Paddling together and individually
Manawatu¯ teen Tui-aroha Fransen knows celebrating individual cultural identity is still a crucial part of working together.
The 17-year-old Manukura student was the winner of Manawatu¯’s race unity speech competition at the Palmerston North City Library last week and has qualified for the national final later in the year.
This year’s theme was ‘‘Kia kotahi te hoe – paddle as one’’ and Fransen said an important message in her speech was ‘‘paddling as one with all our differences intact’’. Paddling as one encouraged people to find their similarities and differences, she said.
For her speech Fransen took inspiration from the song Melting Pot by When The Cat’s Away, which talked about different races and reflects how far New Zealand has come. The song wasn’t well known to her generation, but her parents knew the song.
Fransen also based her speech on the experiences of her and her family being exposed to racism.
She got emotional while delivering the speech. Her grandfather had come to New Zealand from the Netherlands, and he became heavily involved in her grandmother’s Ma¯ori culture.
‘‘This simple example of embracing other cultures gives me hope for the future,’’ she said.
She likened paddling as one to an awa (river), where the aim was to paddle together towards the same cause of unity, but questioned whether everyone needed to be on the same waka to get there.
‘‘People are on their own journeys of cultural identity and working out where they fit in the world. It is important to celebrate and acknowledge our individuality and individual stories.
‘‘To paddle as one is to work as one with acceptance. Not enforcing our beliefs upon others, but understanding each other as individuals, within the human race.’’
She wanted to determine her own path and challenged others to do the same.
Winning the Manawatu¯ competition had been a surprise, and she wanted to have a good go at the national finals and ‘‘speak her truth’’.