An Untold Story weaves Pacific cultures together

Issue: Volume 102, Number 14

Posted: 27 October 2023
Reference #: 1HAd65

In August, over 100 hundred students from schools across Ōtautahi Christchurch and one from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland came together to creatively communicate the challenges young Pacific people face growing up – demonstrated through song, dance, and an expressive narrative.

Untold story

Untold Story is a play which aims to elevate the young Pacific voices in Ōtautahi.

The story follows two young Pacific people from different cultural backgrounds – Samoan and Tongan. The pair fall in love, yet a myriad of barriers block their spirit, making them question their identities and where they belong.

“It’s an untold story about their relationship, something that is not really talked about within the Pacific community at a young age. It’s about knowing where you come from and not forgetting your roots,” says play organiser Greg Galovale.

Greg has worked with Burnside High School's Pacific community over the last five years providing academic support for students.

“It’s a story our young people wanted to talk about.”

Student input

Greg says students contributed their ideas to the story itself, discussing the plotline and themes.

“What we originally wrote [my partner and I] was stripped back. We didn’t want to say too much. But as soon as we shared it with the students and they got to share their opinions, we realised we need to have these difficult conversations in the story as it’s what they want, it’s relevant to the issues they are facing nowadays.”

It was especially important for Greg to include the ideas of the female Pacific students.

"Normally a female’s perspective isn’t shared. It’s often the male’s perspective that shines through in storytelling. We wanted to dive in deep and do the girls justice with their perspective at the forefront.”

As a result, the play specifically focuses on a Tongan woman’s role within her family and the cultural barriers she may be facing in comparison with a Samoan man’s role in his family.

The story was performed in three languages, with Lea Faka-Tonga (Tongan) and Gagana Samoa (Samoan) shining through the scripted dialogue and the songs performed. This was a significant part of the play, making the students’ native tongue accessible to everyone.

The performance


This year’s play was inspired by the uptake and enthusiasm given to another Pacific production performed the year prior in which 10 schools were involved. This year, 18 secondary schools were involved; 17 in Christchurch, with one student travelling down to take part from James Cook High School in Auckland. The first play echoed similar sentiments about belonging and knowing your background, but this year’s play engaged with the two different cultures.

It was a huge undertaking, with around nine weeks of preparation, practice and rehearsals.

By giving young Pacific students a safe platform to express themselves, the play is helping to address some of the challenges they face every day off the stage; primarily the disconnect with identity.

“It’s important to make sure every Pacific student in Canterbury feels like they belong. With a sense of pride in their culture,” Greg says.

They wanted Untold Story to tap into the smaller Pacific communities in Ōtautahi, like those with Tongan heritage, and showcase them.

“We want to normalise having a space for everyone where all Pacific art forms can be shared.”

A sense of pride

Breaking down barriers

The play is also helping to face another challenge: collectively working together.

“Everyone has their own space and getting students from different schools to work together is quite difficult. It’s about getting everyone on the same page and for the same cause,” says Greg.

“Collectively as Pasifika, we can stay in our cliques. But we’ve got to break down those barriers. You’ll see it in practice, it takes a long time to be in one group. That’s the biggest challenge: how can we equip students with the skills and knowledge to work collaboratively and collectively?”

Greg says this was the first time the Tongan community in Canterbury worked collectively in a shared space with the Samoan community with both cultures on show.

One of the positive outcomes of the play has been empowering students’ networking skills. They work more enthusiastically in groups and know who is there to support them.

Greg believes Pacific peoples can do amazing things if they can collectively put differences aside. Untold Story is an excellent example of this.

Burnside High School deputy principal Darryn Findlay says Untold Story allowed
Canterbury high schools to come together and work together, without barriers.

“I saw students being super confident and talking to students from other schools when they wouldn’t otherwise have had that opportunity,” he says.

“The community are all so proud of the students’ achievements. And it’s pretty cool to see them proud of themselves too.”

“The students are always messaging me now, asking when’s the next one going to be. They’re always keen to perform in the community,” adds Greg.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:38 am, 27 October 2023

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