Reimagining Pacific Futures Youth Art Competition 2020

The Reimagining Pacific Futures (RPF) is a climate action initiative organised byte youth-led organization the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC). The RPF is part of PISFCC’s youth to participate in climate activism and in its decision making process through their art.

The RPF aims bring children and youth voices to the 51st Pacific Island Forum in Port Vila, Vanuatu to share their views with PIF-Leaders, civil society organizations and the general public. Also, the PISFCC will use their work to prepare interesting, attractive, fun and original communication material such as posters, flyers, banners, webpages, social media pages and many others to amplify their talents, ideas and contributions in the fight against climate change to the world.


To this end the RPF will host the Pacific Arts Virtual Exhibition in 2020. This exhibition will be a result of The Reimagining Pacific Futures – Youth Art Competition that you can be a part of. If you are interested in painting, drawing, poetry, photography, videography, or any other form of art, you could be well on your way to winning one of our amazing prizes.

The theme of the Art competition is: Climate Change and Human Rights

Artists will be required to make an artwork that speaks to this theme and resembles it best. Climate change is undoubtedly the number one challenge of our generation because of the numerous risks that come with a lack of climate action. Most importantly, climate change is having an impact on our human rights. This competition aims to empower children and youth, as well as in the long-term as human rights defenders. Now more than ever, this link between climate change and human rights is evident and it is important for all children and youth to know this and take stand for their rights.


You can participate if you are:

  • Between the ages of 5-29 and;

  • A citizen of any of the Pacific Islands Forum Member states: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

  • Deadline for submission: is 17th July 2020 

    The winners will be announced on this website on the 27th of July 2020. 

For more information please visit the competition’s Website.


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New e-Book from Samoan Author

Radio New Zealand recently posted an article written by Sale Jane Hopgood about a new fiction e-book that addresses the challenges of being a teine Sāmoa, or Samoan girl, has been launched this week to mark New Zealand’s Samoan Language Week.

Wellington-based writer Dahlia Malaeulu wrote the e-book Teine Sāmoa targeting students from intermediate school and up, a book where young Samoan students to an elder can see themselves through the virtual pages.

But Mrs Malaeulu said that although the title of the book mentioned a Samoan girl, it was not necessarily just for females. “You’ll find that a lot of the themes throughout it actually applies to tama Sāmoa [Samoan boy] or other Pacific ethnic groups,” she said.


Last year Mrs Malaeulu published an article on E-Tangata about her journey navigating the world as a Samoan and she said the response she got from the community was inspiring and overwhelming. She said she had hundreds of messages and people sending her emails saying, ‘me too’.”

Mrs Malawulua also said, “Among those responses were people sharing their stories such as being an ‘afakasi [Samoan-mixed heritage], having a parent who says there’s no point in learning your language because we live in New Zealand. We had some people say that they need to be Samoan at home and at church, but outside of that you have to speak and act Palangi.”

“I even had a 50-year-old tell me how she related to my story. She said her whole life she didn’t know the language and has been called plastic,” she said.

When alert level four lockdown was announced in New Zealand, Mrs Malaeulu decided she was going to write individual character stories from the responses she received from her article. “After completing each character story, I realised that these could be chapters and when I put them altogether, I had a book, which is what we have today called Teine Sāmoa.”

“Due to Covid-19, distribution centers and publishers are not working like they used to, so that’s why I decided to turn the book into an e-book. “One of my main goals with being an author is access, so I wanted to keep creating reading resources so that our people can see themselves in it,” she said.

Last year, Mrs Malaeulu released the first three of twelve books in the ‘Mila’s My Gagana’ series on Samoan Language Week and this year the timing worked out nicely for her e-book. “What I love about Samoan Language Week is it’s the one time of the year that nationally our Samoan community unite and is proud to be whoever you are at whatever level you are, so it was important for this book to be out on this week.”

Mrs Malaeulu said ultimately the book is about cultural understand and cultural confidence. “I wrote this book literally from the reflection I had after I posted that article, from all the experiences I had as an educator, the conversations I’ve had with numerous Pasifika students over the years. And now you can read those stories through the characters of Lani, Vai, Masina and Teuila,” she said.

The e-book is available now on Amazon.

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Promoting the Rotuman Language

Okay. I’m going to share one more fascinating story about the Rotuman language. It was quite exciting when the language had its own special week in New Zealand a couple of weeks ago. Journalist, Christine Rovoi (who is Rotuman), wrote another article for Radio New Zealand about how a call has gone out for the creation of a global network to promote Rotuman language and culture in this current Covid-19 pandemic environment.

