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Archived News: November 2006

From Fijitimes Online (25 November 2006)

Towards a gallery of inspiration

TWO young professionals have set up what they hope will become a popular art gallery where local artists and designers can exhibit their work.

Jason Chute, 35 and Christian Carling, 38, opened Red Pencil, located at Shop 4 in Toorak, Suva, on Thursday night.

"The idea behind the red pencil is that we cover gallery space here not just for ourselves but for local artists who do not have a place to showcase their hard work," said Mr Carling, a designer and furniture maker.

Mr Chute, who is a filmmaker and a designer, said many local artists did not have a place to showcase their designs. He hoped this void would eventually be serviced by the Red Pencil.

"Local artists either have to go to one of the hotels or shops to showcase," he said. "We just wanted to open something that was independent; I mean, the only space that has regular photography is Alliance Francaise."

Mr Carling said the pair had plans for art shows.

An up coming exhibition would showcase the weaving of Rotuman mats. He said this was to revive the art of weaving Rotuman mats.

Originally from England, Mr Carling came to Fiji eight years ago with the aim of designing. Mr Chute had a stint as cameraman with Fiji Television Ltd before starting his own production work about six years ago.

From Fijitimes Online (22 November 2006)

Rotuman senator pleads for runway to be fixed

ROTUMA Island Council chairman Senator Doctor John Fatiaki says the dilapidated runway on the island had worsened because of no maintenance by Airports Fiji Limited it did not have a conscience.

"The problem is they don't want to divert their $6million profit to an unprofitable airstrip," Dr Fatiaki said.

"AFL is treating it as an economic exercise."

He was speaking in response to a comment by State Minister for Immigration and Ex-Servicemen Jioji Konrote in Parliament who said transportation problems was having a big impact on the socio-economic development on Rotuma.

"No work has been done to rectify the problem for five years," said Dr Fatiaki.

He said the deplorable state of the airport forced Air Fiji to cancel about 75 per cent of flights to the island this month.

Dr Fatiaki said the warning signs had been there since 2001 when Sitiveni Rabuka's flight went off the runway.

"Despite other incidents nothing was done. We used to have two flights a week but now three flights in the past two months," he said.

The flights were cancelled because of the wet, muddy and slippery runway.

AFL chief executive Ratu Sakiusa Tuisolia said "it's not for people to criticise our commercial interest because we are simply doing it because we are required to do it by law".

From Sanimeli Maraf in Rotuma (16 October 2006, posted 17 November)

We have a new District Officer in Rotuma, Mr Nicolas Ting. A welcome service was held for him and his family at Saione Church yesterday. The couple, who are in their early forties, have two teenage daughters attending Rotuma High School.

We didn't celebrate Fiji Day this year and I just wonder why! Maybe because there was no District Officer here yet. In Rotuma we have many Fijians holding high positions: the District Officer, the Health Inspector, The Postmaster, Telecom Fiji, the Methodist, Catholic, and SDA churches. I was disappointed that the Council didn't recognize Fiji Day with at least a few sporting events.

I believe this festive season in Rotuma will be a good one as there's lots of people from overseas coming to visit friends and family.

Today the Rotuma Methodist Women's Fellowship met in Lopta, so the Oinafa circuit fed the whole lot. On 2 November the Oinafa Women's Handicraft Show will be held in Saione Church, so we will be busy. On Friday, 3 November, our Rotuma Women's Association meeting will be held at our hall in Ahau. We're inviting our leaders and the government station heads. Mrs Elizabeth Inia is back so I am happy, because she's a real good person to lead us, and give us advice.

Our organization has put forward an application through the Ministry of Women in Fiji for a candidate to be able to attend the Community Education Training Centre (CETC) at Narere near Suva next year (2007). If accepted, this will be the first woman from Rotuma to participate. I have visited the Centre with Mrs Rafai and we met the new head lady, a Tongan by the name of Lia Maka. There is a young Rotuman woman there who just started working in the office.

All the telephones here in Rotuma are out-or-order. We have so many problems, and at this moment communication with Fiji is completely out. What gets me is that Telecom still charges us rental fees. I asked Mr Marr in Fiji one day--I just couldn't help myself--why Rotuma has so many problems with the telephones. His answer was that, like Ono-i-Lau in Fiji, we are further away from the satellite, but, he added, "we reduce the charges." Yes, but the problems remain unsolved. The old system was better.

