Hallo, my name is Sheryanne Tagilala. I am going to be
16 years old next March 2007, and my ties to Rotuma are through my
On 13 May 2006, I was very proud to have been a
part of the group of eight (8) SPIKK (South Pacific Island Kids
Klub) kids who represented the islands of Rotuma through traditional Rotuman
dance at the Pacific Friendly Islands (PFI INC) Convention in Sacramento,
California. All eight of us who were chosen had some sort of ties
to the island of Rotuma through our relatives or immediate family.
We were 4 girls and 4 boys, all of whom were either junior
high school or high school students here in Northern California. Right
after we were chosen, we were told as a group that our Rotuman dance
would be an inaugural performance acknowledging our identity as PFI
Rotuma next to other Pacific islands at this festival. Other islands
like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and the Maori's of New Zealand would
also perform cultural items at this convention.
Anyway, what I understood about the significance of our performance
was that previously, Rotuma had always come under the Fiji Island Portfolio
inside the PFI Inc Convention. Because of this, if you wanted to compare
Rotumans with the Samoans, Fijians and Tongans etc, the Rotumans were
virtually unknown in the South Pacific Island circle out here, even
though we had a good Rotuman community here in California. Sad to say,
only a few people knew where Rotuma was. Others never even heard of
Rotuma. It was an honor for me as well as for my fellow SPIKK members
to participate in this cultural exchange dance. The thought of dancing
a traditional Rotuman dance was of great significance to me because
of the fact that it represented a part of my heritage and the fact
that through this dance, the people who had no idea where Rotuma was
or who Rotumans are would finally learn something new.
Prior to our performance at the PFI convention, our small group prepared
for the big day by meeting at various Rotuman family homes around the
San Francisco Bay area for dance practices. The taumaka practices
were very interesting. Learning the various Rotuman songs and dance
steps from our Rotuman elders out here in the SF Bay was a great experience.
Our Rotuman dance teachers were very patient with us and after just
a few practices, we were able to sing the Rotuman songs on our own
So on 13 May 2006 we stepped onto the stage at the Sacramento
Convention Center facing a convention center filled with people of
all South Pacific Island backgrounds. We were backed up by a group
of Rotuman singers (our parents and Rotuman supporters), and decked
out in a somewhat close resemblence of what a Rotuman dance costume
might be and we danced and sang our hearts out. We were one of the
few island groups that didn't use modern recorded music during the
dance. We actually had our entourage sit in a circle around a replica
of a drum (which was in reality a cardboard box covered
by a mat) all holding sticks and while beating at the drum, they sang
along with us in Rotuman while we danced. It was a wonderful experience.
After our dance, many other islanders came and confessed to us that
they never knew Rotuma existed. They were intrigued with the costumes
and the apei and they all told us how they much they enjoyed the dance
and learning about Rotuma. Many of them wanted to know where Rotuma
was. I felt good reaching out and performing because I felt that no
matter how small a group we were, the people that we performed for
and those that appreciated our efforts did learn something new about
who we are and where we came from.
Dancing on stage
It was an honor and a great experience for me. I am proud
of my Rotuman heritage and look forward to participating in more cultural
exchange programs in the future.