Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Cultural weaving practise revived to help benefit early childhood education

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Launch of Falapepe and Epaepa. Photo: Galumoana.nz
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

Traditional baby mats (Falapepe and Epaepa) have been brought back to life by AATA (Aoga Amata Transnational Aotearoa) to help benefit children in their cultural and educational growth.

“The culture of the child cannot enter the classroom until it has first entered the consciousness of the teacher”.

A mantra held highly by the Aoga Amata Transnational Aotearoa Ltd AATA in its work and research conducted for the upbringing of children through Aoga Amata (Pre school). And for team leader Dr Tafili Utumapu Mcbride, caring and nurturing children at a young age is important for both educational and cultural growth. 

It is why Tafili and her team recently launched their “Falapepe and Epaepa” program, dedicated to the revival of a cultural weaving practise specifically for baby mats (Fala Pepe, Fala ola and Epaepa) and how it benefits children in preschool and early childhood centres.

Falapepe and Epaepa launch. Photo: galumoana.nz

The project is funded by Te Whatu Ora and is set to run for two years in revitalising the artefact of the mats.

“We discovered in our research that although these mats (fal pepe and epaepa) do play a role in educating children, it is also a dying art itself” Tafili stated.

“There is a lot of work being done in our two main centres with everyone working together with the teachers, advisors and even the weavers. We realised that there is a lot to unpack in bringing this art form back to life, but it’s a start”

Understanding cultural identity was a major reason for the launch of the project and as an educator who has had many experiences in early childcare, Tafili is hopeful for the outcome the project can bring.

“The mats become an important part of the child’s life growing up. It is something they can relate too when talking about their cultural belonging. Parents and teachers have also shared their eagerness for the project in which they can learn how to weave the mats”

“So you see, it’s all about helping everyone in their cultural journey from the child right through to the other parties involved”

Photo: galumoana.nz

Weaving is an integral part of the pacific culture and being of Samoan descent, Tafili recalls early memories of seeing family members weaving fine mats (ie toga). However the weaving of fala pepe or the smaller mata for children was a new experience for her leading into this project.

“I had to ask my sister as she grew up in Samoa and she said she briefly saw it being gifted during a couple of occasions,” Tafili said.

“The importance of having this introduced now into a country like New Zealand, it gives our Samoan or pacific generation who were born outside the pacific a sense of belonging and connection to their cultures”.

The launch took place at the Mataliki Tokelau Aoga Kamata where the new Falapepe and Epaepa website was launched which will be at the helm of the project. Further action from the initiative will be focused to roll out starting next year.

Photo: galumoana. nz

Although still in its early days, Tafili is feeling positive about the project and its effect on early childcare education and the future generations of young pacific people.

As a mother herself, she also understands that initiatives such as this can also create important talanoa through parents and kids who are finding their way of belonging in their cultural practices and language.

“If we have a good start with the little ones then we are already building them for becoming more aware of the culture when they are older. It’s also all about bringing together the families so everyone can work together”

“Im a mum of a 14 year old Samoan palagi. They’re traversing in the whole cultural identity thing at the moment and having them on that journey I am able to help them find themselves in our Samoan culture and language”.

Photo: galumoana.nz

With the school wrapping up for the year and heading into the holidays, Tafili believes that with the launch of their project people can also do their own research on the importance of it.

“It is all about cultural revival and practises. There are other new things we want to add onto the project especially with the practise of weaving itself  in the islands”

“Further down the line we hope to travel to Samoa to witness first hand how the weavers and those who are experienced in the craft and gather more information on how we can better the experience for not just children but also with parents”.

More information on the websites provided https://www.falapepeepaepa.com/ https://www.aogaamata.org/ 



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