Uniting Against Covid-19: A Virtual Pacific Concert

Journalist Christine Rovoi of Radio New Zealand posted an article about how a star-studded concert aimed to unite the region against the pandemic will be broadcast free-to-air across New Zealand this weekend. Or-

Check out the concert on YouTube by clicking here.

The virtual concert is a first-of-its-kind in the Pacific and calls on leaders and citizens across the region to work together with the rest of the world in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last weekend, the United Nations in the Pacific brought together artists, heads of State, UN leaders and international celebrities – even royalty – to the event which was broadcast and streamed around the Pacific. The “Pacific Unite: Saving Lives Together” concert also paid tribute to workers on the frontlines of the crisis – their efforts to prevent transmission and save lives.

‘Covid still an ongoing fight’

Organizer and performer Inoke ‘Knox’ Kalounisiga said artists from the Solomons Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and the United States showcased their unique roots-rock songs at the United Nations-organised event.

The two-and-a-half-hour show featured contributions from Kalounisiga, Nem & Talei, Masti, Rako and Skillz from Fiji; Jah Boy from the Solomon Islands; Jay Hoad and Paulini from Australia; Juny B from Kiribati; Justin Wellington from Papua New Guinea; Kendal T from Palau; Mia Kami and the Tupou College Toloa Choir from Tonga; Poly Flavour and Brown Girl Woke from Samoa; Stan Antas, Yosh and Vanessa Quai from Vanuatu; Te Vaka and Tiki Taane from New Zealand; Tropikana Breeze from Tuvalu and pop star Julia Zahra and UN Messenger of Peace Yo-Yo Ma from the US.

Kalounisiga said it was a celebration of strength and solutions which are possible when the Pacific unites. “Lots of us are out there fighting this Covid-19 on a daily basis, being exposed to it 24/7,” he said. “Some have sadly passed away because of it while others have managed to come through it unscathed. “But this is still an ongoing fight so we are here to celebrate the lives of those who have gone and to be a voice of encouragement for those who are still fighting.”

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Pacific connects with the world

Video messages of solidarity were delivered by Prince Charles, Tonga’s Princess Salote Mafileó Pilolevu Tuita, Fiji national rugby sevens team, Oscar-winning actor and the UN’s sustainable development goals advocate Forest Whitaker, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, UNAIDS Pacific Goodwill Ambassador Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, celebrity chef Robert Oliver; Director of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Miss Pacific Islands Fonoifafo Nancy McFarland-Seumanu.

They all agreed the virtual concert provided a platform for the geographically remote Pacific region to connect. They also reinforced the message that working together is the only way to overcome Covid-19.

Push for a green system

In his message, Palau’s President Thomas Remengesau Jr said there was a need to build back better by creating a sustainable Pacific that’s resilient to the impacts of climate change. “This new normal should not be the same old story, but with face masks,” he said. “The Pacific has been pushing for big changes in travel, in tourism, in fishing, in plastic use and in energy production. In a strange way, Covid-19 has cleared paths to those objectives. If we manage this challenge the right way, we can build a stronger system than we had before.”

The UN’s Pacific coordinator, Sanaka Samarasinha, said the concert was a call, through music and art, for continued solidarity across the region to combat the pandemic. “Music brings people together in harmony, reminding us of our common bonds and all that is possible when we work together,” said Te Vaka songwriter and vocalist Opetaia Foa’i. The group performed one of its hit singles and a crowd favourite in the Pacific – Lakalaka. “It is a privilege to be part of this special event, helping to unite people across the Pacific and around the world in the fight against Covid-19,” Foa’i said.

Already among the most remote countries on earth, Pacific island states have seen their vital economic links weakened in recent months with the depletion of tourism, disruptions to international trade and a fall in remittances.

The concert was on radio and television networks in 12 Pacific island countries, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, throughout Asia and globally. And it was captioned for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments.

“In the Pacific, we love our music and to hear from our leaders across the region, and our friends, on how to cope and be safe, and how to ensure that we are living in the new normal, I think it is timely,” was the message from Pacific Disability Forum chief executive Setareki Macanawai.

The final act saw a moving performance of We Will Rise, a song written about the coronavirus pandemic in the Pacific and performed by Pasifika Voices and the International School Suva.

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Men Display ‘Drua’ Skills in Fiji

The Fiji Times ran an interesting article written by Ana Madigibuli about how traditional Fijian canoe craftsmen shared knowledge that intertwines their appreciation for the ocean and their cultural abilities.

