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Regional Art Stories Lia Pa'apa'a

in conversation with Cristian Tablazon for Regional Assembly

"I think a big part of my practice, and just my life, really, has been about that reimagining and that permission to be a cultural person who's not living on my lands and who doesn't have their language, that permission to be strong in who I am and what I do, and to think of myself as a future ancestor. That was a very good lesson for me to go—I have the right to do that. And as a parent I have to do it, I actually have to do it, and so that creative and cultural licence to reimagine what cultural practice looks like for me—so it's not romanticizing ancestral work and ancestral practice and putting myself firmly on that lineage—that I can be part of that, and produce resources and outcomes and processes that work for me and my family.

The other thing about this first-thousand-days practice is that—and I tell these mums and these non-indigenous mums: this is about allyship, this is about these little babies: that they understand where they are and whose land it is, and that they walk with respect. They don't have this colonial history yet that they understand, but what we want them to know is where and who they are and who their own ancestors are. Connect to your own mobs, because you actually have one. I guess I am directly addressing that exact thing that you're talking about but I'm doing it with mobiles and quilts and tummy-time activities and lullabies, because that's where I can best spend my energy now. It's in the everyday.

As far as a practitioner, I always talk about the legacy of what we're leaving in our communities. As a visitor into a community in our work, what are we leaving behind and how can you leave a place better than when you got there? So for me, that's been through personal relationships and capacity building. To feel nourished and supported. These thousand days and the critical nature of this time for both the child and the parent—that I know by feeding them every week a healthy, nutritious meal that might be the only home-cooked meal they get that they haven't cooked themselves—and look what that does for your spirit and for everything.

I'm really banking on my legacy being something that maybe is never felt and that is very gentle and very subtle in a way, but that can kind of break some of those cycles of trauma and break some of those cycles of isolation and scarcity that people have during this particular time so that they can be well and their families can be well."

Lia Pa'apa'a

Lia photo 2