is ever present in her art, music, and this poetry promenade.

Daisy - Photo Credit: Joseph O'Sullivan Photography
Daisy. Photo Credit: Joseph O’Sullivan Photography

There were six stages in the promenade, our group of 60-odd was split into two groups and as we passed each other from stage to stage you could sense both the anticipation of the next space and excitement fizzing over from the last visited space.

In the first space: Vasa (vasa is the Samoan word for sea or open ocean) – Daisy’s family took centre stage with husband Seta Timo picking a traditional Samoan hymn on the double bass, followed by daughter Hadassah – all of seven years old – relating her experience as a second-generation NZ born Samoan in the poem “I am a teine Samoa.” Daisy and Hadassah spoke of the fibres of their lives being interwoven like a fine mat, this for me, was the perfect analogy of the richness and beauty of the whole performance.

The different stages wove the strands of Daisy and her life thus far, showcasing the musical Pasifika talents of Christchurch including DJ Infared – fresh off an international DJ tour, Christchurch’s premier session band – The Judah Band, Nathan Phillips, Zion Tauamiti, and some massive gospel talent with Lady Julz representing South Auckland. Each stage was threaded together by Daisy’s poetry, and there was also an emergence of new poetic talent incorporated in Annabel Ariki and Maddie Mills of Cashmere High School.

The integration of the Samoan culture was something to behold, captured by Joseph O’Sullivan and John Ross. O’Sullivan and Ross emboldened some of Christchurch’s pe’a, malofie (pe’a or malofie is the Samoan tatau – tattoo –  for men) and malu (Samoan tatau for women wearers – including Daisy) to tell the tales of their tatau through videography and photography. The moving full-length contents of these interviews and some of the images will eventually be gifted to high schools in Christchurch to include in their Samoan Language curriculum.

In parallel to Daisy’s oratory capabilities, the last stage was a re-enactment of a si’i alofa, which is a gift giving ritual that takes place at a wedding or funeral. The si’i alofa is usually a place where the chiefly Samoan language is spoken, they speak poetically and in metaphors and make reference to history, myths and legends, and the natural world. Like the si’i alofa, in the words of Daisy herself, at the centre of it all is love.

This collaborative space project was enabled largely through the love of many people; people that share a love for the arts, Samoan culture and ultimately the drive, vision and love of one woman, Daisy Lavea-Timo who is well beyond Brave. This show is one that will no doubt be shared on all creative platforms and stages not just here in Christchurch but further afield.

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Cover of The Elocutionist Cover of Ua tālā le ta'ui