Most of these craftsmen were from Naikeleyaga Village on Kabara, Lau, who were traditionally known as master craftsmen in “drua” (double hulled canoe) construction.

The Fiji Times on November 14, 1978, reported that villagers from Naikeleyaga were reviving the art of drua making. A 50-foot long drua was under construction by the villagers with original materials being used. This newspaper highlighted that it was going to be the biggest canoe to be built by the villagers since the turn of the century. Since the canoe was used the most by islanders for transportation in the past, it was rare to see the canoe in the 1970s as reported by this newspaper.

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A Fijian Drua- picture from humboldtforum.com

According to the article, a researcher said the last drua made from traditional materials was built in the early 1900s. The villagers of Kabara Island had constructed a large one in 1964 to be used by the island minister when visiting villages around the country. A drua, which is made from modern materials, was ruined by a small tidal wave three years later as The Fiji Times reported that it had a hole in the hull and was impossible to repair.

The Naikeleyaga villagers then built another smaller canoe in 1972 to be displayed during the South Pacific Festival of Arts in Suva. The drua was sailed by the villagers to Suva but sank on the way and had to be transported to Suva on a government ship and was later purchased by an American. The Naikeleyaga drua was built from two vesi trees grown in the forests of Kabara and the villagers used traditional materials to build it.

The article reported that the magimagi or sinnet would be used for bonding parts for the canoe, and gum from local trees would be collected for sealing and mats used as sail. The villagers began constructing the drua and it was to be completed the following year. When completed the drua would then sail to Orchid Island near Suva by the men to be commissioned.

t would be permanently displayed at Orchid Island where old artifacts were being preserved. The manager of the island, Gwyn Watkins, said the drua would be a valuable addition to the collection of old arts and crafts already preserved on the island.

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Port Vila’s Central Market Reopens

A couple of weeks ago the Vanuatu Daily News reported the good news that the Port Vila central market had reopened. Jason Abel wrote an article describing the event that took place on July 22…

After the Port Vila Central market closed down for over three months, the newly Central Market Facilities Upgrade Project was officially opened on Wednesday 22nd July 2020. The newly upgraded market facility also unveiled its new brand and name “Tamaso Fare Sara Akai” meaning a place for a variety of food.

The project worth VT170 million was jointly funded by the Australian government through the Cyclone Pam Recovery Program and UN Women Fiji Multi Country Office through its Market for Change (M4C) Project. The Port Vila Council funded some additional improvements as well. It was implemented by the Architects section of the Public Works department in partnership with the Department of the Local authorities and PVCC.

With an objective to improve the sanitation and other amenities within the market house, the upgrades facilities aim to provide a better and friendlier environment for the mama vendors and the public as well as reduce lagoon pollution.

In his remarks during the opening, Port Vila City Council (PVCC)Town Clerk, Peter Sakita relayed a brief background of the Port Vila market from the Condominium government until Independence, leading up to its current location. He said the current project also reflects the same goals of past market projects which is to provide an inclusive environment in town for vendors to sell their products and earn money for their livelihoods.

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Port Vila Central Market, photo by turtlebaybeachouse.com

With the new improvements of toilet and shower blocks, new drainage system, new administration office, café areas and stalls will be beneficial to the vendors. With a new water improvement waste plant, a first of its kind to be installed, Mr Sakita believes it will provide a clean and better harbor.

Silae Mama Vendors Association President Rachel Merang said it is a dream come true to witness such ceremony as it has always been a cry for the vendors to be facilitated with such projects. She acknowledged the government, the Australian government through the Australian High Commissioner, the UN Women Fiji and the Port Vila City Council for their support.

Regarding the current COVID-19 lockdown, she also appealed to the government of Vanuatu to include market vendors in the government’s Economic Stimulus Package.

Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu Sarah deZoeten said the newly market upgrade is such a transformation. She showed appreciation also towards the newly waste improvement water plant which will definitely ensure a clean harbor for the public as a whole. She mentioned that the market vendors are very important as they contribute as well into the economy.

With over 90% of women as market vendors, High Commissioner deZoeten said the project will upgrade the livelihoods of the mamas during their sales. She said that this is one of the last projects under the Australian government’s Cyclone Pam recovery program. She also acknowledged all partners for their contribution in completing this successful achievement.

