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Annual Pacific Lecture 2024: Reweaving the ecological mat

All University, Public
Event type
Pacific Thought Network

Reweaving the Ecological Mat: A Quest for a Pasifika Indigenous ‘Whole of Life’ Philosophy of Development

Dr Upolu Lumā Vaai

The issue with our mindsets today is that we have lost our Fanua-centred philosophy, that life and knowledge are first and foremost ecologically woven and birthed. Which is why our forebears were extremely competent with the wisdom of restraint to care for Earth. Such restraint requires one to master the ability to (re)weave pre-given cosmic contradictions that give shape and form to holistic development, such as: connection and difference, communality and individuality, tangible and intangible, life and death, male and female, self and other, person and fanua, God and world, to name a few. A Fanua-centred philosophy allows us to see these as interwoven strands of life.

Today, we are predominantly driven by a development philosophy of eliminative growth, that for one to grow and flourish, the other has to be eliminated or reduced, a system that not only has roots in the Greek and Western philosophical tradition and colonial project, but also one that is deeply human, that speak of the cruel side of ourselves. Hence this eliminative growth has led to many unnecessary opposing binaries in our development policies and to unnecessary tensions between indigenous communities and introduced development policies.

This lecture aims to offer relational ‘whole of life’ philosophical and theological underpinnings if we are to seriously reconstruct our Pasifika development story. One that reflects more the Reweaving of our Ecological Mat based on the wisdom of restraint and Fanua-centred values of indigenous communities. Addressing the eliminative growth requires a journey of what I prefer to call ‘de-Onefication.’

The lecture also provides hints on why many indigenous communities sometimes have tensions with policies such as human rights, human security, gender, climate change, or diplomacy in particular those that are normally framed and driven by this eliminative idea of growth. The lecture hopes to draw on the ‘whole of life’ way and itulagi (side of the horizon) of faith and indigenous communities to minimise these tensions.



Emma Powell


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