My interest and affinity with the Asia Pacific region began when I first set foot on the island of Tahiti in early childhood. Though I was born in England, I didn’t quite come alive until I stepped foot on the Fenua (homeland). In the eyes of a child my life began when I walked into the fragrant, humid air and warm embrace of my Tahitian family.
My Tahitian neighborhood was multicultural and multilingual. My family members spoke French, English, and Tahitian. Neighbors also spoke Hakka Chinese, Paumotu (the language of the Tuamotu Archipelago), and other Polynesian languages.
Around the corner was Lou Fong, a leading Chinese market, restaurant, and banquet hall hosting feasts and festivities for the local Chinese-Tahitian population. Sounds of celebrations drifted into our street late at night, replaced by the familiar polyrhythms of Tahitian drumming in the early mornings, as local troupes rehearsed. Life in Tahiti then was life in full color, all senses nourished in tropical gardens filled with flowers and fruit trees.
I sorely missed the vibrant island culture when I moved to the United States. This led me to focus on Tahitian performance traditions for my master’s degree. I also studied Asia/Pacific cultural traditions in the ethnomusicology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At the time of my doctoral studies in the program, the primary scholars had expertise in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Tahitian and Indian performance traditions.
I continue to be profoundly influenced by Pacific Island and Asian cultures. The study of their arts, societies, history, languages, philosophy and spiritual traditions will always be part of my journey.