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Gasav ne Fӓeg Rotuḁm ta – ROTUMAN LANGUAGE WEEK 2021: The Rotuman Language Journey

By Ngaire Fuata

Noa’ia e mḁuri te’ ne gagah atakoa (Greetings – literal meaning is, thank you for being well)

Otou asa le Ngaire Fuata. (I am Ngaire Fuata).

Ten years ago, I went to Rotuma for the first time and shared my experience through the documentary “Salat se Rotuma”. That trip changed my life and was a pivotal part in my connection to my ancestry.

As we approached the second official Rotuman Language week, I was asked by a community member, “What are you going to do for Rotuman Language week, personally?”

So, at age 53, I’ve started taking the PEC Rotuman Language Class for Beginners.

My classmates are a diverse bunch from across the Pacific and the USA.  It is a challenging language with 10 vowel sounds, long and short form words.

Through the language, I’ve learnt more about my culture and, while there are some similarities with other Pacific languages, I do get tongue-tied occasionally.

The Rotuman language is getting more exposure in the community particularly with its inclusion in Covid-19 Pacific Language messaging.

And this this week the Pacific Media Network (PMN) will expand their language shows to include Rotuman.

PMN CEO Don Mann believes that the power of the show and the success of their other language shows is because it is community-driven radio.

“We had Rotuman Language Week last year, 2020, the remarkable thing about the Rotuman community is you’ve got a number of very strong leaders who are not afraid to advocate for what it means to be Rotuman and the Rotuman language,” Mann says.

“I congratulate them on coming to PMN and advocating for the language.”

Fesaitu Solomone and Jioji Vai are the community leaders taking on the new role of radio hosts on Saturdays from 12am to 2am.

Rotuma-born Fesaitu, being fluent in the language, will be the lead host.

As Jioji Vai explains, “just having this platform alone, it’s a huge thing for us in terms of, it’s not only a radio show, it’s also an education platform for our community.

“That’s where I come in as a co-host sitting alongside Fesaitu. She’s well versed in the culture and the language.”

Like many Rotumans in New Zealand, Jioji understands but does not speak the language so this is an opportunity to be on a learn while having a bit of early morning fun.

A large programme of events is being planned for Rotuman Language Week celebrations.

The theme this year is based on the four pillars of wellbeing; Måür Fak’ata – Spiritual; Måür Fakforo – Physical, ‘Os A’häe – Mental and Hḁikḁinagaga – Social and Relationships, where music is very much incorporated.

This year also marks the 140th year anniversary of Rotuma being ceded to Britain and it’s a huge milestone for the Rotuman community.

Hata community committee member, Marseu Moresio, has been busy holding workshops for young people on how to prepare food in a cultural environment for the kato’aga (ceremony). And this includes, Pӓega – Ceremonial mats, Ӧs ‘umefe – Presentation of the food and Sik ne kav ta – Presentation of the kava.

Marseu is also the conductor for this year’s theme song “Rotuma ‘otou hanuet ne mou se gou” composed by Mama’o Konousi. 

Marseu says the song speaks about Rotuma and how one yearns for the island.

“For me personally, being an immigrant, coming from Rotuma to Fiji and then Fiji to New Zealand, we miss our homeland,” she says.

“It talks about the beauty of Rotuma. It talks about the shores of Rotuma. So, when one sings that song or hears that song, it pretty much takes you back to where you are actually from.

“I think it should also serve as a reminder to all Rotumans around the world, no matter where you are, you are Rotuman.”

You can find find out what is happening this week here:

 

Rotuma FB

www.rotuma.org.

Pacific Media Network

Ministry for Pacific Peoples

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