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Archived News: May 1998

From Mark Vaurasi in Wellington (29 May 1998)

I guess we are a little late celebrating Rotuma Day in Kiwiland. Our Wellington Group celebrated Rotuma Day last Saturday 23 May 98. The main reason for the delay was to enable some of our members, Kautane Henderson, Ravai and Arthur Shaw, and me to take advantage of the combined airlines (Air Pacific/Air NZ) cheap fares and travel to Fiji and Rotuma from 26 Apr - 10 May 98.

I travelled to Rotuma on the Bulou na Ceva boat and flew back by Sunflower. It's sad to note that the ongoing saga of boat timings still continue. Initially the boat was scheduled leave Suva on Tuesday, then it was postponed for Wednesday 6 pm. Unfortunately, we did not leave Suva until 2 a.m. on Thursday, arriving in Oinafa on Friday night at approx 6 p.m. Because it was dark the boat achored out at sea. I was told that it was too risky to come to the jetty. The majority of the passengers spent the night on the boat as only two launch trips were made to the jetty that night.

It is also sad to note that the toilets (blocked) and shower facilities have not improved since I last went on the boat during the Catholic Church's 150th Anniversary celebrations. I am firmly of the opinion that the fare of F$90 for the deck is too expensive, given the living conditions. My return trip on Sunflower was very pleasant. I suppose I can understand why Sunflower's one-way fare is F$275 as there were only eight passengers on the plane.

It was nice to see Lisi from my village in Saolei and thanks for the tahroro. The tahroro was bottled and repacked for our return trip to NZ. Thanks to my family (Oscar and Rosarie), Lisi Taukave and son Ronnie for providing it, and Ravai Shaw's (nee Titifanue) family in Suva for transferring it into sealed bottles. We got through customs in Wellington okay.

Kautane's family (Tivaknoa and Mua) from Vatukoula made a koua and packed 'ikou and fekei 'uhi which we brought back to NZ. I would also like to thank my brother Pene Nataniela and his wife Doris for putting me up in Fiji. While in Fiji I also attended the Rotuma Day kato'aga that was held in the Marist Brothers hall. Congratulations to the people of Juju for hosting it and those from the districts of Oinafa, Itu'ti'u and Pepjei for your entertainment.

In Wellington we had a full house at Akanisi and Kit's place to celebrate Rotuma Day. Some of the families arrived on Friday to play cards and catch up, while the remainder arrived on Saturday morning. We had a meeting at 11.00 followed by lunch. For lunch we had 'ikou (from Fiji), tahroro (from Rotuma), fekei 'a'ana (made by Tony Tuatoko and Arthur Shaw), fish with coconut milk, bamba and the usual Rotuman/Kiwi food.

We were entertined as usual by our local guitarists and vocalists Emi, Akanisi, Sydney, Gabriel, Ravai and Paul. The entertainment continued until 6.30 p.m. when we stopped for dinner. This was followed by further singing, cards, etc. It was noted that the family that arrived early on Friday night was the last to leave on Sunday morning. I guess I can honestly say that a good Rotuma day was had by all.

We plan to meet on 13 Jun 1998 to practice our songs and entertainment for Ronald Scott's 21st Birthday. Emi and Chris has invited our group to dance at Ron's 21st birthday which will be celebrated on Saturday 4 July (6.00pm) at the Wairarapa Community Polytechnic Students Common Room, 159 Chapel St, Masterton. In addition we will be practicing some items and songs for the NZ Rotumans next meeting in October over tha Labour weekend. We are also looking forward to Alan and Jan's visit to Wellington in August.

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (15 May 1998)

Our Rotuma Day celebration: On 12th we had sports, e.g. cycling, athletic & track events, for young and old, 800 metres, 400 metres, etc.; tug of war, ladies and men; coconut climbing, copra cutting, draughts, ping pong, table tennis; farmer's show, baby show, and not but least, the women's handicrafts.

