Fijian Language Week

New Zealand’s Minister of Pacific Peoples says there should be more interest in the language of Fiji as it’s a significant trading partner. Aupito Su’a William Sio said learning more about anyone’s language or culture opens a pathway for communication and commerce.

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A Fijian Bure

This week New Zealand celebrates its sixth Fijian Language Week – Macawa ni Vosa Vakaviti – with the theme ‘Noqu Vosa Me’u Bula Taka’ meaning My language, Learn it, Speak it, Live it. Aupito said language and culture is vital for all Pacific peoples in New Zealand to have a stronger sense of belonging and general well-being. “Pacific languages are also avenues to trade and commerce,” he said.

Aupito said New Zealand exporters would be wise to invest in the language as well. “We export to Fiji in the vicinity of $693-million a year and that’s really important. And I’m told by businesses in the Fijian community that understanding the Fijian language and culture is so important in establishing those good business relationships.”

Fijian Words and phrases you can try:

Hello – Ni sa bula (nee sahm boola) or bula (mboola) for short

Goodbye – Ni sa moce (nee sa mo-they)

Good morning – Ni sa yadra (nee sa yandra)

Yes – Io (ee-o)

No – Sega (senga)

Please – Yalo vinaka (yalo vee-nahka)

Excuse me – Tolou (too low)

Thank you – Vinaka (vee-nahka)

Tips on Fijian language pronunciation

• The letter “a” is pronounced “ah” as in father.

• Any word with a “d” has an unwritten “n” in front of it, so the city Nadi is pronounced “Nah-ndi.”

• The letter “b” is pronounced as “mb” like in bamboo, especially when it is in the middle of a word.

• Similarly, in certain words with a “g,” there is an unwritten “n” in front of it, so sega (“no”) is pronounced “senga,”

• The letter “c” is pronounced “th,” so “moce,” meaning goodbye, is pronounced “moe-they.”

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Kava and Coconut Art Exhibition in Vanuatu

About a month ago the Alliance Française Art Gallery showcased a two-week Art Exhibition in Port Vila, Vanuatu, by talented Nawita Artists under the theme ‘Kava’. Adorina Massing of the Vanuatu Daily Post wrote about the exhibition:

72-year-old Art Director of the Nawita Artist Group, Emmanuel Watt from Ambae, displayed his incredible art work and wished to share his knowledge on the Exhibition’s work, with young Ni-Vanuatu promising future artists. The amazing paintings of kava and sculptures made of coconuts were all to show the traditional and significant use of kava and coconuts in Vanuatu.

Mr Watt has been working as an artist for 42 years, along with his talented associates in the Nawita group of artists. He began his early career at the age of 16 by carving and learning from the works of other artists. On a number of occasions, Watt stood side by side with renowned regional and international artists to expose their wide variety of art works for public viewing.

He has chosen the name ‘Nawita’ meaning Octopus to name their group of talented artists. The name Nawita was given to bring significance to the many arms of the Octopus which in turn signifies the many hands of the group working together as one to build their career on art. “I am glad and proud to continue my work as an artist to this day and watch as new, emerging young artists stand up to showcase their work in the art gallery,” Watt said with a smile.

Watt added, “Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. Young people with talents of drawing, painting, carving and taking photos need to put use of their talents to work, if school doesn’t help them then training their abilities and skills into art will surely benefit and guarantee them to having a brighter future. Arts and culture are powerful tools in which to engage communities in various levels of change.”

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The Kava Bowl with kava.

A little about Kava:

Kava is a beverage or extract that is made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. The name “kava” comes from the Polynesian word “awa,” which means bitter. In the South Pacific, kava is a popular social drink, similar to alcohol in Western societies. More recently, kava has received widespread attention for its relaxing and stress-reducing properties.

Pacific Islanders have used it for hundreds of years as a ceremonial drink to promote a state of relaxation. Pacific cultures traditionally use the kava drink during rituals and social gatherings. To make it, people first grind its roots into a paste. This grinding was traditionally performed by chewing the roots and spitting them out, but now it’s typically done by hand. The paste is then mixed with water, strained and consumed.

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WW II Oral History Project in PNG

I recently received information regarding a new oral history project in Papua New Guinea titled, Voices from the War, that I believe is worth sharing. The project is a collection of recorded memories and stories of Papua New Guineans who lived during World War II.