I wish all our kainaga and friends all over the globe a joyous Christmas and prosperous New Year. Merry Christmas from Rotuma.

From Ragnhild Scheifes in The Netherlands (15 November 2006)

My master's thesis on the fara has been translated into English and can be downloaded from my new website at The site includes a bio note that explains my interest in Rotuma, and contributions from Mere Taito and Mary Daya.

My thesis title is Untie the dove's cord, when it is free it sings: Fara--dancing and singing on Rotuma.

The main question addressed by my thesis is: "What is the function and meaning of fara for Rotuman society in general and for the individual Rotuman in particular?" To answer this question I have turned the fara inside out, dealing in great detail with all the elements that, combined together, make up the fara. I have also looked at the way this flexible tradition has adapted to its time.

I have concluded that gender relations, identity, religion, the different perceptions of young and old all play a major part in how Rotumans experience the fara, although for most of them being entertained and finding love are the main reasons for going fara.

Download a PDF copy of the thesis

From the Torres News (12 November 2006)

The journey by the Deep Sea Dancers to the Fiji Islands has opened a valuable opportunity for Torres Strait Islanders to make regular appearances at the Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival, according to Head Dancer May Passi, one of the 15-strong Torres Strait contingent.

The group performed traditional Kabkar, singing and Taibobo, a form of Rotuman Island dancing from which members of the group have family connections.

The group left Thursday Island., with great expectations, an eagerness to perform and showcase the unique Torres Strait Meriam culture to other Melanesian countries.

The group consisted of Father Simeon Noah (Cultural Adviser), Leo Akee (Manager), Mrs Clarice Noah, Aba Tapau, Carmen Drummond. The dancers were: May Passi, Pearl Passi, Maria Passi, Iana Noah, Laura Drummond, Dayne Noah, Kristen Noah, Joshua Mills, Anthony Drummond and Joseph Passi.

May said most of the group are of Rotuman descent. “We went to showcase our talent and to establish links with our Rotuman relatives. They sought us out before we had the chance to contact them.”

May said she discovered she had about 60 relatives and understood that represented about a quarter of her family on Suva.

“They performed the Mamasa welcome ceremony for us with seven district chiefs present.”

The group spent more than two days in Cairns, and travelled to Fiji from Brisbane.

The welcome to the group was spectacular, with Fijian Warriors pulling down the main sail of a traditional canoe as the announcer said “Sail ho and we welcome Torres Strait to Fiji.”

Lead dancer Dayne Noah stood transfixed as the stadium light focused on the Dari on his head, and fellow warriors Kristan Noah, Joshua Mills, Anthony Drummond and Joseph Passi followed him on to the track towards the main area where Ratu Iloilo was seated with members of his Cabinet.

By now the small Torres Strait contingent was making its way, performing the dance of the deumer as locals clapped and cheered.

Team manager Leo Akee said in his opening address: “Whilst we might have the smallest group represented at the Melanesian Arts Festival, we come to you with the biggest heart.”

This was greeted with a load roar, much clapping and cheers.

Dancers May Passi, Laura Drummond, Pearl Passi and Maria Passi made their way to the gifts table and handed over two dugong, a shark and a fish carving after which the men then performed the traditional Meriam Kabkar.

May said: “There is no doubt Fiji holds a special place for members of the group after being welcomed so generously, participating freely in festivities and being genuinely accepted into the Fijian culture.”

The group paid tribute to the TSRA and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of Sydney for sponsoring the trip. The Deep Sea Dancers won the dance competition at the recent Multi-Cultural Festival on Thursday Island.

From Fijitimes Online (13 November 2006)

Bulou ni Ceva stuck in Rotuma

CONCERNS have again been raised by the villagers of Rotuma on the Government's delay to tow the stricken Bulou ni Ceva from Rotuma back to Suva, says Immigration Minister of State and Rotuman parliamentarian Jioji Konrote.

He said the team of officers, who were on the island two months ago, returned to Suva and nothing had been done to the vessel.

"Since we are into the cyclone season the villagers fear that anything can happen because the last time, the vessel drifted out into the sea when the ropes snapped," he said.

In August, Kadavu Shipping and Holdings General Manager Ratu Sela Nanovo said it would cost the government $225,000 to siphon and tow back the vessel Bulou ni Ceva to Suva.

Dominion Insurance Manager Fiji Client Services Vikash Kumar said the Bulou ni Ceva could be salvaged for less than $300,000.

