Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television

since 1987

Niue student documents brother’s haircutting ceremony during Covid

Two Auckland Girls’ Grammar students have turned their experience of Covid-19 Alert Level 2.5 into an opportunity to share one of Niue’s most well-known cultural traditions, hifi ulu, showing the ways Pacific families have adapted to restrictions.

Best friends Alena Jefferson, of Niue descent, and Zenobia Tikoisuva, of Fijian descent, were given the task of creating a documentary film as part of their Year 13 Media Studies class. They decided to capture Alena’s brother Malachi’s hifi ulu – a ceremony celebrating a boy’s first haircut, considered a rite of passage to symbolise the coming of age into manhood.

In normal circumstances, this event would have been a mass gathering of family and friends coming together to celebrate. But given the disruption of Covid-19, the family had to be creative and flexible in order to maintain this valued cultural tradition, while also meeting the health and safety requirements of living during a global pandemic.

“When we decided to have [my] son’s hifi ulu during Covid, [Alena and Zenobia] thought it would be a great topic; the effects of Covid on the traditional haircutting ceremony. After seeing [the documentary], I am glad I agreed to have it filmed,” says proud mother Reena Jefferson.

Adapting to the ‘new normal’, visiting relatives were staggered into smaller groups throughout the day. While the changes were a struggle, the upside meant spending more quality time with each family.

Watch Alena and Zenobia’s documentary above. Congratulations Malachi!


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