On the 13th May, second day, we started at Lihowa, Motusa, Futiag Matini where the Union Jack was hoisted 13th May 1881. Devotion was conducted by Rev. Fatiaki. Motusa choir sang Hymn 403, then "Rotuma Hanua Ontou" by Mamas Konusi.

Hymn 403
Alalum'ak Gagaj!
'Otomis hanua
La maur lelei:
Te' ne te ne fupu 'e 'otou hanua
Ma 'am 'ou famori
Ne hua'ia.
Alalum'ak Gagaj!
'Am lelea' Rotuma
Ne Maur 'e 'i:
La garue fakfor ma garue fak'at
Ne 'am re la 'es ao
'E te' ne av
Alalum'ak Gagaj!
'Otom gagaj pure
La maur lelei:
La ir maeav hanis ka puer nonoj aier
Ma noh agag se 'ae
Sau ne lagi
Alalum'ak Gagaj!
'Otom ro'aitu
La man aier
'Amis la ma fumou noh hugag'esea
Kal 'e 'ou hanisi
'E te' ne av
The seven chiefs stood in front of the fakioga, also the District Officer, Motusa Minister Samuela Pili Isimeli. After that at Ahau Gagaj Maraf gave the opening speech, based on the "Seven H's", that is:
1   Haia'aleleiga
2   Haie'akiga
3   Hai ineaga
4   Hai'ofaga
5   Haiuaga
Peace and Harmony
Honor and Respect
Knowledge and Understanding
Happiness and Hospitality
Protection and Guidance

If we have the first 5 H's, we shall have 6 and 7:

6   Haihanisiga (1st John 4: 7&8)
7   Hevani
Love and Forgiveness

Entertainment after Maraf spoke was first, the Noatau Hafa: all white with rauvaru skirts, tefui tio harmimia', "A'arpau" colour wise. Fa 'oris titi hu. Ka haina plain. Malhaha Hafa: White top with green sulu, haina fal rauvar ka fa rau ji. Pepjei Hafa: white top with fa' fal hagkej mia', tefui jio mia'. I like their style of dancing--fancy! "Manatu lelei pau" plus they wave their handkerchiefs of the Union Jack colours, red, white, & blue. Next time will be the other districts' turn. If they all perform it will be a very late finish for everyone! After lunch were sports finals and prize giving.

The Rotuma Hospital Board of Visitors had a stall selling hot dogs, tahroro, niu, oranges, curry & roti, etc. etc. My thanks go to Mrs. Collinwood for kindly supplying me with the bread rolls from Nadi, which were flown over by her aeroplane, Sunflower Airlines. God bless.

Everyone enjoyed the celebrations.

In Rotuma today we have "The Rotuma Hospital Board of Visitors." We're trying our very best to have a solar plant put on the hospital, and being the chairlady for the Board, may I ask for your kind donations, your help, anyone who can give us a little help we will appreciate that very much. Faiakseia. Address: Mrs. Sanimeli Maraf, P. O. Box 28, Ahau, Rotuma, Fiji.

This very day we are having a drought in Rotuma. Luckily for the underground water, that supply runs every day. Leaves are turning brown everywhere. We cannot eat ikou & vati but luckily for the (sea) fish and lumu are plentiful. Animals have to come closer to ufaga for water. Dust everywhere covers the roadside trees. You cannot see the road clearly, cars have to be washed after every short run you make. Fire on the raodside, day and night; sometimes it's too near the road & very dangerous. We're hoping and praying for RAIN.

From Mereana Emose in California (26 May 1998)

The "Seven Stars of Rotuma" Club in the Bay Area, California, celebrated the Rotuma Day on May 16 in Fremont. Most of the Rotumans in the Bay Area attended which made it a special and memorable day for us. Even though the Club's "han pure" was in Australia, we had a great time! And, yes, we had "fekei," a Lopta recipe which turned out so well (`aag pau ne `os hanua!!). Let us know if you need the recipe...its free for the asking. <>

Otomis teran ka kamat `e mane`at `e paka te Fremont (`amis`amah ma `ate ianian se tae) ma `omoe ta re `e hall ne rot Uasile. `Otomis kouet ma jaute Rotumet, "Fatumava Band," consisting of Supa, Petero, Kafoa, Arone and Sefeti. `Amis hea' sema ka `aus otomis hun sasiag te tae `e vas ta la po la leum se otomis menea' te`is. Kato`ag ta helao ka sor pau!!!

