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.

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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

Orthography

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.

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Rotuma Island, picture from http://www.rotuma.net

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.

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An empty market, Port Vila, Vanuatu

 

 

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#KindnessMatters Global Campaign

Last month the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) sponsored the #ConcertForAHealthyPlanet. Millions of people worldwide tuned in from their homes to watch Grammy Award winner and UNESCO MGIEP Global Kindness Ambassador Ricky Kej and a world ensemble of 44 musicians and dancers from 13 cities in 6 countries including: India, USA, Canada, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Switzerland.

The Concert launched the #KindnessAnthem developed for the MGIEP #KindnessMatters Global Campaign which aims to mobilize young people worldwide to carry out transformative acts of kindness to solve the world’s problems and create a positive culture of kindness. Watch and widely share the upbeat video by clicking here.

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The #KindnessMatters global campaign has collected more than 7,300 stories of amazing young people undertaking transformative acts of kindness especially during these challenging times of the Coronavirus. Read their stories to be inspired to add your own or someone’s story of kindness today.

Add your story here.

UNESCO MGIEP focuses on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.7 towards education for building peaceful and sustainable societies across the world by developing programs that promote social and emotional learning, innovate digital pedagogies and empower the youth.

As the ongoing COVID19 Pandemic continues to challenge the way we work, travel and socialize, let us not forget to #BeKind and recognise that this is a call for humanity to unite. UNESCO MGIEP continues to put the spotlight on everyday heroes from across the globe who are going that extra mile in these testing times.

Feel free to visit the UNESCO MGIEP Website and add your voice!

Stay safe everyone!

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Two New Languages for NZ Language Week Lineup

Every year New Zealand highlights languages from the Pacific Islands during week-long festivals that typically run from May to October. This year the lineup will include two new languages from Kiribati and Rotuma, respectively. Hopefully, the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus will not have too much of an impact on the planning and that the festivities will still run in some shape or form.

Recently, journalist Christine Rovoi wrote an interesting article for Radio New Zealand about how members of the Kiribati and Rotuman communities in New Zealand have welcomed their inclusion in the country’s Pacific language weeks lineup.

The government said the 2020 lineup was the beginning of a new decade of magnifying the value and competitive advantage that Pacific languages and bilingualism brought to Aotearoa New Zealand. The Pacific Language Weeks first started in 2010 with Samoa Language Week and grown from there. Last year’s celebrations were part of the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages.

For Kiribati tutor Taeang Erika it had been a long time coming but she was happy it would finally be recognized as an official language week in New Zealand. “I am so glad that we are having it and we’ve got a day and date because at that time or on that date, we are going to use mostly our language,” she said. “We are going to make sure our language is alive and it is spoken throughout. Also we can practise our culture too.”

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said the language weeks illuminated the value of the languages and cultures of indigenous peoples across the world.

Aupito said it also boosted the confidence of Pacific youth who proudly stood and showed they too treasured their legacy of diverse languages and cultures in New Zealand. “Rotuma language obviously is identified by UNESCO as being vulnerable,” he said, “and of course what we’ve seen with Kiribati is there’s a decline in, a growing trend of fewer people picking up the languages. Pacific peoples must lead this work with confidence and use our cultural values such as collective action to also promote our languages – not just amongst Pacific communities but with all New Zealanders.”

The Pacific Language Weeks would be supported by the 2019 Wellbeing Budget allocation of $20 million over four years.

Mr.  Sio said, “So the Ministry for Pacific Peoples can establish a new Pacific Language Unit, with a set of language support functions to help ensure the survival of Pacific languages.

This passion for Pacific languages and cultures will not grow on its own and the government’s Wellbeing Budget allows us to work in partnership with Pacific communities and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples to keep the fires burning so that our Pacific stories, which our languages carry, continue to be passed onto future generations to come.”

Rotuman tutor Fesaitu Solomone said it had always been the aim of her people to have their culture and language officially recognised in Aotearoa.

The relationship between heritage and language was critical for the voice of Rotumans to thrive and survive, she said.

“There’s visibility for our Rotuman people here. Our language and culture has been at the forefront for our people as well. It’s a huge step forward for everybody here in New Zealand.”

Ms Solomone said preparations were under way for this year’s celebrations, which would also mark Rotuma Day – when the island was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1881. “Our Rotuman community groups that has continued to work in this space specifically New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship Incorporated Group and also the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship as well,” she said.

Here’s the 2020 Lineup:

Rotuma: 10 May – 16 May

Samoa: 24 May – 30 May

Kiribati: 12 July – 18 July

Cook Islands: 2 August – 8 August

Tonga: 6 September – 12 September

Tuvalu: 27 September – 3 October

Fijian: 4 October – 10 October

Niue: 18 October – 24 October

Tokelau: 25 October – 31 October.

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World Intellectual Property Day 2020

Every April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity.

