Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Vagahau Niue thriving in New Zealand despite lockdown

Niuean Lisa Tanielu Ah Fook, owner of Latte Tei Café from tagata pasifika niue language week story

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Despite the uncertain times we are currently in, the NZ Niue community continues to thrive thanks to some of the initiatives set up to maintain cultural knowledge, values and language — and that includes the food.

From sweet to savoury food and fine coffee, you will find it all at the Latte Tei Café in Glen Eden.

On special occasions a particular dish is added to the menu made by the proud Niuean café owner, Lisa Tanielu Ah Fook.

Niuean Lisa Tanielu Ah Fook, owner of Latte Tei Café. Photo: John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika
Lisa Tanielu Ah Fook, owner of Latte Tei Café. Photo: John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika

“A lot of people have different types of food, but that was the only dish I could cook. Everyone cooks chop suey, everyone makes raw fish, but takihi… I’ll showcase that, being a Niuean, and just share it to the community,” Ah Fook says.

Takihi is considered the national dish of Niue, made from layers of taro and pawpaw baked in creamy coconut cream.

“It’s good to keep your roots and your culture, and that food connects us to a lot of that. I wanted to make the takihi to sell not just to the Niuean community but also to our non-Niueans who don’t know what takihi is. They can have a taste as well.”

It’s a small slice of Niue here in Aotearoa, especially when you can’t visit the rock of Polynesia.

“A lot of Niueans I’ve never met before have turned up, and some of them I’m actually related to, so it’s really good to connect in that sense,” Ah Fook added.

In the last census more than 30,000 people identified as Niuean here in Aotearoa. With more people living here than in Niue, some have found new ways to keep their culture alive and thriving.

Founded in 2015, the Niue Youth Network create online content and cultural activities to engage with the youth.

The current chair, Amber Utai, is hopeful the content is helping promote the use of vagahau Niue amongst the Niueans living in New Zealand.

niue youth network
Niue Youth Network. Photo: Supplied

“It’s aimed at encouraging our fuata Niue (Niue youth) to embrace and love being Niuean. This week we’ve got a lot going on to help celebrate vagahau Niue week,” Utai says.

Another member of the group, Carlos Tupu, doesn’t want youth to miss out.

“We as a people really have to think of ways that are youth friendly, that are applicable to their daily lives, because we know that once they feel secure in their Niuean-ness growing up in New Zealand, that they would feel much better about themselves,” Tupu says.

Only 11% of the community speak vagahau Niue. It’s motivated language champions like Lynn Lolokini Ikimotu Pavihi to connect with young parents and those born in New Zealand.

niuean language week story on tagata pasifika Lynn Lolokini Ikimotu Pavihi
Lynn Lolokini Ikimotu Pavihi. Photo: Tagata Pasifika

“It’s very important that our children are supported, that they are not being discriminated or being undermined or being left out. I am all about inclusiveness and I encourage all our parents, our teachers, our Niue people to uplift our children, uplift our people,” Pavihi says.

Now with her fourth children’s book, there are plans to launch a Niue app for your learners all over the country.

It’s encouraging words as the community celebrate virtually this year due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

The Niue High Commissioner based in Wellington, His Excellency Fisa Pihigia, is proud of his community for commemorating the annual event safely.

“I am happy the Niuean community is coming together up in Auckland, wherever they are. Even in Australia, they are also doing it this week for the Niue language. It’s not just a weekly thing; it has to be a daily thing from, you know, today, tomorrow and so many others rather than just wait for a language week,” Pihigia says.

Niue also celebrated their 47th Constitution Day (Aho Pulefakamotu) this week, and in spite of the restrictions, many were still able to mark the occasion in their own bubbles.


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