Seven Stars of Rotuma Club a'hae`kiof `aus `otomis hen sasiag `atakoa ma `irot`ak ne `omus teran ta la' fakma se `omus `ofa ma a'hae lelei. Fu`uomus....

From Bournemouth, England (21 May 1998)

Viane Amato-Ali won the Bournemouth University '1998 Sports Personality Award'. He played rugby for the university this season and scored 7 tries. In addition, he has also been helping out with coaching. In 1996 Viane won a gold medal in the South Pacific Games and was awarded Fiji's FASANOC Sports Administrator of that Year but, in his own words "this award, so far away from home and being here only eight months, is one of the greatest honours I could get in my sporting career."

From The Organising Committee of the '98 Rotuma Day Celebrations in Sydney, Australia (21 May 1998).

This year's Rotuma Day Celebration was hosted by members of the Drummoyne Rotuman Congregation in Sydney. It was a weekend of celebrating which started on the Friday evening (16 May) with a welcome dinner for the Brisbane Rotuman Community. This group of 66 members arrived from Brisbane via two buses after spending 14 hours travelling. They were accommodated at Alan Walker College of Evangelism, North Parramatta.

On Saturday, 17 May, at Riverside Girls' High School Auditorium, the "katoaga" opened with an address by Steve Walker (Elder), and a short prayer by Fekau Emotama Pene. The MC for the day was Rejieli Clayton.

Three groups participated this year in cultural performances ("tautoga"), namely: The Drummoyne Rotuman Congregation, Wesley Mission Rotuman Congregation, and the Brisbane Rotuman Community. We also had the pleasure of entertaining a number of overseas visitors who were in the country over this weekend. To name a few: Fekau Voi Taukave (visiting from Suva); Rosarina Pene and Freddie Fonmoa (visiting from Suva); Susanna Atalifo (visiting from Lautoka); Tua Faktaufon & sons (visiting from Nadi); Emeli Hay, daughter--Lenora, and grand-daughter--Tyannah (visiting from California).

Also this year, we as hosts, decided to vary the day's activities with the inclusion of a newly-formed Rotuman band comprising members of the Congregation. The band, called "Lalavi" is led by Eric Fatiaki and members include: Fred Pene (vocalist/ukeleleist), Etike Langi (bass guitarist), Teariki Smith (organist), Simone Fatiaki (vocalist), George Managreve (lead guitarist), and George Fonmanu (drums). The variety of songs played that day certainly got the audience revved up, and in between cultural performances and over lunch, the stage was taken over by individual star performances from guests. It certainly reminded us all of the "faras" back on the island.

As is customary in any Rotuman gathering, the event is not complete without a game of "pasa". Saturday was no exception. After the final cultural performance, the stage was cleared and five groups of fours sat around and enjoyed their game of cards, while on the sideline, pairs were eagerly waiting to replace the losers. All losers had to entertain the audience in dance to the accompaniment of Lalavi.

For the 300 plus guests that arrived that day, they were all treated to a barbeque luncheon, and after the day's cultural performances and appearances by "Lalavi", dinner was provided in the form of a koua pig, 'a'ana, charcoal chicken, poat kau and a variety of curries.

Celebrations continued well into the evening on Saturday with a "mak fifisi" at the Drummoyne Sailing Club. Entry was free for all, and it was just great to see so many Rotumans and their young families having a wonderful time. Even the older Rotumans were still having a whale of a time as it approached midnight. Live music that evening was provided by the well-known Fijian band--"Kabani". They were fantastic and were truly responsible for ensuring we all had a great time. A lot of people were nursing sore feet and heavy eyelids the next day!!