The coronavirus pandemic failed to stop the inaugural Rotuman Language Week in New Zealand this year. Instead Covid-19 transformed how the islanders celebrated their language and culture last week.

Rotuman was the first of nine Pacific language weeks and the islanders took to the internet to celebrate the historic milestone. Rotumans around the world were leveraging tools like Zoom, Facebook, Youtube and WhatsApp to tune in to the events in Aotearoa.

It’s typically a community affair but the New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship Group (NZRG) and the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Group (ARFG) were forced to think virtual. An event that’s meant to bring the community together was observed apart. Programs including Rotuma Day celebrations on 13 May were quietly marked by islanders in their bubbles across the world.

Instead of sitting in a church, as the pastor prayed for the people and the weeklong event, Rotumans watched and listened through an app on their phones, computers and television monitors.

Language week celebrations in Aotearoa will be different this year. Thousands of Rotumans marked last week with thanksgiving services, language lessons and videos, arts, panel discussions, dances and youth-led initiatives. But Rotuman language advocates say the celebrations should not stop there.


A Rotuman village. Photo by

Global collaboration needed

Auckland-based Fesaitu Solomone believed more work needed to be done and the onus was now on Rotumans to ensure they continued to promote their language and culture. The Rotuman language tutor praised the organizers and communities in New Zealand for reaching out to Rotumans around the world during the weeklong event.

But Ms Solomone said the challenge now was for the islanders to take ownership and continue the momentum. She called for a global collaboration of Rotuman elders and linguists to ensure the spoken and written language was preserved.

“One of the things that need to be improved and one of the things I have emphasized to the Rotuman community is a need for a global committee that can look at the language because our language is so limited in terms of new terminology. “That’s the challenge now having new words in the technology space, in the medical space and those terms need to be translated.”

Rotuman usage limited

Fesaitu Solomone said normally Rotumans would gather with family and friends, share food and stories and leave. Ms Solomone said more could be done to promote the language as its usage was limited in New Zealand with most of the week-long programs actually run in English.

She said the translation of modern words such as computer, mobile phone and even fruits like grapes, kiwifruit needed to be translated correctly. “Rotumans use linguist Clerk Churchward’s orthography where he aligned the spoken and written language from the early Methodists and Catholics. But as we move away from Rotuma, there are things outside the island that we don’t have a word for,” she said.

“It’s a challenge because we haven’t formalised or created a new dictionary and we need to take ownership of our language.”

Ms Solomone said a global committee could be set up – the same way the committee was created to translate the Bible – to look at new terms and find consistency in teaching the language world-wide. She said if people had their own terminology, it would become difficult to teach the language because Rotumans were learning differently. She urged the elders and linguists to commit to teaching the language to their people.


Rotuman academic Wilfred Fimone agreed with Ms Solomone and said the difficulty with Churchward’s version for many Rotumans was the diacritics (the dots and dashes above and below the letters). Mr Fimone, who teaches at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, said this was due to a lack of education on the language as diacritics were vital because it made for easy second-language learning. “With Churchward’s system, he accommodates for both the early Methodists’ longform of writing with the Roman Catholics’ short form.”

And how about teaching a five-year-old to speak Rotuman let alone write the language?

“It’s a challenge.”

Mr Fimone said a study on Churchward’s version was needed to evaluate how children had acquired the Australian linguist’s writing system. He also said anyone who wanted to teach the language should undergo some form of training and upskilling so the curriculum used was universal. “Just as we have English teachers undergoing training to teach the language. The Rotuman language isn’t standardized and there are people using different varieties and as much as variation is good, it is important to have a standard that teachers can follow. Look at the word Faiakse’ea (thank you), it’s also spelt Faiaksia. We need to come to a consensus on which one should be taught.”

The Rotuman alphabet explained

During the weeklong language celebrations, the NZ Rotuman Fellowship Group shared the Maf Ne Puku or Rotuman Alphabet.

Nataniela Amato-Ali, who helped explain the alphabet, said the Rotuman language had five basic vowels which had the same pronunciations as other Pacific languages including Te Reo Maori: (A E I O U)

Mr Amato-Ali said there were also five variations to these vowels and there were slightly different ways of pronouncing the vowels, A, O and U.

