PLEASE, decolonise your own shit first!

Buzzwords are frustrating asf. If I can, I like to avoid them. Yeah, sometimes there a times that you HAVE to use them because they sum up exactly what you’re trying to say but for the most part, I feel like people use them as a way to say ‘Look at me, I’m relevant asf!’ No bitch, you aint. You just using a word that you saw that one time on Tumblr right before scrolling down to find the porn.

At the moment, the one that pisses me off the most is ‘DECOLONISATION’. Now I’m all about fighting against outdated colonial ideas that continue to oppress people. I think that colonising cultures are harmed by colonisations, just as indigenous cultures are. Hell, I see it happening in my own family (which is a mix of Samoan, British, Maori, Japanese, Cook Island and German influences). I believe that moving back to some of our indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being (I say some because I’m not about that #CannibalLife) are some of the most powerful ways of finding out who you are and how you fit in your world. For me as a genderqueer, masculine-attracted, male-presenting, sapiosexual; it is so much easier to start by saying I am Samoan from Sapunaoa and Vailu’utai, Scottish from Glasgow, and English from Ilford. That I’m the youngest in my generation. That mum was born here in NZ and my dad migrated to NZ from Samoa. That I have three sisters and a brother. That I have 12 nieces and nephews. That I actively practice fa’aSamoa because I believe in fa’aSamoa values like alofa, fa’aaloalo, tautua, and ‘aiga. Because who I am is where I have come from and the people that have and continue to make me.

But I keep hearing things like ‘fuck white people’ and ‘I’m like SO decolonised.’ Where is the sincerity in that? Where is the alofa and the fa’aaloalo? Who are you serving by saying shit like that? Are you aware of who is hearing that bullshit and how it affects them?

So, I’ma say something once and I need y’all to hear what I’m trying to say with all the love and understanding that I can muster but also with a staunch conviction:

I am 100% committed to my fa’aSamoa. But I am also White and not ashamed of that. So instead of attacking hateful or ignorant people with more hate, attack them with love and understanding. If they won’t hear them, walk away knowing that your own soul and integrity is still intact, and that you have done justice to the ways of your ancestors.

In the words of Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III:

“My blood has been spilt for Samoa. I am proud to give it. Do not dream of avenging it, as it was spilt in peace. If I die, peace must be maintained at any price.”

At what point do we stop hating people and start hating systems? #DontHateThePlayer #HateTheGame #Filemu


Fink about it: On being Alone

I was brought up knowing that family is the most important thing. Respect your parents. Look after your sisters. Family comes first. When I came out, one of the first questions was ‘What will my family think?’ followed by a huge fear that I was gonna lose them. It stopped me from coming out to them for two years. That might not seem like much but I got to a point where I couldn’t lie to my family anymore because it felt like I was lying to my parents, which went against everything I’d ever been taught about respecting my parents. The guilt of it sent me into depression and took over my whole life. Coming out was hard, but I did it in the end, and I’m lucky that I’m on good terms with my family now. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. There’s a common Christian thought ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin,’ that’s kinda how my parents took my gayness. “I don’t agree with your decision but you will always be my son and I love you.” I love my family. While it was hard at first, time has healed the uncomfortable feelings, and I am still real close with my family. They are my rock and my inspiration.

I was once told that a Samoan can never truly be alone because he will always have his family around him. And although that’s true, I can’t help feeling alone. My family knows me but some things are just really hard to explian to them about being a young gay Samoan man. Sometimes I don’t feel like being the faiaoga on everthing gay.

Everyone in my family is straight. They have the chance of having kids and building our family. They have their boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives My siblings and cousins have kids and I get to be the cool gay uncle. But I want my chance to have my family. Sometimes, that feels like it’s gonna be impossible. Not only do I need to find a partner that wants to be with me, but I need to find one that also wants to have kids as we build our life together. I know that I have a long time before I get to that point but being a gay man, sometimes I feel like that’s gonna be so much harder than my straight family.

