For the Niuean community in Wellington, the three Mitikulena siblings who are all doctors, have been serving their community since they graduated from medical school.
But in terms of utilising their Niuean language, Dr Alvin, Dr Adrienne and Dr Allen, have showcased their culture by singing original songs in Niuean as a musical trio.
“Music is a really important way for our young people to be exposed to the language. It helps them to practice the pronunciation and it’s a good way for them to retain the words,” says Dr Alvin, who is the eldest sibling.
Dr Alvin and his younger brother, Dr Allen, and younger sister, Dr Adrianne, grew up in Niue in the village of Alofi. They moved to New Zealand in 1989 and became doctors, following in the footsteps of their parents. Their father, Dr Arbutus Mitikulena, was also a doctor and their Samoan mother, Meretaumoe, was a nurse.
The family started their own medical practice in Wellington, the Kilbirnie Medical Centre, now called the Eastern Bays Medical Centre, which mainly services the Pacific community.
Growing up in Niue, the siblings would sing together at church and in the community.
Dr Alvin is an advocate of the Niuean language and says that him and his siblings promote their language through song, especially during this week as the country celebrates Niuean Language Week.
“It’s an engaging language. As soon as you utter Niuean words, you make a connection with other Niuean’s.”
Dr Alvin says the language is at risk and encourages fellow Niuean’s to speak at home and in the community, regardless of your level of competency in the language.
“We are receptive when anyone speaks our language because there are very few speakers of Niuean. Our community will embrace anyone who tries and will give it a go. It opens doors for the people who want to learn their culture and gives them an appreciation of our customs and heritage.”
Dr Alvin’s favourite Niuean proverb is “Tao e umu haau ke moho” which means “Bake your oven until all the food is cooked.”
“It is my favourite proverb because my dad would say it to encourage my siblings and I, particularly during our studies, to always do our best and work hard to complete what we set out to do.”
Date: Tuesday 20 October 2020