Port Vila Lord Mayor, Eric Festa appealed to all vendors to look after the facilities. He mentioned that the opening ceremony is timely as well towards the country’s 40th anniversary adding that the project is also a big achievement for the PVCC.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Ishmael Kalsakau acknowledged the Australian government and the UN Fiji and all partners for their generosity towards the project.

He quoted the late Paramount Chief of Ifira, late Graham Kalsakau when handing over the market land to the government, “the market area is like a banyan tree ready to protect and shelter all birds from the six provinces of Vanuatu”. Mr Kalsakau said it is a milestone achievement and reminded everyone to participate more in Agriculture programs as well.

 

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Ancient Burial Site Found in Guam

I recently came across an article written by Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge for Radio New Zealand about how a legal instrument has been invoked in Guam that could lead to the US military delaying the creation of a firing range and financing an archaeological survey.

It follows the discovery of an ancient burial ground last month on land being developed for a new base for Marines transferred from Japan.

Guam’s Historic Preservation Officer Patrick Lujan said artifacts found during the preparation of four other firing ranges prompted him to invoke Stipulation XIII of the 2011 Programmatic Agreement.

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Magua, Guam, photo from senatorterlaje.com

The agreement, between the US Department of Defense and signatories including the officer, concerns the pending relocation to Guam from Okinawa of 8600 Marines and their 9000 dependants, the construction of military bases and training areas. However it was the unearthing of four burials at Magua that fuelled public consternation over the threat to antiquity posed by the military build-up.

Both discoveries, the artifacts in the firing ranges at Northwest Field and the nearby burials, could lead to the history books being rewritten, Lujan said. “When they started working and clearing on the first four ranges… up came cultural resources from where people used to live. It changes the notion… that the northern plateau, which sits on top of limestone, was more used for hunting and farming and not habitation, which was more common down on the beach.”

The significance of the artifacts, including pottery, bone fragments and burn-pits, needed to be considered by archaeologists along with the burials, Lujan said. “The burials are estimated to be about 1000 years old. Going back to the initial archaeological theory of not having any living up on the plateau… this is telling us otherwise. And how could you bury somebody within the limestone? It was within limestone cavities. Whether they are dug up or natural… it’s a unique finding.”

Perhaps more unique was the discovery of nearly intact skeleton missing only its skull. “I’d like to wait for the final report and I don’t want to speak out of turn but there was ceramic pottery that was in place of the skull,” Lujan said. “That has only been known in Saipan. So far, that’s the first and only finding like that on Guam.”

Lujan said he hoped to bring together all of the archaeologists who had studied the area “to collectively come up with an updated theory on the northern plateau”.

To accommodate the burial site, the US Department of Defense was planning to adjust its designs for a parking lot and to build, “a nice burial monument depicting what was found and talking about the Chamorro villages. We look forward to working with them on that as well,” Lujan said.

As for the fifth firing range, the invocation of Stipulation XIII requires a 45 day consultation period between the signatories. If the military agreed to delay the development it could be obliged to finance an archaeological survey of the 60 acre site, which Lujan said would be done well given the financial resources of the Department of Defense and the guidance his office would be required to provide.

If an agreement could not be reached, Guam Governor Lou Leo Guerrero said the matter would be referred to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “A responsibility military build-up must be based on an effective working partnership with the federal government,” the Governor said. “The build-up needs to be done at a pace that benefits our people, and we must be our own advocates.”

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Making Music during Covid-19 in Fiji

I came across an interesting article in the Fiji Times Online and written Ana Madigibuli that I’d like to share. It’s about how the newly formed Fiji Suva Musicians Club is trying to help out musicians during the pandemic…

Paying rents, putting food on the table, paying for school bus fares, forking out money for bills and meeting family obligations are just the tip of the iceberg for some people during this Covid-19 pandemic period. People who’ve lost jobs because of the pandemic have had to re-evaluate their way of living as to cater for their daily expenses with some struggling to make ends meet.

One of those groups of people are musicians whose jobs have come to a standstill because gigs have been deferred indeterminately. Some of those affected during this trying time are musicians who do gigs in resorts and nightclubs daily.

To cushion the effect of the pandemic crisis, a group of musicians have quickly come together to form a club Fiji Suva Musicians Club that can assist grassroots musicians who have been critically affected by the pandemic. In order to get these musicians back on their feet, the club has come up with alternative ways to raise funds for them.

