Laufatu o tala ma fagogo
The purposeful art of storytelling is embedded in Pacific cultural ways of being. Through storytelling, history, genealogy, and cultural values and beliefs are meaningfully woven together and demonstrated as they are passed on through generations. These experiences enable tamaiti and āiga to learn about their identity, language, and culture and to share it with others.
Cultural stories empower learners from within and outside the culture to experience the connections to the people, places, and things that represent each unique culture. Listeners and storytellers can connect with characters, experiences, symbols, and artefacts that are portrayed and used in the stories. This can support learners' transition between their home and early childhood worlds, and in turn, provide a sense of connectedness and belonging.
“The use of traditional storytelling, arts, and legends and of humour, proverbs, and metaphoric language can support children from some communities to navigate between familiar and less familiar contexts”. (Te Whāriki, Ministry of Education p.41)
How do we apply it in practice?
We invite you to view the storytelling video and consider how you are supporting Pacific learners to know their identities, languages, and cultures through storytelling.
In the video, you will hear and see how kaiako engage in reciprocal partnerships with Pacific āiga and communities:
- Experiences are shared and members of the wider Pacific communities embrace the opportunities to join the early learning services to share their cultural knowledge and support others to learn more about these forms of communication through art.
- Āiga and community members bring items to centres, such as shells, flowers, and artefacts that enable learners to experience the authentic use of these materials.
Ideas for your service
Through the art of storytelling, and the use of culturally appropriate resources, stories and legends, tamariki and kaiako can engage with learning in meaningful and holistic ways throughout their everyday life experiences.
Storytelling might be in the form of an oral or written story. Alternatively, stories are told through music, dance, and visual arts. A story can explain a historical event or help to explain social or cultural practices and knowledge.
A significant feature relating to the transferring of cultural knowledge through storytelling is the concept of tei laititi-tei matua, similar to the Cook Island Māori concept of tuakana-teina, where older tamaiti take on the role of teaching younger tamaiti. It is critical that kaiako honour the personal cultural knowledge and experiences that Pacific tamaiti bring with them to the early childhood service and provide opportunities for tamaiti to use this knowledge to strengthen their sense of their identities, languages, cultures, belonging, and wellbeing.
In what ways do you empower tamaiti in their mana and in their connectedness with their own identities, languages, and cultures as confident and competent learners, through storytelling?
- Think of ways that you can connect with cultural knowledge and stories through the games and physical learning experiences that tamaiti engage in. Find games or activities that involve chants, songs, or opportunities for tamaiti to be playful with words and sounds from their own languages.
- When Pacific tamaiti are involved in their play experiences, ensure there are appropriate resources available that enable them to tell their stories and legends about what they know from their cultures. This might be a well-known story, or it could be during spontaneous imaginary role-play experiences relating to what they are re-enacting from their home life, like going to church or a cultural celebration.
- Let the children listen to and tell stories in Pacific languages.
The PELP Pacific dual language books series are available as physical books, but also have audio tracks so that tamaiti can listen to the stories read aloud. Ask family members to come and read aloud, or record a story on their phone at home and send it to you. In some cultural contexts, a whāriki (woven mat) is placed on the floor and people sit around it as their stories are shared. Make story time more of a Pacific ritual by removing your shoes and sitting on the whāriki, or create an area outside.
- Pacific tamaiti can be encouraged to explore their creative ideas and build structures, such as villages, canoes, or fale, to tell or listen to stories about island life, cooking food, growing vegetables, and catching fish or crabs. Although this may not be their direct experience, it can easily be linked to experiences in their lives here in Aotearoa. Island-born kaiako may take on the role to share stories, or children may use these structures to re-enact traditional stories as seen in the video with “Masina and the magic seashell”.
- Encourage tamaiti to share their stories with peers and kaiako. The use of props can encourage and support storytelling and be useful for children who are still developing their vocabulary and learning to express themselves. Video them telling their story so that it can be watched repeatedly, added to, and shared digitally with family and friends.
- Support all Pacific tamaiti to tell their stories about their cultural experiences within their family context with you and with their peers. Create opportunities for children to practice their stories independently, and help them create pictures or use props to help tell the story. Give them the opportunity to sit in a special place or on a special chair. In the Pacific, storytellers command attention, so encourage the audience to be listening and paying close attention while the story is told.
- Engage with your Pacific parents and community to understand what resources are culturally important to them, and what they would like to see, feel, and hear in the service. Watch the video to see kaiako talk about how they approach their Pacific families about what resources they may like to share. Equip your service with as many culturally relevant books, stories, puppets, board stories, and poems as you can, for tamaiti to identify and connect with. In Pacific cultures, stories are for everyone, so include younger tamaiti to listen to the stories of older tamaiti. Engage with parents to understand how they would like to or are able to access their children’s creations. What are some face-to-face opportunities and innovative ways to celebrate children's creativity? You could try publishing stories into books using photos or drawings, or make a scene out of felt for retelling.
- When supporting pepe (babies) to settle or when they seek comfort, engage with parents to understand what is familiar to infants and toddlers, what they see, hear, and feel in their worlds. This might be familiar words, stories, lullabies or pese (songs), or a Pacific custom like massage. Teach toddlers stories or songs with actions, and give them elements of the story, such as dolls, shells, or flowers, with their playdough, clay, or sand activities.
- An important part of speaking in many Pacific cultures is oratory. More speech-making than storytelling, oratory often uses more formal language and involves ritual and repetition. Being an orator requires leadership and mana. In the video, tamaiti and kaiako perform an ava ceremony to welcome new community members. Tamaiti experience the ritual through formal language, repetitive gestures, special clothes, and artefacts, and particular ways of behaving. You could work with your community to understand and replicate this welcoming ritual in your service, or think of something smaller to start off with, like one tamaiti choosing and saying karakia kai, making a speech about their family, or reciting a short poem.
Useful Pacific resources for storytelling are lavalava, hats, ula (lei), flowers, shells, small dolls, animals or puppets, drums, coconut shells, or other musical instruments. These artefacts are what they can draw on to share stories with you and their peers about aspects of their culture that enable them to feel pride and to be connected to their own identities, languages and cultures. For more ideas, engage with whānau and community members about other useful resources that could support storytelling.
In your service:
- How do you support Pacific tamaiti to create their own stories?
- How do you have conversations with tamaiti and revisit their stories and learning experiences?
- What opportunities do you provide for tamaiti and their āiga to share intergenerational stories with you?
- How do you connect with the wider Pacific communities to hear their stories and see cultural values in action?
- How can you learn about the cultural messages within these stories?
- How could you use what you have learnt here to help drive your local curriculum planning?
- How could you discover the aspirations parents and families have for their tamaiti in the arts?
- What did you see in the storytelling video that you think you could implement in your service now?
These reflective questions and provocations remind us of the holistic ways that the four key Pacific art areas are interconnected and woven together.
Knowing your tamaiti and their families and community well, and allowing them to explore their languages, cultures and identities through storytelling, gives them the tools to explore their connections to the past as well as where they are right now.
Each Pacific heritage has its own unique way of looking at the world - explaining that world through storytelling is common to all Pacific cultures. The telling and retelling of these stories over time have helped to keep languages, cultures, and identities alive.
Hufanga he talamalu he fonua
Taking refuge in the sacred narratives of the past
Explore other Pacific arts
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- Storytelling and oral language
- PELP Pacific dual language books
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