Photo Credit: Slant Magazine
When I was a teenager, my favourite cartoon was Pocahontas. I watched it at the movies, I bought the video and the CD, which I listened to regularly and sat in my room singing along to the lyrics. I may or may not still sit and have a Pocahontas sing along once a year. I felt such a strong connection to Pocahontas at that time. I have no Native American heritage, so there was no direct correlation for this bond. I didn’t have a forbidden love or a pet raccoon, so the connection wasn’t because I could relate to what Pocahontas was experiencing. My connection was based solely on the fact that she looked like me. Yes, there is the slight difference in height, weight and hair type, but we shared the same skin tone and at that time in my life that was almost unheard of.
At that time the world offered me movies and television featuring white people or stereotypical African American gang bangers and kung fu fighters. There were no shortish women with thick thighs, curly hair and honey brown skin that I could relate to, but Pocahontas was the next best thing.
I recently watched Moana with my family. By family I mean my mum, my adult siblings and partners and all our children. We took up two rows and even had a special ticket because our group was so big. My connection to Moana was more than sharing similar physical qualities; we are both very beautiful. As a Pacific Islander Moana shared similar legends, the island life, family relations, food, pets, a love of the ocean and a history of voyaging ancestors. When I watched the cartoon, I was Moana not just the girl who saw a pretty brown face on the screen and thought aww cool.
When we returned home the children sang the songs they heard and recited the movie lines. Then they asked questions about the legends of the Pacific, how they sailed without a GPS and if we were related to the Rock. Not only did they relate to Moana, but the movie was a catalyst to them wanting to learn more about who they are and where they came from.
Whether we are Samoan, Tongan, Tokelauan, Maori or Hawaiian we should all be proud of our Pacific heritage and strive to use the Moana movie as a starting point for learning and teaching opportunities to ensure our cultures continue in whichever land we have voyaged to.
I am Morwenna of Samoa and I am the future of our island, are you?