According to the Voices from the War Website World War II came to Papua New Guinea at the beginning of 1942, and In its aftermath, nothing was ever the same for the people of these islands. There was no return to ‘normal’ life as it had existed before the War.

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The War had a profound impact on PNG, and on Papua New Guineans especially in those parts that suffered from destructive bombing and shelling like Rabaul. There was also consequences in places which found themselves in the way of the battlefront as it moved northward and westward from East Cape to Aitape from 1942 to 1945.

The War’s impact extended further than the battlefront. Its reach encompassed most of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Food grown in gardens was commandeered to feed soldiers, boys and young men were taken away to carry supplies for the armies, warplanes crisscrossed the skies and dropped bombs seemingly at random, and whole populations were made to move away from their villages to places of relative safety.

Beginning in 2013, teams of Papua New Guineans, joined by researchers from Deakin University and RMIT University in Australia, have spread across PNG to record interviews with men and women in villages about their own, or their relatives’, experiences during the War.

In 2014, the project began with a pilot study that concentrated on the region traversed by the Kokoda Track, from Buna on the coast of Northern Province to Port Moresby on the south coast. This project was funded by the Australian Government under the Kokoda Initiative, and it encompassed recording interviews in nine locations in Central and Northern Provinces as well as the National Capital District. The research team comprised leading Papua New Guinean historians, journalists, and university students, as well as an Australian researcher and historian, Dr Jonathan Ritchie from Deakin University.

Following this initial project, and building on the experience gained from it, four more projects to record interviews with men and women about the War commenced in 2016, and continued into 2017.

Interviews were recorded in many different locations in the following Provinces:

  • Central Province
  • Milne Bay Province
  • Morobe Province
  • National Capital District
  • New Ireland Province
  • Northern Province.

To access the Voices from the War Website simply click here.

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Roviana Lagoon Festival 2018

The 10th Roviana Lagoon Festival begins this week in Munda, which is the largest settlement on the island of New Georgia in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. A lab technician, Solomon Soakai, from the Helena Goldie Hospital in Munda has been picked to chair the organizing committee.

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Where is Munda, Solomon Islands?

According to the Solomon Star Soakai, who is part Tonga, Roviana and English, knows it’s a huge task. The Sunday Star caught up with Soakai last week in Munda when he received $30,000 donation from the Western Provincial government and a $20,000 pledge from South Pacific Oil Ltd (SPOL). “I well understand the significance of this festival and its importance to keeping the Roviana culture alive,” he said.

The festival was initially established 10 years ago in honor of the late Alick Wickham who was a former champion of  free style swimming, also known as Australian Crawl. He introduced the Aqua sports in the lagoon and now the community decided to expand it to involve other activities such as display of traditional war Canoe Tomoko, Bamboo band music, and Iron man, which comprises of paddling, running and swimming and other activities of interest.

Wickham pioneered the crawl, or freestyle swimming stroke, in which he held the unofficial world record over a fifty-yard length from 1904 to 1915. He was also well-known as a regular performer of aquatic stunts at swimming carnivals, and as a water polo player, surf lifesaver, and pioneer in spear fishing. He was associated with early attempts to ride a surfboard.

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Canoe, Solomon Islands

Roviana Lagoon is one of the most attractive spots in Western Province and a refuge for traders travelling through the Pacific Islands in the past centuries. Soakai pointed out that Roviana is the gateway for tourism in Western Province, with the soon opening of Munda International Airport. “We want to preserve the Roviana culture, as we are now being westernized,” he said. “I believe there will be increases in tourist numbers when the airport opens. These tourists will be coming to learn about the Roviana way of living.”

Soakai added, “But as you know, our culture is under threat due to outside influences so it’s important we preserve it through events like the Lagoon festival.” He thanked those that have come forward to offer sponsorship. “Organizing an event like this is not cheap. This is why we need sponsors, and I want to thank the province and SPOL for coming forward. Without their sponsorship, we will not be able to organize an event of this scale,” he said.

As the event will be attended by a lot of youths, Soakai also added, “What I want to say to young people of Roviana is if you want to change the mindset of Roviana people you must begin with yourself. That change will also impact the entire Western Province.”

The festival will run from October 1-5, 2018.

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The Crab and the Needlefish- Chuuk

Our next legend comes from the Chuuk State (also known as Truk) of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The many islands within this huge atoll are crowned with natural beauty. The outer barrier reef is punctuated with idyllic sand spits dotted with coconut palms. Chuuk is the most populous state of the FSM with about 50,000 inhabitants. With its shallow, beautiful lagoon, it is a major shipwreck site from WWII, and is one of the world’s best shipwreck diving destination.

