Richard Pamatatau was born in Auckland’s North Shore into a family of Cook Island, Niuean, German and English descent.
When it comes to identifying his ethnicity, Richard finds it difficult.
“I am someone from a family that comes from Ma’uke which is a small island in the Cooks, but I also have family from Britain and Germany and Niue.
“Ethnicity isn’t a single thing for me. It’s a series of things that make one a hybrid person because there is no singular way of behaving. It is too easy to box people into a particular box as a Pacific person. I prefer much more fluidity than that.”
This is a theme of Richard’s continuing research as he is interested in how various population groups are portrayed in the media.
“For example, if something happens to a Samoan or Tongan family, the media narrative that sits around that is ‘something bad has happened, let’s talk to the community and church leaders responsible.’ Whereas I’ve never heard that narrative applied to a company’s finance director."
“I’m interested in how the media herd people in boxes and put them away for the convenience and for the consumption of the media-consuming public. It fascinates me.”
Richard is also fascinated by magazine covers. He rarely sees someone from the Cook Islands, or Niue, or Tonga on the cover of magazines, and says he is interested in the narratives that are set up around certain groups of people.
Richard is writing a presentation looking at the popular culture novels and films, The Twilight Series. He has analysed the narrative between particular population groups, or simply, Team Jacob versus Team Edward.
“Edward and most of the vampires are white and beautiful with big houses and flash cars who live a life of luxury and comfort. But when we look at Jacob – he’s a werewolf, he’s a shirtless native, hot-blooded with abs, but he’s in that position of ‘not as good as’, so his clothes are torn, he lives in a broken house - and so the narrative goes…”
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