28 May 2017

Courtney Sina Meredith, teller of tales about Samoan life

7:34 pm on 28 May 2017
Courtney Sina Meredith reads from her book "Tales of the Taniwha"

Courtney Sina Meredith reads from her book "Tales of the Taniwha" Photo: RNZ Pacific

Courtney Sina Meredith is a young contemporary teller of tales about Samoan life.

"I come from this really big beautiful Samoan family too and growing up we did not know about overcrowding or rheumatic fever or things like that. But I just loved that. I was just surrounded by all these special stories."

One of her earliest memories about the Samoan culture growing up was about the importance of sacrifice and family.

"I understood probably from my first conscious moments and my earliest moments are of my grandmother taking care of me because my mother had gone to get her journalism diploma back in her day and I knew that she had to leave her job to be there for me.

"Of course I grew up and got older and realised my grandma had to leave her job at the denim factory just to look after me."

She says it is a key value in the culture.

"That it is collective and that it is about sacrifice but it is also about great vision and the fact I am sitting here today it really is manifesting my pa's vision from a few generations back now."

"I see my Samoan culture as an abundance of love and coming from a place where we work together.

"And I have always wanted to tap into those deep cultural values and also to try and use my gifts, whatever it is that I am doing with my life, along the last decade, for other young Samoans coming through as well."

Her recent book is a collection of short stories called Tail of the Taniwha that draws inspiration from real life.

"This was such a project of love and this work that had obviously been going on in the back of my mind and back of my heart for a long time and I had a lot of overflow. A lot of works that didn't make it into the final book.

"It felt as though it represented life as I was living it. Unresolved, a bit messy, a bit rough etc. So for the book I was looking for texture and looking for a way to plait all these different voices into the narrative."

Courtney has also been labelled a staunch feminist, a term many Pacific people tend to avoid.

"So there's these kinds of different understandings we have of what it means to be a feminist I think and really the basic understanding and the place that I come from is that I care deeply about women and I desperately believe in the quality and I know that the place of women is not where it should be.

She believes that feminism is an important word and needs to be used more often.

"I like to believe and even think that part of the reason why my work is out there is because I want women, Maori and Pacific women, and now women of colour that are coming out into a world that is for them, and that can work with their special and unique gifts and that is what my work constantly works towards."

She's glad there is Samoan Language week in Aotearoa this week and keen to get involved.

"I do think it is important and as much as we can, let's kind of appreciate and encourage and be proud of who we are."

On a recent trip to Samoa, she loved seeing people who looked just like her.

"Yes it was beautiful and hot and amazing to look around and see a lot of people who look like me. I think that is something I always yearn for now in the journeys that I do," she said.

"The first big trip overseas I did was with choreographer and dancer, Lemi Ponifasio and the Mau company to Berlin Germany. You do, you look for yourself and yearn to be surrounded by people who look like you and the things you do that make you who you are."

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