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Fijian musician- photo from clark-fiji.weebly.com

Club president Waisiliva Baledrokadroka said the club was all about getting grassroots musicians and artists together who have either lost their jobs or are finding it hard to cope with expenses during the pandemic period. “It’s about time we created a club where we can come together and just bond over our love for music and raise funds for each other,” he said. “At the moment we have 39 club members and we are hopeful that we will get other artists to join.

“Even though this pandemic has affected our livelihood, it has also made us stronger because we have come together to work towards a common good.”

He said currently there isn’t enough work available for musicians around the country. “These past few months we have tried to do something for ourselves like our curry night or kava barrel events that can raise funds for musicians,” he said. “If we stand together and be united we can definitely go far. Even though most of us have lost jobs this is something we can benefit from. Not only are we raising funds for ourselves we also want to give back to the communities.”

“We have friends supporting us from Dubai, Australia, England, New Zealand, the United States of America and other parts of the world who are connected to us through music. Listening to good music during these trying times can help us forget about our worries.”

He said they also hoped to raise funds to get equipment and instruments for music artists.

“Most of us don’t even have our own instruments and equipment and we cannot demand good money if we don’t have those resources with us,” he said. “Like a farmer, you go with your cane knife. For us, we need to go with our instruments or equipment in order to play.” He said there are many reasons for creating the club, but most importantly it was just to develop their music and bring artists and their families together during the pandemic. “In order to achieve something great we hope to work together and support each other better.”

Club events co-ordinator Clare Fong said the club also had a few events planned out for its members as part of its community outreach program. “Looking at how the nightclubs and some resorts won’t be opening or operating soon we hope to raise funds for the family of musicians who have been affected. “Right now musicians’ jobs are all on the line and all we can do is work together. We have people supporting us financially during this time and we are grateful to them”

Fong said they hope to look after the welfare of families of musicians who have passed on and to visit them. “We have done one visitation and we have eleven other families we hope to visit in the future. We are also looking to do entertainment at the Old People’s Home, and do  clean-ups at a beachfront or orphanage and provide lunches for the less fortunate on the streets.”

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Vanuatu Celebrates 40 Years of Independence

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of Vanuatu’s Independence. It has been a nine day party in the country.

Tahlea Aualiitia and Elsie Lange wrote an article for MSN News…

Dressed in bright colors, waving flags and swelling with pride, a sea of Ni-Vanuatu people have gathered to celebrate 40 years of independence, observed with a nine-day public holiday.

Crowds celebrated without fear or being mindful of social distancing as Vanuatu spent another week without a single recorded case of coronavirus — contrary to most parts of the world.

Thousands gathered last Thursday, July 23, for a Victory Parade, marching through Port Vila to kick off the anniversary, building toward Independence Day on July 30. For four-and-a-half hours people marched, singing and dancing, from the Tagabe area to Independence Park, marking the beginning of the holiday period.

Vanuatu was previously governed under the joint control of Britain and France, and then known as New Hebrides. To this day, the three official languages of Vanuatu are Bislama, English and French. In the 1970s, an independence movement rose, with political parties forming to advocate for the Indigenous land rights of the Vanuatu peoples.

On July 30, 1980, Vanuatu gained its long-fought independence under the leadership of Father Walter Lini and the Vanua’aku Pati. Pastor Sethy Regenvanu, one of Vanuatu’s original independence fighters, said despite the cultural and language diversity the unity of the people would bring about change.

One people, one nation’ for 40 years

“There’s a lot of factors that separated us and we had to try and work our way towards a common purpose, towards unity of people, to fight together to become one people and one nation, as we have been since the last 40 years,” Mr Regenvanu said. An early member of Vanuatu’s oldest political party, the New Hebrides National party — later known as the Vanua’aku Pati, which was formed on a platform of independence — Mr Regenvanu was always “confident” Vanuatu would gain its independence.

“We have always been independent people before white people came to Vanuatu. We were people who were living in our islands independently, depending on subsistence agriculture, and our way of life, culture and customs,” he said. “We came from this background, and we were confident that with this background and with the dispute of Independence, that we would get it.”

Ralph Regenvanu, Pastor Regenvanu’s son, is the current leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu and said his parents’ fight for independence has been a huge influence during his political career. “The Constitution, which my father helped draft, has been very useful in putting Vanuatu in a good direction — the challenge is how do we balance them in a modern nation state especially with modern challenges like climate change and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Regenvanu said.

