Breaking down stereotypes, one Pacific story at a time

Breaking down stereotypes, one Pacific story at a time

Photo credit: Alana Holmberg / World Bank

Through an infusion of Pacific culture and traditional storytelling, founder of the website Talanoa, Arieta Tora Rika has been breaking down stereotypes in the mainstream media and sharing unheard stories of people from Pacific nations.

In a number of Pacific languages, Talanoa means to tell a story or have a conversation, either formally or informally.

It is also Arieta’s middle name.

So, the website’s title seemed to be a natural choice for Arieta, who appears to have been destined to be a storyteller since day one.

Without any formal qualifications in communications, Arieta took it upon herself to follow her passion of writing and begin the Talanoa blog.

Since the beginning, her mission has been to address the common stereotypes of Pacific people in the media, both negative and positive, by sharing stories from people whose voices need to be heard.

Typically, these stereotypes were of an athlete such as a rugby player, a musician from the Voice, or even someone who is in a bikie gang, a criminal or a security guard,” Arieta said. 

“It not to say some of those stereotypes are untrue, but I felt there are so many gaps and so many stories the media was not telling about Pacific Islanders.”

Of particular significance to Arieta is the Our Home, Our People series, which explored and shared the stories of people in the small communities of the Pacific that are facing extreme weather and are heavily impacted by climate change.

“They are facing rising sea levels so they are experiencing tidal waves that are coming and taking away tents they were living in, as well as their rebuilding efforts,” she said. 

They don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them, but they just want people to know that this is happening in their community and they have hope that if people on the other side of the world knows what is happening to them, then they will change their behaviours influencing the climate.

It’s just an innocent and pure perspective of how they view the world and it was a real honour to share their stories.”

Alongside the series, Arieta and a team created a virtual reality movie that was presented at the COP23 Climate Change Conference in Germany last year, and it has since been viewed by thousands of people around the world.

Arieta also said her Fijian and Tongan cultural backgrounds play an important role in how she tells these stories, ensuring she maintains a human connection on Talanoa while also showcasing the ideals of the Pacific people.

“What is beautiful about being a Pacific Islander are these themes of love, belonging, family, and the humility and respect that is just so ingrained in our way of being,” she explains. 

It’s a real source of pride, but also something that keeps me humble and it’s a foundation and springboard for me to go off what’s already been done before.”

Check out the stories on Talanoa and learn more about the people of the Pacific from around the world by clicking HERE.

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: editor@culturalpulse.com.au