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Island Roots, Auckland Ways 23.08.23

Launched by NZME's Flava radio station, Island Roots Auckland Ways is the fresh new podcast with a pasifika focus. Featuring two rising stars, Mariner Fagaiava & Allyssa Verner-Pula, the dynamic duo explore and celebrate all the issues and obstacles that affect the Pacific youth of Aotearoa.

"We... would focus on joy; amplifying the things, experiences and parts of our communities that bring us joy. Enter Island Roots Auckland Ways - or IRAW, as she’s otherwise known. Named after a David Dallas lyric, IRAW is intent on peeling back the layers of what it means to be Pasifika and from South Auckland."

My name is Allyssa Verner-Pula. I am a proud young Samoan woman from the paradise that is Manurewa in South Auckland (267, life’s hard but Rewa’s harder). I hail from the villages of Lepea, Saluafata, Lotofaga and Faleapuna. I work across different research, creative and community spaces. I co-host the “Island Roots Auckland Ways” podcast with one of my best friends, Mariner Fagaiava. Mariner - or Maz, as he is known to most people - is Samoan/Tongan, from Māngere East (275 babyyy!), and the host of the Flava Drive show.

Mariner and I became friends in a summer school classroom in 2017/2018. We instantly clicked, bonding over a shared love of Fifth Harmony (RIP) and our pride for being Pasifika and from South Auckland. All things that have remained consistent within our friendship over the past five years. We’ve been through a lot together, and like every other set of besties out there, we have asked each other that fated question: should we start a podcast?

Fast forward to April 2022. Mariner and I decided on a phone call late at night that, yes, we actually were going to start a podcast. At the time, we were both working in spaces that focused on the pain of our Pasifika communities. Mariner working in the media space, while I was working in the academic and research space. In our respective mahi, we felt we were being faced with constant deficit framings of our Pacific communities. We felt tired and burnt out, shouldering serious mamae.

When conceptualising the podcast, we decided it could not reflect this pain. Instead, it would focus on joy; amplifying the things, experiences and parts of our communities that bring us joy. Enter “Island Roots Auckland Ways” - or IRAW, as she’s otherwise known. Named after a David Dallas lyric, IRAW is intent on peeling back the layers of what it means to be Pasifika and from South Auckland.

I feel as though, currently, Pasifika people from South Auckland are painted in extremes: extremely high performing and high achieving, or extremely inferior and troublesome. This podcast wants to sit in the middle, focusing on the quotidian and what coming of age looks like to Pasifika youth today. We touch on the things that Pasifika youth are actually going through: identity struggles and affirmations, financial wins and losses, dating successes and problems… We know we cannot represent all the experiences of Pasifika people in Auckland, or Aotearoa. However, we hope to be a snapshot into this experience. We also hope that this podcast can be a living archive. That, in a few decades, future generations will listen to this and think, “geez, that’s what aunty and uncle were going through back then.”

OG IRAW girlies will know that this isn’t our first rodeo. Mariner and I produced a first season back in July 2022. It was very DIY vibes, recording on chilly Saturday mornings in my bedroom. We’d have to ask my mum to not watch TV for a few hours so it could be perfectly quiet while we recorded 2 episodes at a time. To be frank, it was pretty daggy and the episodes were shit quality. But what we lacked in production value, we made up for in passion. We loved creating the podcast and we felt we had something important to share.

In August 2023, IRAW was reborn on the iHeartRadio Flava Podcast Network. I use ‘reborn’ in a very real sense. In a lot of ways, this feels like the more grown up, experienced and better-looking big sister of the podcast we initially produced. While we may have created something special with the first season, this relaunch feels like our vision fully realised. We’re able to talk to the people we’ve always wanted to (think people like, Joe Daymond! Courtney Dawson! Azura Lane! Sammy Salsa!) and rework the parts of the pod that made it so magic in the first place. We are still very much processing what this relaunch means to us, but we are so grateful for the platform.

It goes without saying that we feel incredibly lucky to be in this space. We are acutely aware that on any given day, on any given podcast platform, the top spots on podcast charts will be filled with Pākehā men. IRAW, by definition and design, offers something completely different to the podcast and media landscape. We feel a strong responsibility to our communities and ourselves to show the joy, nuance and complexity that exists within our communities. “Island Roots Auckland Ways” is our love letter to the hood we represent, the communities we are proud to be from, and city that has made us. New episodes every Tuesday on iHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts.

Written by Allyssa Verner-Pula

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