The weekend celebrations were brought to a close with a Combined Church Service on Sunday, 18 May at Drummoyne Uniting Church, with Fekau Voi Taukave as guest preacher. Fekau Taukave led the congregation with a meaningful sermon entitled "The Stories We Tell Our Children."

The service was followed by a feast comprising more koua pig, 'a'ana, poat kau, charcoal chicken, fekei, vai tahroro moa, 'ikou, seafood marinara, chicken cashew nuts, sweet & sour chicken, curries, salads, trifle, tipari, and seasonal fruit salad and ice cream.

Over lunch, informal speeches were made by representatives of the Wesley Mission & Brisbane Community; and at 2.00 pm Sunday afternoon, we all said farewell to our Brisbane relatives as they boarded their buses for their 14-hour return journey home.

Overall, it was truly a fabulous weekend of fellowship, feasting and fun; a weekend thoroughly enjoyed by the Rotumans of Sydney & Brisbane.

From Sefo A. Titifanua in Nanaimo (20 May 1998)

The Canada Hugag'esea Club celebrated Rotuma Day in Richmond, British Columbia, last Saturday. There were 300 plus people in attendance which helped make it a day to remember.We are grateful to the Vancouver Fiji Community for their support and also to the spouses of Rotuman men and women for their patience and tolerance during the weeks leading to the function...faiaksea 'e hanisi.

Our menu consisted of 'ikou puat kau, fekei, puaka, moa ma 'a'an noso. There was also ia' fekei and curry beef.

Our hafa was performed after dinner followed by Suka, Donna their children and their Samoan friends, Tau and Tafe Maae their children, from Spokane Washington, who presented a mixture of Rotuman and Samoan dances. Mr.& Mrs. Maae demonstrated true Pacific Island spirit with their loving contribution to help their friends Suka and Donna Faragke. Again, to them we say...faiaksea 'e hanisi.

There were three new members who, a few years back, were not aware of their Rotuman background. Stell Seeley and Wendy Shields (great-granddaughters of Akanisi Gibson), and Guy Rae, son of 'Elikimi (Rave ma 'Aisea..Motusa).

Reverend Fesaitu Marseu and his wife Emeli, Rylstone, Australia, travelled to Adelaide in April to attend a nine-day Regional Evangelism Conference for Australasia. For an account of their experiences click here.
From Marie Dickenson in Sydney (17 May)

The Rotuman Language Workshop has been running for three years in Sydney. This season it will be reopened by Professor Alan Howard & Dr Jan Rensel on 25th July at 1 pm at Alan Walker College at North Parramatta, Sydney. It will be followed by dinner from 5.30--9.30 p.m. The workshop is open to anyone who wants to learn Rotuman or refresh their Rotuman Language. The RL Workshop runs through our winter months and breaks up for summer. We open our workshops with devotion, to be led by Mr Pene Vafosu and Marie (Martoa) Dickinson. Alan & Jan will open the RL Workshop and Rev Fesaitu Marseu will give a welcome speech to new members. Then it's over to our wonderful Rotuman Language teacher, Mrs Kava Fonmoa, affectionately known to us and our children as Aunty Kava. Anyone who wants to join the workshop and/or dinner are most welcome. For more information, contact Martoa Dickinson (02) 9484 3609, Mr Pene Vafosu (02) 9625 3845 or Aunty Kava (02) 9599 4060. Rejieli Clayton will announce the RL Workshop at our Rotuma Day Celebration on Saturday 16th July in Sydney.

We are very pleased to have Alan and Jan as our guests for the occasion. Alan first went to Rotuma in 1959 to do dissertation research when he was 25 years old. He spent a year on the island and studied many aspects of Rotuman culture: land tenure, education, leadership, health, myths & legends, adoption, etc. He published a book, Learning to be Rotuman, and many articles based on his research. In 1987 he returned with his wife, Jan Rensel, who conducted her own research on Rotuma over the next several years. Her PhD dissertation was entitled, "For Love or Money: Interhousehold Exchange and the Economy of Rotuma." In 1994 Alan published Hef Ran Ta" (The Morning Star), a biography of Wilson Inia, Rotuma's first Senator. Alan and Jan have also co-authored several articles about modern Rotuman society. Dr Howard is Professor, and Dr Jan Rensel is Adjunct Assistant Professor, in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawaii.

