e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Happy Rotuma Day

Today I discovered, more or less by accident, is Rotuma Day, the national day of Rotuma which is one of the dependencies of Fiji.

A quick google brought up several websites devoted to the day. Interestingly, many of them were for celebrations in places other than Rotuma – Australia and New Zealand in particular.

Like all peoples, Rotumans have their poets.  To me Fiji is an exotic place and I wasn’t disappointed in some of the exotic imagery its poets use. I love this one from The Dew Eaters by Mere Taito:

… he catches shingles of moisture from

The ringlets of dawn …

and I really got caught up in this one from At the Othman Affan Ibn Street Lights by Maniue Vilsoni:

I thought of Rotuma’s sandy roads

where kids could eye-dee the bi-ki

by the sound of his engine’s vroom-broom;

Nostalgia is a subject that appears in a number of poems. I found the straightforward descriptions of what has gone and how the poet feels about it very close to my own feelings, but with the added savour of the, to me, unusual. The long poem, ‘Ahau Nostalgia by Harieta and Sylvia Vilsoni, gives a vivid example. It’s well worth reading in full for the description of Rotuma through the eyes of memory.

That lone hifau tree on the cliff edge

shaded the chapel on many hot Sundays;

to fight boredom we’d look to the east

ahhh, panoramic Mt. Sarafui on Uea

awesome sight in the shimmering light.

Nostalgia is one of those emotions that can be both pleasant and unhappy – a secret store of joyful memories to lighten dark moments or a heap of regrets. I wish all Rotumans a happy national day with good memories to buoy them up.


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