Working on a community engagement project with Ferguson Intermediate School in Otara, Auckland.
Working on a community engagement project with Ferguson Intermediate School in Otara, Auckland.

Kiritia kiritia

Ka kiritia ake ana te papa o Avaiki

Kia puroro mai te marama

ki roto ite poiri

Ko'ai au? | Who am I?

In the Cook Islands it is customary to introduce yourself to any audience you may have. It is our way of connecting yourself to others, finding genealogical ties and most importantly connecting you to land. I hope I can connect to someone out there through this blogpost, a long lost relative, a friend, an ex colleague or someone who can relate to my story.

Ko Matirini Ngari toku ingoa e tamaine au no pa enua tokerau e te tonga mai au. I te tua o toku papa no Tapuahua mai au e, I te tua o toku mama no te enua o Aitutaki e Rarotonga mai au. Toku papa ko Arona Ngari e toku mama to Tangianau Ngari (nee Parakoti).

My name is Matirini Ngari and I am from the islands of Rakahanga, Aitutaki and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. My father is Arona Ngari and my mother is Tangianau Ngari (nee Parakoti). This year I am privileged to share space with the team at the Pacific Virtual Museum as the new Online Engagement Manager.

My parents and I at my graduation (2016)

My journey to Aotearoa

I was born and raised at the foot of the Maunga Ikurangi which overshadowed my village of Ruatonga, and the district of Avarua on the Northern side on the island of Rarotonga. Life as expected on a small island was relaxing and leisurely. I was privileged to grow up around my language and my culture which were anchoring points for my identity in the future. I attended Avatea Primary school and later the local high school Tereora College where many Cook Islanders have attended since its opening in 1895.

Some of my earliest memories of my childhood, included afternoons at the National Library with my sister as my mum ran errands in town. I have fond memories of the place as I spent a big chunk of my time lost in a book or asleep on the couch, core memories that have influenced my career today.

Tereora College class photos with the 'Class of '10'

In 2011 I moved to Aotearoa where I sat into a semester of in-depth lectures by the beautiful writer, poet and pacifist Teresia Teaiwa. Initially my plan was to study law at Victoria, but after sitting through classes with Teresia I connected into the world of Pacific Studies. Though the issues for Pacific communities here were very different to island communities, I had never felt this passionate about the plight of our people more than in those lecture halls.

I took a gap year and moved to Auckland picking up warehousing work when I could. It was here that I saw an alarming number of our Pasifika people glued to the floors of low paying jobs for long hours. I vowed to myself that going forward, I would put myself into a position that helps people see their potential outside of the corrugated iron warehouses. I returned to school and found comfort in joining Te Maru o Avaiki Nui Auckland Universities Cook Islands Students Association as a member of their committee. My experiences have helped me to shape the course of my journey and instilled in me values that impact my purpose.

Taokotaianga of Cook Islands students from Universities across Aotearoa (2014)

My purpose

In 2016 I graduated with a BA in Pacific Studies and History from the University of Auckland. After giving birth to my first child I started my first job with Auckland Council Libraries as a Library Assistant in the Communities Team of Central City Library. After two years with the Communities Team I moved into a role as Pouakina Angitū with Te Paataka Koorero o Takaanini leading a team in using indigenous values in a community space. I soon found out that I thoroughly enjoy connecting with people who rely on the functionality of libraries as a free, open and safe space. In 2022 I moved from public libraries into the National Library of New Zealand as a Pacific Advisor working within the Services to School department. My work since had taken me into schools across Tāmaki Makaurau to see how libraries can better support Pacific Learners to reach their educational aspirations.

Cohort 4 of the Ave'ia Leadership course designed and facilitated by Te Ara Vaka team (2023)

In hindsight as I look back over the various roles I’ve held, the one common theme that connects them all is, stories. I have listened to, shared and woven many stories throughout my career and I hope to continue to do so. I love that I come from an ancestry of oral traditions, storytellers and travelers. I know that we are all capable of being the writers and authors of our own narrative. As I continue to traverse the environment around me, I carry the threads of friendships and networks across the vast Moana, hoping to create intentional changes in spaces I inhabit. I hope our journeys intersect at some point through the Pacific Virtual Museum, I am looking forward to meeting you on the Moana.

[Left to right] Junior Faaeteete, Ivy-Rose, Zipporah-Lee and myself. My blended Cook Island Samoan family.

Welcome and warm Pasifik greetings

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