In Mother of Pearl Karlo Mila develops the idea of contemporary female Pacific Islanders’ experience in New Zealand. She does this by addressing aspects of life in New Zealand that are important to these women. These aspects are the tension of attaining success whilst retaining tradition, the respect for the elders, the important lessons these elders teach, and the importance of Pacific Islander friends in retaining contact with their culture and heritage.
The idea of contemporary female Pacific Islander’s succeeding in their studies and careers whilst retaining their Pacific identity. These women are shown as succeeding in universities whilst retaining their identity. Mila develops this idea by using symbolism of the flower. Mila says this “flowers in their hair.” The flowers represent the women’s connection to their culture in the Western society. In the Pacific Islands a single flower behind the right ear suggests that the lady is still single. Is the flower behind the left ear, suitors beware - a jealous husband or boyfriend may appear. The bold tiger lily, spirited moso’oi, elegant orchid and delicious hibiscus are often the blossoms of choice, but you’ll also find frangipani flowers or the small but heavenly scented tuberose. Degrees up their sleeves convey the idea of the contemporary female pacific islanders expecting them to gain education result in highly paid typically corporate jobs. Mila successfully conveys the important of being a success contemporary female pacific islander.
Another important part of contemporary New Zealand Pacific Islander experience is their respect for elders. The respect that held for these women as defenders of pacific culture is shown through the use of rhetorical questions. Can you walk a mile in their jandals? Can you….build those bridges? The use of rhetorical questioning acts as a contrast high-heeled modern society. These rhetorical questions act as a challenge to the reader. These questions cause the reader to reflect on their own life in modern society and compare their strengths to these mother of pearl women. They act to remind the reader of the importance of elders and traditional in contemporary society. Mila successfully conveys the importance role elders play in he lives of contemporary female pacific islanders.
Mila goes on to discuss how the lessons received from the elders in another important aspect in their experience in New Zealand’s society. We see what the mother of pearl women have to teach the contemporary female pacific islander. These women impart the knowledge that the most precious part of the female is within her, is shown through the use a simile and metaphor. Mila develops this idea by using a simile in the line “they teach you to politic like dancers.” These mother of pearl shows how to navigate one’s self to a desired situation for example high paying job. Mila also uses a metaphor in the line “our ietoga are our family.” Ietogas are finely woven mats in Samoa. Ietoga is one of the main value within a Samoan family. Our siapo/tapa cloth reveals the wealth of our culture, each symbol and sign representing so much more than mere geometrical shapes. They also represent our history, our stories and our experiences throughout the generations. By using metaphor and simile, Mila effectively develops the that important of lessons received from our elders and that contemporary female Pacific Islander should carried and keep it safe.
Last but not least the important part of contemporary New Zealand Pacific Islander experience is the important of friendship. The important of friendship that held for these women help them to maintain contact with heritage and identity. Mila develops the idea by using a metaphor in the line “our women friends are flowers.” These flowers are noted by Pacific Islanders for their visual beauty and aromatic qualities. The women are further enhanced by the use of this metaphor which appeals to pacific and non-pacific readers alike. Mila successfully conveys the importance of friendship and now they help to maintain the Pacific culture.
The importance of the attainment of success, while retaining contact with tradition and culture is developed in the first stanza using symbolism and simile. This stanza starts with the popular image of the contemporary female Pacific Islander. She is successful in Tertiary education, with “degrees up their sleeves”, and often has a well-paying job “black pearl girls in business suits.” However, these women still maintain contact with their culture and traditions. Mila develops this idea by using symbolism in the line “flowers in their hair.” These flowers can be seen to represent the successful women’s contact with their culture, while also succeeding in changing 21st century New Zealand society. Mila also uses a simile in the line “expectations high as heels.” These women traditionally have high expectations placed on them by their parents and relatives to achieve. This simile effectively connects the high expectation of the young women’s relatives to the high heels worn in their high paying, often urban careers. By using symbolism and simile, Mila effectively develops the tension between tradition and change faced by contemporary female Pacific Islanders as they adapt to New Zealand society and succeed in both education and their professions.