The photo essay below is the first installment of a personal account of my two years in Fiji and Rotuma from October 1959 through August 1961. The main purpose of this project is to provide photographic images that might be of interest to contemporary Rotumans.
I have forgotten the names of some of the people who appear in the photos and would welcome your help in identifying them. Information identifying people should be sent to <email@example.com> Please identify the photos by the numbers (#) in the captions
Episode 1: Fiji 1959
I first arrived in Fiji on 12 October 1959 and spent the first night at the Korolevu Hotel where I met Alex Rae. He was the first Rotuman I met and he really impressed me, to say the least. In my journal I described him as one of the finest men I had ever met. He was 64 years old at the time--tall (6' 4"), well-built, with a full head of white hair to complement his copper-colored skin, and a true gentleman.
After two nights at Korolevu I went to Suva where I booked in at the Southern Cross Hotel. After a few days there, Mr. Rae showed up with his nephew, Oscar Bentley and Oscar's wife Tillie, his niece, Liebling and her fiancee, Herb Marlow. They took me to the home of Mr. Rae's sister, Faga Hoeflich, and I really enjoyed their company.
Because of complications in gettting to Rotuma (see Introduction to published articles) I was forced to stay in Suva until 13 December, but fortunately for me, Mrs Hoeflich graciously invited me to stay at her home--an invitation I could hardly refuse.
One of the highlights of my stay in Suva was the wedding of Christine Bentley and Rob Morrison, who was from New Zealand serving with the NZ Air Force. Christine is the daughter of Victor Bentley. The wedding took place on 5 December, but the preparations began a week earlier.
It was the first time I got to see the way food was prepared in a koua and I got to meet quite a few people from the Rotuman community in Suva. The wedding was mixture of European and Rotuman customs
Most of the preparation of food for the wedding was done at Victor Bentley's house the night before the wedding. I made the following entry in my diary describing the events of the evening:
"It was a most interesting evening. There are no electric lights in Victor's house so the work was done in the light of several Coleman lanterns. The pigs had been killed and were strung up by the time I arrived and the chickens had been caught, but were still alive. The taro had already been put in the lovo.
"The women plucked and dressed the chickens after the men killed them. After that the men didn't have much to do so they just sat around and drank beer and rum punch. Some of the men and women played cards. A few of the young men brought out their guitars and began playing. I drank rum punch and kava until about 2:30 a.m. although some of the others went on until about 4:30. I slept on a mat on the floor."
The wedding was held at a Methodist church after which there was a reception at Oscar and Tillie's place where some Rotuman ceremonies, including the ritual cutting of the bride's hair (‘of sope), were performed. About 400 people attended. Alf Bentley's band, consisting of six pieces, mostly guitar and bass, played music till the wee hours of the morning.