Mr Regenvanu said while some Ni-Vanuatus cannot come home for celebrations due to COVID-19, the country “values” them. “I just encourage them to stay safe and try to enjoy the day as best they can wherever they are, in the company of other people from Vanuatu,” he said. “Know the country is here and we are looking forward to whenever they can come back, and we definitely value their contributions.”

Happy Independence Day, Vanuatu!

 

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Pasifika Festival’s 2021 Refresh Plan

Radio New Zealand journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood, wrote an interesting article about how the 2021 Pasifika Festival will see a new twist to the layout of the villages, with some island countries combining in a shared space.

Since it began 28 years ago, Auckland’s award-winning Pasifika Festival has grown to become the largest Pacific Island cultural festival of its kind in the world.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) has announced that Hawai’i, Tahiti, Tokelau and Tuvalu are the countries affected by its 2021 refresh plan. In short, the four islands, or villages as the event refers to each country, will share one stage but have their own separate sections within the shared space at Western Springs.

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Manager of Events Production Leisa Siteine said ATEED was always looking at ways of improving, refreshing and updating the festival, as it was one of the longest running in New Zealand. “There’s always going to be some changes within the different climates to try and live up to our objective and vision, which is to be the premiere Pacific festival in the world. The proposed refresh plan that we came up with for 2021 actually looks to support our smaller Pacific communities through a revitalise village concept and get them working collectively on programming, food and craft stall requirements,” she said.

Ms Siteine said that ATEED actively consulted the village co-ordinators over the proposed plan. “This idea is not something new. We have talked about this to the co-ordinators for several years because it has been a struggle for some of the islands. This plan is about how can we assist those islands to shine and enhance the festival.”

RNZ Pacific understands that ATEED e-mailed the co-ordinators in April about discussing the refresh plan and in June, ATEED met with the co-ordinators individually to go over the proposal.

However, Pacific Media Network reported that the proposal was met with disappointment by the Tuvalu stage co-ordinator Molia Alama Tulafono, who said she was upset “that a decision was made without any consultation with her team and the wider Tuvaluan community.”

“It’s a mystery to us here at ATEED and we were surprised to see that come out in the media before it was actually presented to us,” Ms Siteine said. “We are not saying that we won’t take that response on board, but at the same time we do have a mandate to deliver, which is a high-quality event, that the co-ordinators who did provide feedback on were happy with. The changes aren’t taking away any opportunity for any of the islands. They will all have the opportunity to participate,” she said.

The tone of the feedback presented to ATEED was that the countries who would be sharing a space had struggled to provide performance content to deliver to a two-day festival. “There’s a lot of programming to do for Pasifika Festival and the smaller islands don’t have that support in the community to be able to deliver that,” Ms Siteine shared.

She said with the current restrictions due to Covid-19 such as border closures, it was not likely that international performers would be able to help the smaller islands. “Even though this is really an Auckland based festival, we do have groups that love to come over and participate, from as far as Hawai’i and that’s not going to be available in 2021.”

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Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival 2020

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Dominic Godfrey, wrote an article about the upcoming Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival that gets underway this week. 

Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival runs from 24 July to 3 August and, due to Covid-19, is available online or in cinemas around Aotearoa.

For the first time, a Pacific person is selecting the finalists for the festival’s NZ short film competition, and there’s a strong showing in other categories.

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New Zealand Best Short Film Competition entries have been chosen by the renowned Samoan-New Zealand film-maker Tusi Tamasese. Mr Tamasese is the first guest selector of Pacific heritage. The Orator and One Thousand Ropes director said being born and raised in Samoa has shaped his outlook. “How we see the world in a different way. Sometimes I’m looking for a certain sort of originality, something that I haven’t seen before,” he said. It’s also because Pasifika films are coming through and it’s bringing just a little bit of how just how we see the world, Pasifika see the world, in story telling.”

This year’s selection reveals a wide range of human emotions and experiences, he added. His views are echoed by one of the curators of the festival’s Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts, Leo Koziol. “For about nine years now, myself and Craig Fasi of the Pollywood Film Festival, we’ve put together a programme of Maori and Pasifika shorts and this year’s a great year once again to have the best of Maori and Pacific short film making, you know the real new talents coming through.”

And the six talented Māori and Pasifika film-makers will be competing for the inaugural Wellington UNESCO City of Film Award for Best Film this year with a prize of $NZ3000. Jurors from fellow UNESCO cities of film Mumbai and Sarajevo join the third from Wellington to judge the competition.