“Faeag Rotuam Ta (The Rotuman Language Week) has 14 consonants which comprise of 13 letters and the glottal stop: P T F G H J K L M N R S V ( ‘ ) – glottal stop. “You will note the Rotuman Alphabet does not follow the order set out in the English Alphabet. This is attributed to the rhyme invented by Rotumans to learn their letters, i.e the Rotuman “ABC Song”.

Wilfred Fimone, of the USP, thanked the adversity of Rotumans in New Zealand in celebrating their language and culture during the Covid-19 pandemic. But Mr Fimone said it should not stop there. “We need to maintain the energy. Come next week, come next month we need to continue speaking to our children and creating resources so that Rotumans around the world can be able to use.”

Next in the series of New Zealand Pacific Languages Week is Samoan.

Vaiaso O Le Gagana Samoa kicks off on Sunday 24 May and runs until Saturday 30 May.



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The Unique Pacific Language of Rotuma

Noa’ia ‘e mauri!

Last week I promised that I would post the reason why Rotuman is an unique Pacific language. Journalist, Christine Rovoi, of Radio New Zealand wrote an interesting article about how the islanders celebrated their language and culture across Aotearoa New Zealand during Rotuman Language Week. Much of the focus had been centered on getting the message to the masses amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

To be able to reach the people, organizers launched – via the internet – a variety of activities and programs throughout the weeklong event including the world-wide Rotuma Day celebrations on 13 May.

But what is this unique language and how did it come to be? Many Rotumans, including yours truly, have struggled with its origins.

I’m Rotuman and I speak the language. But I found that Rotuman had some distinctive characteristics that made it difficult to associate with other Pacific islands.

Rotuman had also proved a mystery for many linguists and there were several reasons these language experts had found – one was geography. Located 646 kilometres north of Fiji’s capital Suva, Rotuma is an isolated island and researchers also found that it had no close relatives who could shed some light on its development.

Complicating things further, according to a group of international linguists and Rotuman language experts, was the evidence of at least two layers of Polynesian “loan words” they believed were from the Samoan and Tongan languages and which accounted for about 40 percent of the Rotuman vocabulary.

In his research, Australian linguist Andrew Pawley found that in recent years Rotuman had also borrowed heavily from the Fijian and English languages, especially in areas associated with modern culture. In 1979 when he was at the University of Auckland, Pawley wrote there was new evidence on Rotuman anthropology, archaeology and linguistics.


The use of metathesis

The Australian also believed another source of the confusion was that the “Rotuman language uses metathesis (the inversion of word-final vowels with immediately preceding consonants).

Pawley also found this produced a vowel system that included umlauting, vowel shortening and dipthongization. “The result is that an original system of five vowels has increased to ten,” wrote Pawley. “Metathesis has also increased the rate of change in Rotuman, adding to the problem of its classification.”

When Polynesian loan words were stripped away, Pawley found “convincing evidence linking Rotuman to western Fijian. (Pawley, 1979)

As a result of metathesis, another Australian linguist Niko Besnier found that most Rotuman words had two forms. For example, he said the word Hosa (flower) became Hoas in some contexts and Pija (rat) sometimes appeared as Piaj. According to Besnier, the incomplete forms of Rotuman words were “derived from the complete forms through a rule of metathesis inverting the order of the last vowel of the word and of the immediately preceding consonant.

Definite and indefinite expressions

Grammatically, Niko Besnier found that the complete form of words is used to express definiteness while the incomplete form expressed indefiniteness. For example, Besnier found, ‘epa la hoa‘ (the mats will be taken) and where ‘epa’ is the complete form was used in reference to specific mats (definiteness). While ‘eap la hoa’ (some mats will be taken) and where ‘eap’ was the incomplete form was used to reference any mats (indefiniteness).

Australian Methodist pastor Clerk Maxwell Churchward, who also translated the Tongan Bible, found that all Rotuman content words had definite and indefinite forms. (Churchward, 1940). In linguistics, a content word possessed semantic content and contributed to the meaning of the sentence in which they occurred. Churchward spent 16 years in Fiji and 12 of them was on Rotuma where he also translated the New Testament, the Hymn Book and Catechism into the Rotuman language


I have also found that writings by Rotuman people have been heavily influenced by religion and where they come from on the island. Researchers believed the language was written in three orthographies: one by the early English Methodist missionaries, another by the French Roman Catholics and the third by Churchward.

Orthography – according to the English dictionary – is the conventional spelling system of a language.

Niko Besnier said the early Methodist orthography was rarely used nowadays as most Methodists used the Churchward orthography which was also taught in schools on the island.

