Le Va: Understanding the Sacred Space in Pacific Culture – Part 2

Check out this video with Pale Sauni and Saylene Ulberg

This is part of a series on Pacific Cultural Centredness:

Le Va: Soli Le Va and Teu Le Va

Here’s a summary of this short talanoa with Pale and Saylene which is part of our short series on Pacific Cultural Centredness

In this conversation, we continue our discussion the Samoan concept of Le Va. This refers to relationships, especially the sacred space between individuals and their God, others, and the land they live in. You can find the first part of this conversation here.

In the video we, explore how this concept relates to the Pacific cultural centredness and the ways people can break or restore the sacred space by their actions or deeds.

These two aspects are “soli le va” which we can translate as to “break” or “sever the relationship” and “teu le va” which means “maintaining relationships” or “keeping the connection”

For instance, for people to maintain a sacred space between theirselves and their Creator, they must engage in prayer, attend church meetings and worship services, among others. If the Va is broken, one must come back and ask for forgiveness.

The concept also applies to one’s relationship with others, where reciprocity is essential. Breaking this Sacred Space calls for restitution, such as seeking forgiveness.

On a larger scale, apologising is necessary, as was the case during the dawn raids that happened in New Zealand from 1974 to 1976, which was a huge severing of the Va between Pacific Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Lastly, we touch on the Va between oneself and the land. We discuss how climate change affects this relationship and that taking responsibility for the land’s care and addressing climate change is crucial in restoring the Va.

Overall, the concept of Le Va is central to Pacific culture, and understanding it helps individuals maintain their relationships with God, others, and the land they live in.

How do you “teu le va”or maintain relationships with your Pacific learners?

None of this is rocket science, and I’m sure you do some of this already. But for the record:\

  1. Get to know your Pasifika students: Take the time to learn about your students’ cultures, languages, and experiences. Ask them about their interests, goals, and aspirations. Show genuine interest in their lives and experiences, and respect their perspectives and values. This can help to build trust and rapport, and create a sense of belonging.
  2. Use Pacific worldviews and examples: Incorporate Pacific worldviews, values, and examples into your teaching. This can help to make the content more relevant and meaningful to Pacific learners, and create a sense of cultural pride and identity. For example, in a construction course, a teacher could use examples of traditional Pacific architecture or building techniques.
  3. Create a safe and inclusive learning environment: Foster a culture of respect, inclusivity, and diversity in the classroom. Ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity, and that there is zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment. Create opportunities for students to share their perspectives and experiences, and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
  4. Provide feedback and support: Provide regular feedback and support to your students. Offer constructive criticism and praise, and encourage them to seek help if they need it. Be approachable and available, and show that you care about their success.
  5. Involve the community: Engage with the Pacific community to create opportunities for students to apply their learning in real-world contexts. Invite guest speakers, organize site visits, or work on community projects. This can help to create connections between the classroom and the community, and provide valuable learning experiences.

Examples of contextualising these steps may include inviting a Pacific guest speaker to share their experiences in a vocational field, using traditional Pacific cultural practices as examples in a health and safety module, or organising a site visit to a Pacific business to showcase entrepreneurship in action.

These practical steps can help to teu le va and create a positive and inclusive learning environment for Pacific adult learners in New Zealand.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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