One of the talented film-makers competing, said Mr Koziol, is the Cook Island and New Zealand Maori audio-visual artist Robert George whose movie I Am the Moment profiles Tongan performance artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila. “Who is based at Tokyo who does performance and art and is actually exploring the Japanese traditions of performance art and integrating them with Tongan and that’s a beautiful artistic film.”

Another entry Kapaemahu, he explained, explores the relationship between the ancient healers of Tahiti, the Mahu, who brought their gifts to Hawai’i. In pre-colonial times, the Mahu were notable priests and healers of the third gender, similar to Samoa’s fa’afafine and fakaleiti of Tonga.

“If you walk down Waikiki Beach,” there are some stones there that were dedicated to the Mahu that came in ancient times and brought these gifts and learnings of healing, and, you know, real traditions that were embraced by the Hawaiian people for centuries,” said Mr Koziol. Kapaemahu is by contemporary Hawaiian Mahu, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.

Leo Koziol said the competition’s emerging talent is Samoan-New Zealand film-maker Mark Papali’i who described his film Emily as a story of love and grief inspired by the loss of a loved one to cancer. “It was really hard for me to feel. There was nothing I could do to kind of help my friend, and in a way I wanted to see if showing this film could make other people feel the way I felt in that situation, kind of guide them.” Mr Papali’i said the strength of the two main characters’ relationship – Emily and her mother – was inspired by the strong women in his family, or aiga, which he said is central to both Fa’a Samoa culture and his story-telling.

Other Pasifika highlights included at Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival is the feature Loimata, The Sweetest Tears which honours the great Samoan va’a-tele, or ocean going yacht, maker Ema Siope.

Also, Tupaia’s Endeavour which uncovers the history of the Tahitian priest, navigator and translator who accompanies James Cook aboard the Endeavour on his first Pacific voyage.

Click here to view the schedule.

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The Inaugural Kiribati Language Week

Radio New Zealand Pacific Journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood, wrote an interesting article about how members of the Kiribati community in New Zealand have celebrated the inaugural Kiribati language week by launching education resources promoting their language and culture.

The largest population of Kiribati families reside in Warkworth and Rodney district in the northern part of the Auckland region. There are nearly 600 people of Kiribati descent living in Warkworth, with families settling there for work opportunities such as seasonal employment since the 1980s. Reflecting the Kiribati diaspora, the Waitematā District Health Board’s Pacific Health team opened a new clinic in Warkworth last year dedicated to the Kiribati community in that area.

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Where is Kiribati? map from http://www.geocurrents.info

Rae Bainteiti, a full-time student at Massey University, arrived in New Zealand under the New Zealand Aid Program as a scholarship recipient in 2016. Mr Bainteiti co-founded a youth charitable trust with a group of young leaders called Kiribati Aotearoa Diaspora Directorate (KADD).

The Trust is focussed on the community and how they can empower members to reach their full potential in their new home of New Zealand. One of KADD’s objectives is to promote the Kiribati language and culture, especially engaging young people to get involved.

A new bilingual story book called Nei Raoi Stays Home targeting children is funded by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and is in partnership with Mahu Vision Community Trust. Mr Bainteiti said the book was written and illustrated by Moevasa Taboru with the help of their friends from the Kiribati community. “Moevasa studied graphic art and has pursued her love for art by working with KADD. She consulted her friends who work in the Ministry of Education in Kiribati as well as a master’s student in education leadership to translate the material for the book,” he said.

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The second project launched this week was a 3D animated cartoon called Reirei ma Nei Mauri, which was developed by KADD to promote the Kiribati language to pre-schoolers, kindergarteners and toddlers both in Kiribati and New Zealand.

Nei Mauri is portrayed as the protagonist in this cartoon. The word Mauri dubbed on the main character is loosely translated as ‘health’ and ‘greetings’ and generally means the state of being protected and keeping danger at bay.

The metaphoric translation in the context of this project is the protection of the Kiribati language from the danger of extinction resulting from migration. “This is the first Kiribati cartoon that teaches three lessons about vowels, colours and numbers,” Mr Bainteiti said.

There are also Covid-19 lockdown diaries from i-Kiribati kids in the Rodney district, exhibited at the launch and supported by the Mahu Vision Community Trust.

“Beyond the project we wanted to engage artistic i-Kiribati people and we found a young qualified animator as well as a young music production person to help with the cartoon.