The gay world always feels like it’s focussed on sex and hooking up, or the guys that aren’t like that, are full of self-hate and are self-centred (#IloveYouBut #SorryImNotReady #SorryICantCommit #SorryBoutIt #SorryNotSorry.) I don’t want that anymore. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, NEXT!  Maybe I’m too traditional but I kinda wanna meet the right guy and build a life with him and our family. In some ways, I feel pressure to have that. As the only male of my generation with my dad’s last name, I feel responsible to my family for carrying on that lineage. Put all those feelings together and I feel really alone. And I hate it. Not just that, I feel like even if I do meet someone and he wants to have kids, will he be ok raising our kids with my culture, language and values. It’s fucking overwhelming!

I’m not saying that this is a unique issue for gays, but I think it’s a lot more complicated for gays than it is for straights. #FinkAboutIt #WhatDoYouWant

Jono blog 3

Finding A Place In The Vā: The Fa’a’afa

Those times when you think “this will be easy as to write”…nek minnit…two months gone and you still haven’t been able to write anything! I wasn’t sure why it was so hard to put this into words but everytime I tried, I always came up with a big, fat NAH! and ended up looking at Facebook or Grindr/Growlr/Scruff instead (#ThisGuy #ForeverAlone #IDontNeedAMan #ButReally…). It’s like everytime that I tried to express what I was feeling, I didn’t have the right words and things didn’t make sense. I legit couldn’t explain it in a way that my body and soul truly agreed with.

Until about a month ago.

Totally unexpected, I met someone that is the epitome of cool. A powerful, free-thinking Samoan, filled with a fire to make change in the world. They said something that changed my world. “Fa’a’afa”. In this case they were talking about feeling not completely male, not comepletely female, and not fa’afafine/fa’atama. Relevance? Well:

I was born male.

I present masculine.

I identify as a man attracted to other men.

And I am happy with those identities,

But…I’ve never truly felt 100% “man”.

The term fa’afafine never sat right with me to describe my gender. And up until now, the closest term I could find was a palagi term ‘genderqueer’. But even that felt uncomfortable. So when this creature of cool brought fa’a’afa into my world, it actually felt right. I know it’s not a “traditional” cultural term and some people would argue that “You can’t just make up terms for identities” but frankly, I don’t care. Language changes all the time. There are so many examples of words being created to help us  understand the world: komipiuta, pusa aisa, telefoni, etc. So why can’t we extend our language growth to the identities that we feel too? I mean language is only there to help us communicate to others what we think, feel and see in the world. So when I want to talk about MY identity, I will use language that makes sense for ME.

SO, what does it mean to me? Fa’a’afa is the concept of half. My gender is not MAN or WOMAN or FA’AFAFINE. It’s somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I feel more manly, other times I feel more womanly. But either way, I’m always me and I’m happy sitting in that space in the middle. But it’s more than just my gender identity. It reflects my Samoan-ness that is often invisible to people I meet but is so important to me as a person. I feel like it helps me to understand who I am better. I’m half palagi/half Samoan; half male/half female; half academic/half artist; half teacher/half student. Fa’a’afa reminds me that every part of me is part of a massive and complex whole. Anyone that doesn’t like it or disagrees with me, fine, but GEET!



Bitch! Why You Mad? Cause My Pussy Pops Severely, And Yours Don’t?

By Jonathan Selu

The FAFSWAG Pre-Ball was definitely fierce. But if you’ve ever been to the FAFSWAG Ball, you knew it was going to be. What caught me off-guard was WHERE the Pre-Ball was. Watching stunning individuals werk that runway and proudly serve realness with every step and shade with every drop is the reason for going to a vogue ball. So I want you to think about what vogue’s all about.

You thinking?

You got an answer?

You done?