"According to the investigations we have established that liability does not attach to the claim due to reasons known to the owners of the vessel.The next step available can only be better explained by the owners of the vessel."

Ratu Nanovo said the amount stated by the insurance company was news to them.

From Fijitimes Online (12 November2006)

Fix rural airstrips, AFL urged

by Serafina Qalo

AIRPORTS Fiji Limited should make good use of their million dollar profit and fix rural airstrips that may have been ignored for many years, says Rotuman Island council senator Doctor John Fatiaki.

His comments follow complaints from his island home that the runway at the airstrip has been continuously flooded which has prevented planes from landing.

"This has been an on going problem for the last six weeks and Air Fiji has only managed to do two flights out of that six weeks because the runway has been deemed unsafe for landing," Dr Fatiaki said.

"This is sad given the huge amount of money AFL makes as profit with the recent increase in revenue at $45.5million."

Dr Fatiaki said with such huge profits, AFL had no excuses in not maintaining airstrip facilities in rural areas.

"AFL gave the Government a $1.28million dividend and such funding is more than enough to maintain airstrips.

"It is important for AFL to continue to maintain these rural airstrips because it is a vital means of transport that islanders or villagers use to visit relatives or do business on the main land," Dr Fatiaki said.

He said it would be acceptable if AFL didn't make much profit which would not have enabled them to maintain rural airstrips.

"They are making a lot of money and it is only right that rural dwellers be assisted through keeping up to standard such facilities like the airstrips," Dr Fatiaki said.

He said the Government should also look into this matter to ensure that AFL carried out their maintenance work on rural airstrips.

No comments could be obtained from AFL chairman Viliame Leqa and the chief executive Ratu Sakiusa Tuisolia.

From Fijitimes Online (8 November 2006)

Council unhappy with grant

by Frederica Elbourne

The Rotuma Island Council has hit out at the Government's annual grant of $200,000 and urged it to live up to its commitment to spruce up rural development.

Council spokesman Senator Doctor John Fatiaki said because the island was located so far away, the saying "out of sight is out of mind" rang true.

"The allocation to the council is disappointingly low as it's enough to sustain salaries and sitting allowances. There is no fund for the school which the council funds, or surplus for school buses which the council pays for. There is no money for development," he said.

Dr Fatiaki said fundraising events were organised by the council but added that money could not be raised from those who had no money to begin with.

"If the Government is serious about improving rural issues, then it needs to demonstrate this somehow. It must raise the subvention to enable some scope of assistance for students. Otherwise, it's quite obvious people will continue to struggle," Dr Fatiaki said.

He said one need not look far to see the seriousness of the plight of Rotuma islanders as the vessel Cagimai Ba, which sails to Rotuma, was proof passengers endured on a two-day sea journey to the island.

"Look at the size of the boat and consider the two days and two nights on board on the open deck," Dr Fatiaki said.

Meanwhile, Dr Fatiaki said the Bulou ni Ceva, which was shipwrecked on the reef off Rotuma, had given rise to more concern after it was towed to waters close to the island.

He said the Bulou ni Ceva, which is now sinking in waters close to Oinafa, needed only a gale storm to wash it up to the surrounding beach.

He said this sparked serious concerns of more damage to the island coastal properties than the initial scare of an oil spill after it was shipwrecked on June 14 this year.

From Curleene Langman in California (6 November 2006)

Project Rotuma members displayed teamwork on Saturday, 4 November, as they packed and loaded a 20ft container with donated medical accessories, equipment, supplies, clothes and furniture for the Rotuma Hospital, the Rotuma Council, and the Dilkusha (orphanage) Home in Nausori. The shipment is expected to arrive in Fiji on 5 December.

The success of this historical project is largely due to the relentless efforts of Project Rotuma members, headed by Jacob Uruvaru, Eliesa Osotonu, Vaurasi Pene and Ed Langman, and the generosity of kind hearted donors, the Flying Doctors (Al Fernal), and the general public, who made this project achievable.

PJR earnestly appreciates the support and contributions we received for the people of Rotuma. A list of donors will be on site soon.

PJR will begin accepting new memberships for 2007, in December 2006. We encourage all interested persons to e-mail us via our site.

From May Passi on Thursday Island, Torres Strait (3 November 2006)

I'm May Passi, a 2nd generation Rotuman descendant from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, Australia. I am the leader of a popular dance group called the "Deepsea Dancers." Most of us in this group are of Rotuman descent, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Aisea and Firipo.