World IP Day 2020 puts innovation – and the IP rights that support it – at the heart of efforts to create a green future. Why? Because the choices we make today will shape our tomorrow. The earth is our home. We need to care for it.

Unfortunately, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to keep everyone safe and well, WIPO will not organize any physical events, and encourages the World IP Day community to move celebrations to virtual channels. Given the high number of World IP Day events that have been cancelled around the world, we will not deploy the World IP Day events map this year.

HoweverOn 26 April, WIPO will organise World Intellectual Property Day, with a focus on climate change and a green future. This is a unique opportunity to raise the issues facing archives around climate change, and the urgent need for an international response to protect world heritage.

We invite archival institutions, professional associations to sign on to the attached letter. With enough support, we hope to be able to send a strong message on the immediacy of the situation and the need for action.

If you wish to add your voice, please send your name, the name of your institution or association, and your country to Jean Dryden at dryden.ica.wipo@gmail.com.

World Intellectual Property Day – April 26, 2020

Climate, Heritage and Intellectual Property

On the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day 2020, we, the undersigned organizations, call on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to take urgent action to help save our cultural heritage. The world’s cultural heritage is at risk from the devastating effects of climate change.

Globally, libraries, archives, museums, sites and other cultural heritage institutions are suffering the grave consequences of fires, floods and other disasters related to climate change. Damage to, or disappearance of, any heritage material impoverishes the heritage of all nations. The need for action is urgent, in line with Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 11.4.

The World Intellectual Property Organization, the global body that sets international copyright rules has a pressing responsibility to act to ensure that important and unique collections in libraries, archives, and museums that are faced with the real threat of climate change can survive. 

Digitisation and storage in the cloud are among the most effective ways to safeguard our heritage, as already recognised in the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage including in digital form. But digitisation requires the making of copies, and too many national copyright laws fail to allow digital preservation for copyright-protected material. In fact, over a quarter of WIPO member states do not permit preservation at all, even for print formats.

Moreover, inconsistent copyright laws and a lack of clear possibilities to import and export works often prevent cultural heritage institutions from working together across borders. Cross-border cooperation would enable digitised copies to be stored in different places, crucially minimising the risk of loss, as well as helping to reduce costs, and avoiding duplication of effort.

Yet despite the clear public good, without adequate copyright laws heritage institutions are obliged to seek permissions and pay remunerations, often from the public purse, just to make a preservation copy. Cultural heritage institutions urgently need an international legal instrument with clear rules allowing preservation of collections, including across borders. WIPO alone has the mandate to set this global standard, and only WIPO can solve the cross-border problems.

We must act now to facilitate the work of cultural heritage institutions in achieving their public interest mission, and to mitigate the cultural losses brought about by climate change.

We must act now to safeguard our heritage.

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Good News in Cook Islands

There is some good news out there amid the Covid19 pandemic. The Cook Islands has been declared free of the coronavirus. During his “address to the nation,” Prime Minister Henry Puna thanked God for giving people courage and strength during the country’s greatest threat in modern history. He said hundreds of Covid-19 tests taken in the Cook Islands had come back negative, and the country can officially be confirmed as a Covid-free zone – one of the first nations in the world to do so.

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Where are the Cook Islands, map from cookislands113.wordpress.com

All schools will reopen this week, domestic travel restrictions to and from the Pa Enua (outer islands) will be lifted, non-contact sports can resume, cafés and restaurants can open for normal business but with physical distancing in place, and restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be reviewed.

Tereora College principal Tania Morgan said she and her staff were looking forward to opening their doors to all students, after the long and early Easter break. “We anticipate some challenges ahead but know that our students, staff and our community will be prepared as best as possible to meet those challenges,” she said. “We have developed our school guidelines based on information supplied by our Ministry of Education through the Ministry of Health. These guidelines will include what physical distancing and good hygiene practices will look like at Tereora College.”

Secretary of Education Danielle Tungane Cochrane thanks everyone who had made it possible to reopen the nation’s school this morning. “It could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our students, their families and teachers,” she said.

“Together with Te Marae Ora and lead agencies, the Cook Islands could not have be at this important juncture if it weren’t for everyone’s commitment in following the hygiene and distancing measures put in place.”

“The Cook Islands is Covid-19 free and remains a safe place to be, and so are our schools.  Teaching and learning will look quite different during these uncertain times and especially during code yellow but hygiene practices like regular hand-washing will continue as part of the school norm for everyone, and distancing will be managed as best as possible. We’re all looking forward to having our students back and learning resume, and thank parents and families for their ongoing support with getting children ready for learning.”

Also, churches have reopened over this past weekend. Religious Advisory Council president Eric Toleafoa said he was overjoyed. The Covid-19 threat had meant Cook Islands churches were operating in uncharted territory.”We are so used to worshipping together,” he said. “We have had to work on doing things differently and look at avenues to reach those stuck at home, but not everyone is on social media.”

Some of the churches have returned under strict health ministry rules: no congregational singing, recorded music preferred, but if they must have a choir, no more than five singers, all standing in a row and suitably distanced.