OK I’m bored, you can stop now…I’m just gonna tell you. The obvious answer is that vogue is a dance style that was made in the ballrooms of Harlem. But voguing is more than just some dance style. In the words of the immaculate Jaycee “It’s all about expressing who you are because that’s what vogue is.”

And that’s it. Vogue is about being you and telling your story and saying what you gotta say. Having the guts to walk the runway is actually a massive thing. A walker is literally serving up a big fat platter of ‘ME’. Now, keep that in mind and keep reading.

I am a proud tama Samoa. My culture means the world to me because it has shaped and formed who I am today, just as culture does for anyone. I am Hamo hard. BUT I’m also a gay man, and with that comes its own culture. In my daily life, I live both these identities. The sad thing is, most people don’t see me as a gay Samoan. They see me as gay and Samoan, as if these identities are exclusive and unrelated. In my life, I’ve had to try and find how I can be a gay Samoan man and it’s still a journey I’m on. So when I walked into FAFSWAG Pre-Ball and realised that the Maota Samoa was literally a traditional style fale Samoa, I got the shock of my life. Immediately I felt like two of my worlds had come crashing together and although I was excited to be at the event, I also felt a little weird being in a place that matai use for fono.

But what are fono for? Well, really, they are a space for talanoa; whether that’s telling stories, presenting opportunities, or discussing issues. Hold up. Isn’t that exactly what our voguers were doing? Were they not telling their stories, highlighting issues that  the outside world don’t even know exist, and taking the opportunity to be totally themselves?

Answer: yes. Yes to all of that.

I had a realisation that the Pre-Ball wasn’t just some Poly event for young queer and trans* people. The Pre-Ball was a space for our Poly Rainbows to share their voice with the world, and be heard by a captive audience. Better than that, they were supported, encouraged and celebrated for having the balls to stand up there in front of the world and say “Fuck you, this is who I am. TRY and come for me, world!” So I started thinking Yass! Where else would you hold an event like this? Let’s take back our cultural spaces and tell the world, and our communities, just how much we matter. That we don’t have to be Poly and Rainbow but actually we can be Poly Rainbows, thank you! The voices of our young people need to be heard and we need spaces for those voices to be expressed however they want to express it, and still be heard and validated.

As if this wasn’t enough, I started to think about the po siva in Samoa before European contact. It was a celebration of sexuality and the beauty of the body. It was a space to dance and express yourself. It was what I was watching happen right in front of me as the DJ hit it with “Bitch! Why you mad? Cause my pussy pops severely. And yours don’t?”. And where did these happen? Oh that’s right, in a fale.bI think it’s pretty obvious what I’m saying here…

So, as the night closed, I felt like although I didn’t walk, I actually had the chance to witness greatness. The first time that I’d seen young Rainbow Polys serving up realness back to the communities that mock them and make them feel lesser than human. This is us. This is who we are. And we are entitled to our culture just as much as the straight and cis-gender members of our communities.  And that gives me life.




By Jonathan Selu

Light skinned. Bearded. Educated. BOOM! That’s a white man, right there! Maybe an arab. But a Samoan? Nah he’s not Samoan.

I am Samoan. I may be afakasi, but it’s still my dominant culture. I speak our language (not as well as I would like to but I use it as much as I can, wherever I can.) I try to live according to Fa’aSamoa. I give service as much as I can. And I can’t wait until the day that my father gives his permission for me to be marked with a soga’imiti. These are things I hold dear to me. These are things I feel are the most important. But, unlike most young Samoan men, I have to prove that I’m even worthy to think like this. I have to prove my Samoan-ness.