This legend is taken from the book Legends of Micronesia. It is story that is comparable to the “Tortoise and Hare,” but in the style of the Pacific Islands. Enjoy!

The Crab and the Needlefish

One day the needlefish saw a tiny sand crab crawling along the beach. The needlefish made fun of the crab. “How slow and clumsy you are!” he said. “Watch me. See how fast I move through the water.” He swam and dived and turned about with great speed.

The little crab watched the needlefish for a while, and then he said, “You’re fast, needlefish, and I’m very slow, that’s true. But just the same, I feel sure that I can beat you, if we have a race along the shore.”

“Foolish talk!” cried the needlefish. “How could you beat me in a race? I go like lightning, and you crawl so slowly.”

The little crab said, “Let’s have a race tomorrow morning. We’ll start here, beside this rock. I’ll race you to the big maras tree that stands at the edge of the water, far down on the beach. You can swim in the water, and I’ll crawl along on land.”

The needlefish laughed and laughed, but he agreed to race with the little crab. “You’re so tiny,” he said. “How shall I know where you are?” The needlefish swam away, still laughing.

Now the sand crab was small, but he was clever. He crawled along the beach all night long, telling his crab friends about the race. “The needlefish boasts too much. I want to teach him a lesson,” he said. He asked his friends to sit at different places near the water. They would be a few yards apart from each other, all the way between the rock and the maras tree. “Tomorrow the needlefish will call me,” he said, “to find out where I am. Each time he calls, one of you must answer for me. The needlefish will think that it is I who am ahead of him all the way.” The crab’s friends thought it was a wonderful idea. They agreed to do what he asked.

The Crab and the Needlefish (Truk)

“The Crab and the Needlefish,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2018.

Next morning, the little crab and the needlefish met at the rock and began the race. The needlefish swam like lightning, but the little sand crab sat still. “It’s my turn to laugh,” he said, and so he laughed.

Before long the needlefish called out from the water, “Crab, crab, where are you?”

On the shore, a small voice answered. “Here I am, just ahead of you!”

The needlefish was so surprised that he nearly jumped out of the water. He swam faster than ever. After a while, he called out again, “Crab, crab, where are you?”

Again a crab voice replied, “Here I am, just ahead of you!”

That time, the needlefish nearly broke himself in two, trying to swim still faster in the water. He kept on calling out, “Crab, crab, where are you?” And always there was a little voice saying, “Here I am, just ahead of you!”

The needlefish was nearly out of his mind with anger. He raced so fast that the water whirled around him. When he reached the maras tree, there sat a little crab with a shell on his back. He was not at all tired.

“Well, needlefish, are you here at last?” said the crab.

The needlefish nearly burst with anger. He sprang out of the water with such force that his long needle stuck in the maras tree. There he hung for a long time. At last, he got the needle out again and dropped back into the water.

He swam away, feeling foolish. He tried to forget about the race, but he couldn’t, for some of the bitter juice of the maras tree was in his mouth. It stayed there, to teach him not to boast too much.

Ever since that day, the flesh of the needlefish has had a bitter taste.

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Europe’s Largest Pacific Art Show

If you’re living in or near London, or if you’re traveling there soon, you’re in for a treat. A major new art exhibition opening in London later this month at the Royal Academy of Arts. Titled, Oceania, the exhibit will be the largest collection of Pacific art ever on show in Europe, and the dynamic relationships between the peoples of the Pacific will be at the forefront of the theme.

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According to Radio New Zealand correspondent, Dominic Godfrey, Oceania will showcase work from Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia- from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the south, and from West Papua to Easter Island. The exhibition brings together in excess of 200 works from more than 30 lenders around the UK and Europe, and some in New Zealand.

The ambitious project marks this year’s 250th anniversary of the founding of London’s Royal Academy of Arts which was the same year Captain James Cook set sail for the Pacific. The serendipity of the two events in 1768 was the motivation for the show.

It was Cook’s voyages in the Pacific which first piqued interest in the region’s art among collectors in the UK. Each of the diverse pieces in the show, whether historic or contemporary, has its own story of travel and exchange said one of Oceania’s curators.