We perform our traditional Meriam people's dance called the "Kakabkar"-- a sacred traditional dance of the Murray Island people, in addition to the Torres Strait dance called the "island dance" and the ancient Rotuman taibobo that we still perform with pride. The taibobo dance was brought to the Torres Strait by our Rotuman ancestors during the boom of the pearling industry dating as far back as the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. These were the dances that we performed while we were in Fiji for the Third Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival. The traditional kakabkar and the island dances were the ones we showcased at the Melanesian festival, but we performed the traditional Rotuman taibobo when we met with our Rotuman people for the mamasa ceremony, and on Saturday afternoon when we were invited to have lunch with our relatives, descendants of Aisake, Aisea's second brother. 

Torres Strait Dancers

The Deep Sea Dancers from the Torres Strait during the Open Ceremony at the Melanesian Arts Festival at the National Gymnasium, Suva. left, Joshua Mills, middle, Dayne Noah, right, Anthony Drummond, back, Kristen Noah. May Passi in the background.

Photo by Tommy Latuperissa, Daily Post Fiji Ltd.

Both occassions were very emotional times for us, the Rotuman descendants from the TS. We never expected such a welcoming reception from our own people and to be accepted without any questions about our ancestry. I mean anyone could have gone there pretending to be a Rotuman descendant.

The welcome by the seven district chiefs was an important occassion -- an event that we will always remember and talk about to our people in the TS and mainland Australia for years to come.

The most common experience that all of us had was that we felt we were actually home. The place was so familiar and we felt a sense of belonging while we were there in Fiji. It was as if we had just woken from a deep slumber, then as if in a trance we were making our way back to familiar surroundings, a place that we had visited before in another life many, many years ago.....everything seemed so familiar to all of us.

My maternal grandfather, Aisea, came, I believe, on the last boat that brought migrant Polynesian seafarers from the east. He settled with his people at Darnley Island. Most of them never returned to their homeland after they settled here in the TS. My grandfather Aisea married a TS woman of PNG descent called Bakoi Sesay.  They had 5 daughters: Sanghul, Tausia, Rotannah (my mother), Ugar, and Brancis. 

Torres Strait Visitors

The Deep Sea Dancers with the Rotuman Itu Hifu Dancers after their performance on Fiji Day, Monday, 9 October at Albert Park.

Photo by Maria Tapim (nee Passi)

On our arrival home after the festival, we immediately went to my mother's house where we were met by all our families for a small island feast. Everyone was there, eager to hear about our trip that was not only successful in the cultural arena but also in making connections with our Polynesian families we thought we would never get to meet. I say this because before our departure we kept thinking that the search for our relatives would be like looking for "a needle in a haystack."  But we committed this trip in prayer and the Lord was good to us. Our trip was a success. We are now planning another one for next year, hoping if God wills that we, the male and female entertainers, will return to Suva to perform our ancient taibobo dances at the Rotuma Day celebration in May.

I forgot to mention earlier that my 87 year old mother, Rotannah Passi (nee Aisea) was laughing and crying during our small welcome feast here at home.  Her tears streamed down her face in gallons when we spoke of the mamasa ceremony and her beautiful people’s and families’ reception for us in Suva. Sixteen years ago she asked me to find her people as she longed to see them. I promised her that I would. It was a like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle missing in her life. Now, I see her happy and very thoughtful. I think she is hoping that one of her relatives will travel to the TS to see her, and I think this would be like the icing on a cake.

Note from Makereta Mua in Suva

The 15 member Torres Strait Islander dance group known as the Deep Sea Dancers is headed by May Passi and her family members and relatives. May Passi and her family are part-Rotuman-Torres Strait islanders and their home is Murray Islands, eastern Torres Strait.

May’s grandfather, Jack Aisea was from Noa'tau, Rotuma. Aisea was born at Rotuma in 1879. Aisea’s parents were Maraf Mamatuki and Rejieli Susau Penaisi and he was the oldest of three brothers. His younger brothers were Aisake and Varomue. Aisea left Rotuma at the age of 19 years and arrived in Queensland in 1898. Aisea was a pearl diver in the Torres Strait and died on 20 August 1923 of beri beri and was buried at St. Paul’s Mission on Moa Island, Torres Strait.

Laura Drummond and her family are also members of the Deep Sea Dancers. Laura’s grandmother’s grandfather (Joe Kiripo) from Rotuma arrived in Australia in in the 1880’s. Joe Kiripo’s children were named Pau'u, Tivao and Afesio.

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