Alan & Jan created the Rotuma website in November 1996 and developed it into a place where Rotumans everywhere can keep up on the news, communicate with one another, and learn about their cultural heritage. In collaboration with Elizabeth Inia and others, they have seen through to publication two new books of importance for Rotuman language learning: a republication of Churchward's 1940 Rotuman Dictionary (with the addition of an English to Rotuman wordlist), and a book of Rotuman proverbs compiled by Mrs Inia. Both books are being published by the Institute of Pacific Studies at University of the South Pacific in Suva and might be available by the time of the workshop.

I know many Rotumans join me in thanking Alan & Jan for the work they have done. We are honored to have them open our workshop this season. I thank them both on behalf of everyone for accepting the invitation.

From Tefui Club, Honolulu (May 19, 1998)

The Rotuman Association of Hawaii (Tefui Club) celebrated Rotuma Day at Kailua Beach Park on Saturday, 16 May. We had a great turnout; a number of Fijian guests (including the crew from Air Pacific) joined in the festivities. The food was, as always, plentiful, and included koua pig, a'ana, 'ikou puat kau, and fekei. Each family performed a dance or skit and the group performed a hafa just for the fun of it. Maxine Nataniela, wife of our President, Marseu Nataniela, brought club T-shirts which she designed and had made. To see what they look like click here. We hope other Rotuman communities had as much fun as we did, and we'd love to hear about it!

Marie Dickenson (Sydney) sent the following extract from the Sept - Oct 1997 issue of Litani, the UNIFIL Magazine (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) , which contains an article about Maj-Gen Jioje Konrote, complete with picture. Jioje K Konrote was born in 1947, the eldest of nine children to Mua and Konrote. He is married (his wife Sarote is from Itumuta) with two children.

Here is the text from the magazine:

The Secretary General of the United Nations Mr Kofi Annan has appointed Maj-Gen Jioje Konousi Konrote of Fiji as Commander of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) with effect from 1 Oct 1997. He is to succeed Maj-Gen Stanislaw Franciszek Wozniak of Poland who served as Commander since April 1995.   

The Secretary General paid tribute to Maj-Gen Wozniak for his distinguished service in UNIFIL in a dispatch from New York. Maj-Gen Konrote who has served in the Fijian Armed Forces since 1966 received his military training in New Zealand and Australia. He is a graduate of the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies.   

He has held several staff and command positions in Fiji and was seconded to the New Zealand Army as well as to the British Forces in Hong Kong. Prior to taking up the appointment of the FC of UNIFIL Maj-Gen Konrote was the Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.    He has had previous experience with UNIFIL where he served five times as Company Commander (1978, 1980-81), Senior Plans Officer at UNIFIL HQ (1983-84), Battalion Commander (1986-87) and Deputy Force Commander (1990-91).

Getting married on 15 May: Eric Damon Sievinen, son of Tivaknoa (Ieli, of Malhaha) and Richard Sievinen to Linsey Jean Brown, in North Palm City, Florida.
From David Saunders in Fiji (8 May 1998)

The dengue fever epidemic is continuing into its fifth month throughout Fiji, with 24,780 suspected cases and 1,708 hospitalisations reported from Ministry of Health facilities since it began in late December. Three percent of the population has been affected to date. While the epidemic seems to have slowed down considerably in the past month, the virus continues to be transmitted at a high rate in some areas. The most recent death due to dengue occurred on 11 April on Kabara Island in the Lau Island group, bringing the total to 13 since the first death was reported on December 25th, 1997.

The public is advised to avoid complacency, to continue activities to destroy mosquito breeding sites, and to cooperate with government officials responsible for helping to control the epidemic. Only sustained effort will effectively reduce the impact of dengue in Fiji, and prevent more avoidable deaths and hospitalisations.

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