“Auckland libraries and Warkworth library did workshops with the kids to tell their stories about how they felt during lockdown and they developed their own paintings and about 20 kids came together.

“It became like a healing workshop for them as well as they paint and tell their stories in the English and Kiribati language,” Mr Bainteiti shared.

He said this week had been a reminder as to why it was important to treasure the Kiribati language in New Zealand. “We have Kiribati families move to New Zealand for economic reasons, not just because of climate change and so they start raising their families here and of course the English language is important, but at the same time we have to retain our native tongue as it is a form of our identity.

“The people who attended the launch, their eyes were beaming with pride and happiness, feeling proud to be who they are in their home away from home,” Mr Bainteiti said.

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Vanuatu’s ‘Strong Women’ Film Festival

Vanuatu’s Daily Post recently ran an article written by Jason Abel about a truly awesome event. The country’s Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, launched the Strong Women Vanuatu premier film on Wednesday this week at the Seaside showground.

The initiative was organized by the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS), in partnership with P&O Cruises and DFAT Australia’s Balance of Power program. The Director General of MOJCS, Ms Dorosday Kenneth, welcomed all government officials, private sector, invited guests and the community for coming to the official launching of the “Strong Women Vanuatu” film.

She said that recently the country has been hit by COVID-19 and TC Harold and the people are present to see some of the resilience shown by some of Vanuatu’s strong women within their different walks of life. “Especially the hard works of women in uniting families and the community nowadays in showing the resilience, Vanuatu is proud of today. On behalf of the MOJCS, in partnership with the P&O Cruises, Balance of Power, a program initiated by DFAT Australia, youths and mamas, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to the launching of this short film, which features 10 of the strong women in Vanuatu,” the DG said.

PM Loughman and the Leader of Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu were also present at the premier of the film. Loughman acknowledged the presence of all government officials, public servants, community members, chiefs and the public for attending this special occasion. “Women have and continue to play an important and prominent role in the making and shaping of Vanuatu,” he said.

PM Loughman continued, “Women are the backbone of our families and our nation. As we draw closer to our commemoration of the country’s 40th Independence anniversary, this video showcases just how much of the roles, these women among others who have played important roles as well into the nation’s building. This evening we are here to celebrate the achievements of this amazing women. As we face the challenges of 2020, rebuilding after TC Harold, the trend of COVID-19, and the impact of tourism through the closure of our borders, I am reminded daily on the strengths of our women and how much we ask for it.”

“Across the sphere, from health to economy, security to social protection, the impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic are made worse for women and girls towards the future. Knowing this, it is given more importance to the residents and achievements of women, particularly those, whose stories we are about to see,” he said.

“Each of these 10 women have faced unique challenges. This short film is a representation of the spirit and strength of not just these ni-Vanuatu women, but for all who have achieved extraordinary things across the different sectors of life especially in art, health, sport, education, business and tourism.”

Loughman also said, “Vanuatu, like the rest of the world, is facing a downfall in relation to its economy and had seen most of the families, whose likelihoods will be affected, are those whose mothers and fathers depended on the tourism sector, and yet I believe in the resilience of this sector. These 10 women, are an example of women’s strength and the people of Vanuatu. I am pleased to attend this special occasion, in launching this joint partnership event between the MOJCS and P&O Cruises with the support of DFAT’s Balance of Power program.”

“As the Head of the current government, I am proud of Vanuatu’s recognition of the role of women, in serving the growth and development of this country. This year, we have three female Directors General.  We also have 8 different directors within the government departments. That means, 6% of the senior public servant are women. This is a big achievement.”

“As Vanuatu matures in its development aspiration, together with the national framework established within the second national agenda equality policy, 2020-23, which will be later launched on the 23rd July, it is with my belief and commitment that Vanuatu will move towards a balanced representation between men and women, and voices in all levels of government, including Parliament.”

“As we look around, we can see some familiar faces, amongst the women here. Each of these women have their own story. They all changed and are all driven to achieve their goals. We hope that one day, we see these goals delivered by women, in Parliament, and representing the voices of women in further building this nation. As we celebrate our 40th Independence anniversary, their contributions will continue to shape our future. I would also like to congratulate these ten women on their achievements as well,” PM Loughman said.

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The Central Market, Port Vila, Vanuatu

The public enjoyed the premier of the ‘Strong Women Vanuatu’ film which saw crowds, particularly girls and women cheering on the women’s achievements on film.

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