Samoans treat me as if I’m somehow exempt from our rules, our responsibilities. Silently, I’m told that I live a life of privilege and therefore I don’t deserve to live the struggle that my people do. Like I have a choice. Like I’m allowed to back away from the struggle just because I’m not brown-skinned or go to church or some other bullshit that “defines” a Samoan. My parents have worked in factories all their lives and have gone without so that my sisters and I could eat and go to school. I grew up with the same speech from my Dad that every other first-generation Samoan heard about coming here so that I could have a better education, a better life. I have worked hard to honour the sacrifices that my parents made for me. And I cherish every little victory that I have in my life as a testiment to the values that my ‘aiga instiled in me. Why? Because without them, I do not exist. Everything I do, I do for my family. #FaaSamoa #ThatsTheRealStruggle #NooneComesFromNowhere

You would think that this place as a ‘second-rate citizen’ wouldn’t be echoed in palagi spaces. WRONG! So I’m at a bar talking to this palagi guy and having a beer. He’s kinda cute and it’s all good, until I say “I’m Samoan.” #HereComeTheStereotypes “Oh really? I would never have guessed! You don’t look like a Samoan! I have a Samoan friend/colleague/neighbour! Do you know them? Yeah because all Samoans look the same and know each other! But wait, it gets better. “What’s the Samoan way of doing this?” “How do I say this word?” “I don’t get why Samoans have to give so much of their money to church and random relatives!?” “Can you explain this concept?” “You must like Hip Hop.” “So you guys, like, wear skirts aye?” “What’s your life like in your village?” “Can you sing like them? It’s always so divine.” God damn! You thought I was white until that point, now it’s ok to treat me like some kind of wikipedia page about Samoa? I’m trying to have a beer at a pub and maybe go home with a guy, not give a lecture on the intricacies of my culture.

Now, most Samoans have had some experience with being turned into a social experiment by non-Samoans; sometimes it’s ok, sometimes not. Here and now, not the best choice. But why does it almost feel like you’re trying to test me to catch me out as if I’m lying about being Samoan just to get into your pants by playing the exotic ethnicity card? Why do I have to prove to you that I’m worthy to call myself Samoan. And why do you have to turn me into a potential tick on your bucket lists of exotic sexual conquests? Fuck off mate. I’m worth a hell of a lot more than that, and I will not let you turn my culture into an interesting little side note. #BitchPlease #WhoDoYouThinkYouAre #TakeALLOfMeForWhatIAM #IgnoranceAintBliss

With that, I just want to say I’m sick of having to walk between to worlds where I’m not good enough in either. Stop fucking treating me like a commodity that can be used and abused. Stop treating me like I have a cultural disease. Stop making me an outcaste just because I’m half caste. Start getting to know me for all that I am instead of making prejudiced judgements based on outdated and fucked up notions of ‘REAL Samoan’ identities. Welcome to 21st Century multiculturalism!
#RantOver #DropTheMic #ImDone


One thought on “PACIFIC ARTS // JONO

  1. Feel you on the issues you have raised Jono. Poignant and present, poly-preturbance in the pastiche pasifik :(. Damn colonisation to hell.

    I’m nearly 40 bro, five months to go…

    No show life – no show for brown people who have hearts in white gay worlds. I abandoned gaytown; left it in my rotted youth which was worn away by drugs depresssion, alcohol and assholes who said they cared but really only wanted to invade my ass.

    It’s hard to trust being in the middle of all the shit, but actually, being able to stand ground in the middle of so many intersecting oppressions enables a person with mana; a unique form of mana where people in the middle are able to navigate new pathways for everyone else. Our culture-lives in many ways are just mirrors of the lies that the West had won.

    But things do change. Your experiences and feelings of loneliness, conflicted cultural conundrums and hash tags give you the ability to traverse trajectories of your own making. Straight people have the luxury of norms, which are ultimately unthinking.

    Things change and I can attest.

    At nearly 40, after more than a decade believing that I would just have to grin and bear being bored of single sex in saunas, cruise-spaces and my numb hands; in the middle of the Moana in Hawaii, aroha has been beckoning. Handsome, confident, gentle and grounded aroha…just for me. Some days I don’t want to trust it because I am so scarred, and scared too. But Atua have funny ways of making us make reality real.

    Things change, have faith.

    I smile, cos one day I might actually be a mum and a dad :).

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