27 Dec 2018

Navigator becomes first Ed Hillary fellow from the Pacific

10:43 am on 27 December 2018

The designer of a model that reinterprets celestial navigation and ocean voyaging says she hopes it can be used in development projects across the Pacific.

Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna'i

Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna'i Photo: Faanati Mamea

Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna'i is the first Pacific person to become a fellow of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, a group of international entrepreneurs and investors brought together to find solutions for global problems.

Faumuina said she wanted to dispell cultural misunderstanding with her model.

"I've been looking at process, taking these disciplines and putting it together," she said.

"I did this because I felt like the ways I saw design being made was so militaristic and I just couldn't fit in these spaces and boxes."

Faumuina is from the Samoan villages of Fasito'o-tai, Mulifanua, Salelologa and Asaga, and said her parents had played an important role in her journey.

"On the day of my chief ceremony, my father, Mauu Lopeti, told me: 'I do not worry about other people's efforts, I do what I can with my hands and my time.' My late mother, Nivaga Mau'u, told our family: 'Soften your heart'," she said.

"They raised me to be hard working, focussed on goals and to think about others from their situation.

"I also spent many years with Women in Business Development in Samoa and learned so much about project design and what actually happens when you deliver the projects."

Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, Faumuina helps design and deliver projects in the Pacific Islands.

She said she had high hopes that aid agencies and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would use wayfinding as a design tool for development programmes.

"I also hope families in the Pacific Islands will be empowered through using wayfinding to create a vision for a positive future within their communities. For me, this knowledge comes from our Pacific ancestors so it's only right that Pacific peoples benefit from the model - not just as receivers but as users.

"I am mindful of how I am a guardian of this knowledge and so those who use it should know and acknowledge its roots. I feel as though I am a daughter of the Pacific Ocean and because of that I have a duty to care for environment and people here," Faumuina said.

Mentored by navigator Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, leader of Te Toki Voyaging Trust, Faumuina has been using her model with multi-country programmes focused on organic agriculture, on digital platforms for UN programmes on climate change and economic empowerment, with Maori organisations that have social and commercial arms, and small family businesses in New Zealand.