How Tagata Pasifika’s Marama T-Pole stays connected to her culture


Marama T-Pole is a presenter and reporter in a news and current affairs program Tagata Pasifika (TVNZ 1, Saturday). She was born in Dunedin to a Pākehā mother and a Tuvaluan father. She has four children and lives in Auckland.

How long have you been with Tagata Pasifika?

At least 15 years old. It was one of my first jobs in the television industry. I was on the radio before that. As for learning television, I really learned on the job. I grew up with it too. I started watching it when I was about 10 years old. A lot of our Pacific community – because it really is one of the longest running New Zealand shows – remembers always seeing Tagata Pasifika and grow with it. It’s 35 years this year so it’s really part of our community. In terms of just go and Country calendarit’s up there with one of the oldest programs.

Marama T-Pole with his Tagata Pasifika co-host John Pulu.


Marama T-Pole with his Tagata Pasifika co-host John Pulu.

Thirty-five years is a long time.

He is. Many people, when it was screened on a Sunday, would put it on when they were getting ready to go to church. It was really part of the routine of life.

Besides being part of Tagata Pasifika, how do you stay connected to your culture?

So I didn’t grow up with Tuvaluan first cousins. I had no first cousins ​​or Tuvaluan relatives in Dunedin. But then when I came to Auckland for work, I really got involved in the community that was just starting to grow here. My father was a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He started a Tuvaluan church here in Auckland and said, “You’ll be superintendent of Sunday school.” I was like, ‘Okay’. I was not fluent in the language and at this point many older mothers and grandmothers did not speak English very well. I was immersed in the deep end but it was an incredible experience because I was able to learn the language by leading Sunday school there. We organized events and celebrations in the church, then in the community which I attended. I really throw myself into it because I really want to soak it up. I didn’t grow up around it and just want to see, taste and experience it all. I remember coming to one of our first celebrations in Auckland when I moved here and I couldn’t dance well. My mother obviously couldn’t teach me that side. I was so rigid and robotic. But I get involved and try to learn dance every year. I’m a little better and I love it.

* A woman who has given time to the Pasifika community has ‘humbled’ herself to receive the honor
* The dance community supports the Amato family of Timaru
* Breakfast host Indira Stewart uses her voice to speak for those who cannot

When you and your co-anchor John Pulu are sitting on the couch at studio Tagata Pasifika, you always wear brightly colored clothes. Can you tell us a bit about your clothes and why you wear them?

I just feel like it’s the only New Zealand TV show where people can see each other, where our families and our culture are represented there, front and center. I feel like it’s an amazing opportunity to share our culture. A lot of times I think people watch it and see each other because we like to wear our shiny elei, you know it’s the island prints, and I just don’t see them depicted anywhere else on New Zealand TV. So I just want to bring it and share it, not just with our community, but with New Zealand at large. I think for me, when I see bright colors, it makes me happy.

John Pulu and Marama T-Pole in the Tagata Pasifika television studio.


John Pulu and Marama T-Pole in the Tagata Pasifika television studio.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My mother tells me that when I was five years old, I looked at her and said, “I want to do this job one day”. And he was a TV newsreader. My mother told me later that it was actually Marama Martin. I thought that was really interesting because she’s a Polynesian woman, an indigenous woman who does presentations on television. I have always liked being in contact with people. I think that’s part of it too – telling our stories. I also wanted to work as a journalist. So it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Dunedin and grew up there until high school. My dad’s first parish he had as a minister was at St Andrews in South Canterbury so we came there and I went to Timaru Girls High School. So I lived in South Canterbury for a few years before studying in Christchurch. So it was a true South Island experience.

Tagata Pasifika, Saturday, TVNZ 1, 9:30 a.m.


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