Kuranui pupil Nina Gelashvili quoted a Samoan proverb in her race unity speech. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

ELI HILL
Eli.hill@age.co.nz

A proverb about a snake has earned one of two Wairarapa college pupils spots in the semi-finals of the Race Unity Speech Awards.

Kuranui College pupil Nina Gelashvili and Rathkeale College’s Parekura Pepere topped the Wellington Regional Championships last Saturday, being selected ahead of eight other pupils from around the region after giving the top two speeches on the night.

The pair will head to Auckland to compete in the national semi-finals on May 10 and 11.

To get through, the pupils had to impress judges with a seven to eight-minute speech about racism in New Zealand.

As part of their speeches, they also had to answer at least two questions to do with racism and quote a proverb from their faith or culture.

Gelashvili is Samoan and quoted a favourite proverb in the language ‘Na o le gata e fasia, ae pupula one mata’ which translates to: ‘Only the snake will look at its killer’.

“I talked about our society. Will we be the snake who looks at racism and takes a stand and fights back, or will we be the snake which slithers under a rock?

“We need to stop talking about it and discussing it. We already know what to do, so why aren’t we doing it?”

Gelashvili’s views on modern racism, and how society hides it from sight impressed her fellow speakers and the judging panel.

The year 12 puil also spoke on the Christchurch shooting, saying that it should not take 50 lives for people to realise that racism still lives.

“It’s been going on for so long and people need to come together and actually do something about it, because if we don’t, we’re heading in the wrong direction.

“We’re just going to keep repeating history and it won’t be very good for the upcoming generations.”

Gelashvili and Pepere will compete in the national finals in Auckland on May 10-11, where a regional and national winner will be decided.

National organising team spokesman Aidan MacLeod said this year’s competition had taken on a special significance after the terrorist attack in Christchurch.

“We knew before that racial and religious prejudice can lead to hate and tragic violence, and that the work of promoting unity is serious and vital. But never before has it seemed so urgent.

“The efforts of these two students are really impressive, if you look at the size of Wairarapa against the Wellington region, it’s really done well.”