Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

“I just got dragged online from my Cook Islands community’’ – Radio host Chelsea Cuthers-Munro 

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Kendall Vano | Reporter

A mini-documentary by Cook Islands radio personality Chelsea Cuthers-Munro traces a journey that took a turn for the worst.

Niu FM radio host, Cook Islander Chelsea Cuthers-Munro decided to make a film about her journey to connect with her cultural identity through her language. 

She made a short documentary about it called “The Vaka That Waited”  and recently she held a screening in Auckland for the Cook Islands community. 

While the film captures her journey, it also highlights the inherent difficulties such a journey entails and the perils of living in the social media age. 

“I think we are definitely navigating new waters as Pasifika people,” Chelsea reflected, thinking about the challenges faced by generations born away from their homelands.

Growing up, Chelsea didn’t feel like she belonged. “I felt misplaced a lot of the time,” she recalls. 

“Growing up very papa’a-looking, very fair, not being able to speak at all.”

And that was the catalyst for a journey of self-discovery which led to the making of the film. 

However, it was a journey was not without its challenges. When Chelsea was asked to represent the Cook Islands during its language week, the response from her own community on social media was anything but supportive. 

“I just got dragged online from my Cook Islands community,” she revealed, describing the hurtful backlash extended to her family.

“On reflection, they were hurtful. People were coming at me. But if you actually look at the essence of what they were trying to say, we love our culture.”

Accepting the hurtful comments as a reflection of deeper cultural pride, Chelsea realised there were deeper issues in how Pasifika people communicate.

“We can’t be tearing our people down. we really can’t,” she says.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons why I want to do what I’m doing, and taking that shame and blame and trauma and transmuting it into something positive and motivating that inspires our people to know it’s within you,” she added. 

For many of those who saw the film, they were inspired by her example. 

“I’m in the same boat, born in New Zealand… so I definitely can relate to her situation and the journey that has taken for her,” one person said. . 

“So it’s just humbling to know that we’re all in the same waka on that journey. No matter where you start. We’re still going on that journey,” another said.. 

And Chelsea added, “the Vaka for me represented my culture that was waiting there all along. It was just waiting for me to understand that I was actually worthy to jump on and start my journey.”

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