It is this dynamism that underpins the show and provides an insight into the people of the Pacific according to Victoria University of Wellington’s art history lecturer, Peter Brunt. “One of the reasons for the breadth of the show is to explore what Oceania is as something more than just the sum of its individual parts. What does Oceania mean?” asked Dr Brunt. “So in that sense, a lot of the works that we have chosen are connected to navigation and voyaging.”

Peter Brunt is a New Zealander of Samoan heritage. His own journey with Oceania began back in 2012 after an exchange with professor Nicholas Thomas from Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology who asked him aboard. The two men have secured work from museum collections primarily around Europe but some from New Zealand.

How each of the works first came to their respective museums is a huge question said Dr Brunt. “Some of them were traded, some were gifted. Two of the things we are showing are Hawaiian Akua Hulu Manu that were given to [James] Cook. They’re effigies of deity figures. So those were gifts” he said. He makes the point that none of the objects were looted or stolen, or of any dubious provenance, although “Some things were collected,” he said.

In the 19th century collecting reached its peak with European travelers in the region showing an interest in ethnographic objects he said. “And also in tribal art, ‘primitive art’. That lay behind a lot of collecting as well, once things became kind of commercial in that way,” said Dr Brunt, which in turn led to art commerce. “What’s interesting about that though is that things were being made in the Pacific for those markets as well.”

Another factor aiding European collections of Pacific art was the success of Christianity. “Specific objects were surrendered to missionaries or people were encouraged, if they were converts, to give up their primitive symbols.”

The origin of the objects in the show span a large expanse of time as well as geographic distance, “Some of them are very old,” said Dr Brunt, “And go back to pre-colonial times”. This reflects the pre-colonial travel within the Pacific by its people he said. “We’re not just trying to show unique individual cultures,” said Dr Brunt. “We’re trying to convey an idea of the Pacific and the dynamic relationships between them.”

The Exhibit is set to open on September 29, 2018 and will run until December 10, 2018. Then, it will move to to the Musee de Quai Branly, Paris, France from March to July, 2019. For more information, please click here.

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Traditional Canoes in CNMI

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) forms a chain of 14 volcanic islands: Agrihan, Alamagan, Anatahan, Asuncion, Farallon De Medinilla, Farallon De Pajaros (Uracas), Guguan, Maug (three islands), Pagan, Rota, Saipan, Sarigan and Tinian stretching over 375 miles north to south, with a land area of 181 square miles. There are three major inhabited islands, but most people live on Saipan.

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Where is the CNMI?

Recently Radio New Zealand reported that CNMI’s Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has launched its own traditional canoe program but says it’s not competing with a private sector-driven program to build 500 traditional canoes by 2030.

The Department Secretary, Robert Hunter, said the Seafaring Traditions Program wants to perpetuate the Chamorro and Carolinian traditional skills of open-ocean seafaring, canoe building, and celestial navigation. He added that the new program aims to work in unison with the 500 Sails organization to make sure this important aspect of the CNMI’s culture continues.

The Seafaring Traditions Program is focused on ensuring traditional skills are not lost. These include canoe building and canoe house making and all of the skills that this entails, from rope-making to weaving to carving to tool-building, and the traditional methods of celestial navigation.

The program initially is building a canoe house that is capable of housing two 40-foot sakmans or traditional canoes. Once built, they will move on to constructing the canoes themselves, which they plan to sail to the 2020 Festival of the Pacific Arts in Hawaii.

The 500 Sails organization aims to reclaim the maritime tradition in the Marianas by getting 500 traditional Chamorro and Carolinians proas on the water in the Marianas again. By matching the number of proas seen on the water in 1565, 500 Sails believes it will have restored the Marianas’ maritime traditions.

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Traditioanl Canoe House in Saipan, photo by http://www.saipantribune.com

This past August The Northern Marianas Seafaring Traditions Program has completed its first canoe house, ensuring the islands’ renewed interest in building traditional canoes continues.

The canoe house took five months to build and is modeled on traditional architecture of ancient Chamorro huts and made of the same materials. The governor Ralph Torres said the cultural significance of the canoe house and the traditional canoes that would be built there will help promote the CNMI to tourists. He said it is always important to continue to promote Chamorro and Refaluwasch or Carolinian culture.

The Seafaring Traditions Program is focused on ensuring traditional skills are not lost. These include canoe building and canoe house making and all of the skills that this entails, rope-making, weaving, carving, tool-building and traditional methods of celestial navigation.

The Seafaring Traditions Program will now focus on building canoes to sail to the 2020 Festival of Pacific Arts in Hawaii.

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