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 mom.

Sheryanne Tagilala

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 while dancing.

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.

SPIKK representatives
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.