However, Catholics, like myself, were taught the French-based orthography although Besnier found that Churchward’s orthography had “gained increased acceptance among the islanders, albeit in a modified form.”

“In addition to umlats over ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’, Churchward used a dot under the ‘a’ to designate a sound between ‘a’ and ‘o’, and a dot over the ‘a’ to designate a sound between ‘a’ and ‘e’.

“Churchward also uses macrons (dashes) over vowels to indicate lengthening but Rotumans often omit these diacritics in informal writing,” wrote Besnier.

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First Rotuman Language Week

This week marks the first ever Rotuman Langguage Week in New Zealand celebrating the language of Rotuma. Radio New Zealand ran an interesting article about the week.

You won’t hear New Zealand’s Rotuman community complaining about the unique environment in which they are having to celebrate the country’s first official language week, they are grateful and happy for the platform.

Rotuma is a Fijian dependency with about 2000 people living on island and at least another 10,000 more on mainland Fiji, while thousands of others are scattered across the world.

Rotuman has been added to the Ministry of Pacific People’s nine languages promoted during the course of the year, with the inaugural week kicking off this past weekend.

Like a number of Pacific tongues, it was a language earmarked as under threat by the United Nations agency, UNESCO. The theme for this week was “Putua ‘os fäega ma ‘os ag fak Rotuma” or “Nurturing our Rotuman identity through language and culture.”

An Auckland-based Rotuman said having their language recognised and celebrated in such a way was “an awesome milestone”. Lisa Tai said for the small Rotuman community in Aotearoa, (which numbered just over 783 in the 2013 census), it was amazing. She said they had always celebrated their language and culture but now they could take it to another level. “The support of the Ministry means that, yes we’re celebrating one week in the year, but we also need to keep up the momentum and have the support throughout the year and, sort of, carry on with our programmes,” Ms Tai said.

Having an an official language week also allowed Rotumans to showcase their culture to a wider audience, according to Ms Tai. She said, previously, cultural gatherings were simply a chance to meet with other Rothmans. “But now it sort-of opens up the conversation and provides us with an opportunity to educate others about our culture, which I think is the bit that I’m really excited about. So, the fact that we’re even talking about Rotuma now is, you know, awesome.”

Celebrations during Covid-19 Alert

Despite the excitement, Ms Tai and her fellow Rotumans were launching their week amid Covid-19 restrictions, meaning many of the events had been shifted online.

However organisers said this was tempered by the fact the week kicked off on Mother’s Day, so they could honour their loved ones, who often taught them their language.

Language tutor Fesaitu Solomone said despite Covid-19, celebrations were going ahead, albeit from a distance. She said, “What we planned initially was to have a public gathering of our community…but unfortunately due to Covid-19, we are unable to do that. So the celebrations have been moved onto a virtual platform.”

She said the New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship Group had planned it activities – via the internet – with Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio hosting an online launch on Saturday, a special church service set for today, and language learning assemblies, fitness classes and a panel discussions scheduled for the week.

Auckland Museum marking historic occasion

The Auckland Museum was also getting in on the act.

It was celebrating Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm – Rotuman Language Week online with features of Rotuman items from their collection and by lighting up the iconic building in the colours of Rotuma.

Fesaitu Solomone, who recently joined the museum’s Pacific Advisory Group, was also set to speak.

Auckland Museum had scheduled a long read about Tales of a Lonely Island (1939); an early twentieth century collection of Rotuman legends and an image and information about the Jea – Polynesian Triller (Lalage maculosa rotumae).

Over the course of the week there would also be zoom discussions with a special panel of guests showcasing selected Rotuman treasures.


Rotuma Island, picture from

In another post we’ll look at the question: Why Rotuman is an unique Pacific language? Can’t wait!


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The Phantom Canoe- Fiji

I could’ve saved this next legend for Halloween time, but it’s too good to wait. The story comes from Fiji, and it’s a ghostly tale that also has witches and giant clams. How can I wait to share? Enjoy!

The Phantom Canoe

The Phantom Canoe (Fiji)

“The Phantom Canoe,” Illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

The young chief Raluve and his grandmother lived all alone on the island of Burotukula. Although he was greatly loved by his grandmother it was a lonely life for a young man. Sometimes young women came over from other islands by canoe, but the ever-vigilant grandmother made sure that no girl was ever left alone with Raluve.

Occasionally, Raluve complained so much that he and his grandmother paid a visit to other islands; but while they were away from home the grandmother was as watchful of him as ever.