However, the Cook Islands government is under pressure to ease rules that people returning from overseas must spend two spells in quarantine. Prime Minister Henry Puna’s cabinet is developing a national action plan aimed at keeping country covid-19-free.

At the moment travellers must clear two weeks in a quarantine facility near Auckland airport, then head into another two weeks quarantine after they land in Rarotonga before being able to go home.

But for almost three hundred Cook Islanders already in lockdown across New Zealand, the policy is “too much”. They are asking their government for the same rights to head home as other repatriated citizens around the world, and are willing to be Covid-19 tested in New Zealand first before heading into quarantine on Rarotonga.

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Beautiful Island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, photo by http://www.lonelyplanet.com

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Urging Bougainvilleans to Tell Stories

This week we’ll keep to the theme of storytelling and focus on a very unique island of the Pacific called Bougainville. Bougainville is the easternmost island of Papua New Guinea, in the Solomon Sea, southwestern Pacific. Geographically, Bougainville is the largest of the Solomon Islands, located near the northern end of that chain.

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Where is Bougainville, PNG? Map from thewellingtonchocolatevoyage.wordpress

Recently, Radio New Zealand ran an article that I thought was interesting about how the Bougainville Heritage Foundation is encouraging local people to take opportunities to tell their histories and preserve their culture.

The Foundation runs a Haus Stori, or library, in Arawa and is building an archive of written, oral and artistic accounts of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region’s cultural heritage. Its manager Allan Gioni said it was difficult to connect young Bougainvilleans with their cultural heritage, but that the work remained too important to neglect.

Mr Gioni is urging all Bougainville communities to take opportunities to contribute to the preservation and promotion of their people’s culture. “The people need to understand and work with us who are making efforts to keep this thing. I think Bougainvilleans, they are peaceful people, so if we go to communities and ask them to tell us stories and record them, I think that they will say okay.”

Mr Gioni also appealed for people to donate books and writing about Bougainville to the Haus Stori. He explained that the destruction caused to local education and record keeping services by Bougainville’s civil war in the 1990s had a lasting impact.

“In the library I’ve seen that we still have books that are talking about other countries, but we don’t really have much information about Bougainville. So that’s a big challenge for us as Bouginvilleans to still work on preserving our culture,” he said.

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Bougainville Haus Stori, photo from RNZ news

 

 

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Shelter in Place Reading

I would be remiss not to recommend a couple of books to engage yourself during this time of quarantine. Both books will take you to the beautiful South Pacific during the early part of 20th Century. Enjoy!

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 Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas describes the adventurous life of American author Robert Dean Frisbie, who lived in the South Seas from 1920 until his death in 1948. Although he is part of a long line of South Seas writers that began with Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, Frisbie managed to do what very few of these writers could do—after going to the Pacific, he stayed there for the rest of his life. He first arrived in Tahiti, French Polynesia, where he met author James Norman Hall. The two would remain friends for the rest of their lives. Hall and Charles Nordhoff wrote Mutiny on the Bounty and later the Bounty Trilogy. After four years in Tahiti, Frisbie left for the tiny atoll of Pukapuka, Cook Islands, where he hoped the solitude would enable him to write his masterpiece. Frisbie embraced life there; he married, had children and lived a life completely different from those of his American contemporaries. He was also a contemporary of James Michener. Frisbie’s writings would put Pukapuka on the map and his adventures would become the stuff of Pacific Islands’ lore.

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Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka written by a Polynesian woman. It tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up on a remote island in the Cook Islands group. Written when Johnny was between the ages of 12 and 14, and published in 1948 when she was 15, Johnny likens her travels through South Pacific islands to those of Ulysses in the Odyssey. Through Johnny’s fresh and unspoiled eyes, we read of a Garden-of-Eden existence on a remote atoll, where the land and the sea provide all that is necessary for life. The sea brings danger as well; Johnny describes the terror of a hurricane that all but destroys a deserted island where she and her family are marooned. The sea rises and floods the entire island to a depth of six feet; they barely survive by tying themselves to the topmost branches of a tall tree. Johnny’s writing sparkles. She has humor and wisdom beyond her years as she describes life and customs on the island where she grew up. Her grandmother’s extended family, the trading station operated by her father, the local witch doctor, a native missionary, her father’s mistress after the death of her mother, and her first boyfriend are among the characters she describes with unflinching honesty. Cut off from the outside world, the island is so remote that six months pass between visits by passing ships. She learns at an early age to be self-reliant. Struck early by tragedy (her mother died when Johnny was nine years old), she helps her father care for four brothers and sisters until he falls ill and dies when she is sixteen. Friends including James A. Michener arrange a foster family in Hawaii where she pursues her education and re-unites with her two sisters. Out of print for more than sixty years, Johnny has added two new chapters to this classic and compelling book and illustrated it with family photos and three maps.

Both books could be found on the Dockside Sailing Press Website, as well as at

Amazon.com.

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