Marks of Mana

My review follows a hectic few days. I wasn’t going to go because I was salty about a lot of things from earlier in the day but the documentary gave my soul more peace than I had started that day with. I took myself on a date and don’t regret it.

The documentary started with the story of Taema ma Tilafaega; the two women that swam to Fiji to learn the art of tattooing and then returning to Samoa only to be confused when they returned. Their chant, which originally held that women would be tattooed, instead said the men would be tattooed. And thus tattooing on women was initially lost, but the “malu” resurged and has been growing since. Women get them for several reasons however there is always pain to be endured before you are bestowed one.

Credit: Director Lisa Taouma, Western Samoa, NZ, 2018

For a good snippet on the myth of Taema ma Tilafaega check out these posts. Or even Sia Figiel’s “They who do not Grieve” which makes several references to the twins.

The story starts off in Samoa and travels to Aotearoa, Papua New Guinea. To a lesser degree, the story also covers female tattooing in Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Malu (adj; noun) – to protect; the top of the house of a fale; shelter. Also known or depicted as the entrance to the first house of humankind. The womb. Hence the symbol of the diamond.

Patterns in the Samoan malu design centre around the feminine and feminine strength. The imagery and the story-telling were both was ethereal.

First of all, can I say how empowering it feels to be privileged as an audience? When the story is and was created by someone like you, for you; by Pacific women for Pacific women (including Maori). 

I highly recommend seeing it if you can. I’m not sure if copies will be available on DVD/electronically, but if you’re an indigenous woman exploring your identity, this is a 56 minute deep dive you will definitely want to check it out.

Papua New Guinea

This month I ended my volunteer stint with Pacific Society of Reproductive Health (“PSRH”) with one final conference in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I’ve volunteered for PSRH since 2014.

I have an interest in sexual/reproductive health particularly in relation to gender/power dynamics and gender-based violence (criminal justice/health system interface).

Since post-contact (colonisation and rise of religion[s]), healthy discussions around sexuality/reproductive health is not normal practice, let alone having any conversation about it in a family context. I think ‘how’ to have these conversations constructively have been mystified by the weird mutation of colonisation/religion/indigenous culture. I like exploring these conversations with health practitioners because, like me, they are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff (or sometimes, the person stopping someone tipping over the edge). Anyway, the conference itself obviously focuses on more clinical perspectives as well as some social/cultural perspectives when considering family planning.

The conference was in Port Moresby and covers your standard conferencing aims – professional development, continuing medical education and building/disseminating research. This is obviously with a focus on sexual and reproductive health from a Pacific perspective, by and for Pacific practitioners.

So, the conference; it was a time.

The week before the conference, several issues arose that needed dealing with that I tried to manage during my work breaks (alongside my full-time job). I support PSRH  in the lead up to, during and after conferences with admin/ project-work/ funding apps/ conference admin etc. Being a jane-of-all trades isn’t necessarily a good thing because it’s an excuse for people to come to you with the expectation that you know where everything is, what is happening and how to do the tasks needed. Tasks included booking flights/accommodation for people from around the Pacific (Jane-trade #1: travel agent – note, I don’t have access to deals or am qualified in this space), preparing executive documents for the Board meetings, Biennial General meeting and others (Jane-trade #2: over-glorified admin extraordinaire), invoicing, receipting & money counting (Jane-trade #3: accounts admin). Despite the crises, a week prior to leaving, we managed to start the conference without too many issues.

I assisted with the 2017 conference and the main things I wanted to improve on were:

  • My delegation skills (I was so bad at this – I don’t like giving out tasks to a team I barely know);
  • Efficient and effective communication (leadership style);
  • Accounting and financial skills.

Anyway, I messed up and booked an extra day at the end of the conference and most of our crew left. So in the lead-up, I tried to plan a “learning day” by checking out the local market and meeting up with some mutuals I met during the conference.

A photo-essay below of my time in Papua New Guinea – the last hurrah.

Closing ceremony
Surviving on coffee
Cultural night in PNG
Beanies for Babies in the Pacific
The va’a sails to Samoa in 2021
Tohoa Cummings from Kuki Airani
Errollyn & Bella on my last day of catching up
The team from the local organising committee
The PSRH Secretariat with the USA ambassador
Quiet before the storm at registration desk
The new PSRH president and Falahola
Family planning debate
Speeches & dignatories
View from the ambassador’s residence looking to the mines
Making friends with the local practitioners
All beanies were taken by people from around the Pacific
View from the Stanley
On the way to the USA Ambassador’s residence
Day 3 of the conference
Boroko markets
Asian influence is everywhere
APEC Building
Parliament house
Besties with Errollyn at the Conference


The local organising committee
The the Chief Midwife of PNG
My adoptive parents
Boroko markets


Chinese aid is EVERYWHERE
Opening ceremony