It was but natural that such a handsome and closely guarded young man should become attractive to girls, and he had many admirers. Some who were of noble birth sent servants to him with gifts, and it is said that every day canoes arrived at Burotukula, piled high with coconuts, yams, woven mats, tapa cloth, shells and turtles. Sometimes the servant brought whale’s teeth and presented them ceremonially, with a request that Raluve should marry the sender. The young man himself was not tempted by these gifts; he always gave a whale’s tooth to the servant and asked to be excused.

One day while he was bathing in a pool of fresh water near his home, he was startled by a loud cry. The sound seemed to come from his own house. He ran there as quickly as he could, and was horrified to see that two witches were clutching his grandmother by the throat. In a few moments she would have been strangled.

As soon as Raluve appeared they dropped the old lady, slipped through the door, and scuffled quickly away, with Raluve in hot pursuit. They sped along the reef with Raluve following, but unfortunately he did not notice that a great clam shell, or vasua, was lying there, and he put his foot right inside it. The valves clamped shut, and the young chief was caught firmly by the foot. The witches disappeared in the distance and he was left alone on the reef with his foot caught firmly in the giant clam, knowing that before long the tide would rise and he would be drowned.

It was fortunate for the young man that at this time a lovely young chieftainess from a nearby island happened to be traveling in her canoe in search of shellfish from the reef. Seeing his plight she went to his rescue, and managed to release him. It was a happy day for both Raluve and the young woman who had come to his rescue. It was a terrible danger that had brought them together, but it was love that bound them closer to one another.

Supported by the girl, they young man hobbled ashore and managed to persuade his old grandmother, who had now recovered from the witches’ attack, that it would be a good thing if they were to get married.

The wedding was held on the island where the bride lived, and Raluve was accompanied by his grandmother. Feasts and dancing and songs continued until late in the night. But when the celebrations were over, Raluve and his wife said farewell and prepared to leave for their own island home. The bride’s relatives invited the grandmother to stay with them a little longer as their guest, and with difficulty she was persuaded to stay. It may well be that it was a lucky decision for the old woman!

The morning sun shone and the sea sparkled as everyone crowded down to the beach to see the happy couple aboard their canoe. When the last farewells were said, the little craft sped across the lagoon, and the cries of, “Moce,” or goodbye followed it as the wind filled the three-cornered sail, and it glided through the gap in the reef.

The canoe did not reach the island. It was never seen again. Raluve and his bride disappeared, and the canoe became a phantom canoe, which is never seen by day. But at night the canoe still sails amongst the islands and coral reefs of Fiji.

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Vanuatu Update amid Covid-19

Here are some interesting updates that have recently occurred in Vanuatu…

First, Radio New Zealand has reported that Vanuatu’s education ministry is reprinting homeschooling material in Bislama, because of difficulties in getting English and French materials to the right houses in the trilingual country.

Bislama is spoken nation-wide in Vanuatu, while English or French are more common in different parts, though all three are recognized officially.

Early childhood administration officer Dorine Lessy said the materials will be reprinted after parents said they were experiencing difficulty with the English and French materials. “So now the ministry already prepared the Bislama version to help the parents who are speaking English or French to monitor their children or child at home.” Dorine Lessy said nation-wide distribution should begin next month.

Port Vila Market to Reopen

Journalist Len Garae of the Vanuatu Daily Post wrote an interesting article about the reopening of the central market in Port Vila this week…

If there is anything good that preparedness for COVID-19 will benefit Port Vila then it is the closing down of Port Vila Market, during which it has been renovated to give it a new facelift in the National Capital.

Not only that but it is important that all market vendors in the city know that the Market is reopening next week on the morning of May 4th with the first 50 vendors.

Speaking on behalf of the Manager of the Market House, Daniel Poussai says it is most important that this information is made known to the farmers and vendors as well as the public to know that the first 50 vendors will sell their farm produce for a day then return home to make way for the next fifty vendors to sell theirs the next day.

He says it is important the maximum limit number of vendors is respected to maintain the necessary social distancing of people to discourage crowdedness which has been blamed for the continuation of Coronavirus cases explosion globally today, which has already increased beyond three million cases.

Meanwhile Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are two of very few countries in the Pacific Region without any Coronavirus cases yet. Nearby countries including Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia (18), Fiji (18) and Papua New Guinea (8) have confirmed coronavirus cases among their populations.


An empty market, Port Vila, Vanuatu



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