Monday, 16 August 2010

The Pacific What makes Pacific What It Is?!

I've been taking a class at Victoria University in Pacific Literature as part of my undergraduate studies for the last 5 weeks and it has led me to question, what is the Pacific, what makes it unique and who belongs to the Pacific?

Firstly then: What is the Pacific?
The Pacific is the area of ocean in which many land masses are present. These land masses more commonly known as Pacific Islands, are home to the 'friendly cannibals' of folk tale, and Pacific based literature. Some 85% of the worlds islands are in the Pacific Ocean area. Native 'Pacific Islanders' come from many places scattered throughout Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, French Polynesia, and many, many other islands. Some of these islands are well known, for their history, arts (both visual, performance, tattoo etc) and literature. Yet some islands we believe may be unexplored by non-natives to those lands. (Please note I have not attempted to name every place.)

What makes the Pacific unique to other places?
First of all the Pacific is made up of a variety of cultures, languages, and people. If you think there is approximately 1250 languages each linguistically different. A mixture of 25000 islands, although not all islands are inhabited. (Due to effects of the nuclear testing by the USA and France.)
It could be said that each island is unique in itself, although this would very much be a geographical statement, not so much one of the culture or people. Some islands are governed by countries outside the Pacific area. One of these governing countries (on the cusp of the Pacific Ring) is New Zealand. New Zealand is one country that has been governing some islands on behalf of England and the British Empire. Through colonisation in the early 1800's (and prior) literature and written (as well as spoken) English became one medium through which literature and history of the island began to be recognised and published, to be shared world wide. Why is it then, that even countries such as New Zealand are still coming to grips with a range of amazing stories, arts (both visual and performance), and histories.

Who belongs to the Pacific?
The Pacific 'Ring' (the cusp of the Pacific and the 'rest' of the world) is made up of countries such as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and South America. All the island nations situated anywhere between these are part of the Pacific. These countries on the cusp are counted by some academics as being part of the Pacific as well. (Some include New Zealand, more so than the Americas or PNG.) It is of interest to note here, that the first text translated into Maori was of Robinson Crusoe as the British empire thought the little Maori people would like to hear a story in their own language about a white man coming to an island and upon becoming shipwrecked there finding a native brown man there who he makes into his slave. Hmmm, makes you wonder now what sort of idea that would be now and how it would not be accepted so easily!

Some quotes to think about, of the Pacific:
Albert Wendt: (Pacific Writer) "The idea of smallness depends on what is included or excluded..."

Albert Wendt: (Pacific Writer) "There is a vast difference between islands in a vast sea and a sea of islands."

Wilfred Burchett: (Australian Journalist) "In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show."

Jenny Shipley:(New Zealand Prime Minister 1997-1999.)"It is important to remember that the Pacific Ocean covers a quarter of the world's surface and that each Pacific country has its own cultural, historical and ethnic identity."