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The Kingsland Trinity Methodist Church in Auckland was a fitting location for the launch and blessing of ‘Otou Maeva, Otou Fatu, Otou Hanisi – My Memories, My Heart, My Love,’ a selection of poems written by Rotuman author, Fesaitu Solomone.
Collected over an 18 year period, Fesaitu says the poems serve not only as a vehicle for her love of writing but gave her an opportunity to pen her thoughts and chronicle her journey from Rotuma to New Zealand.
Written in the Rotuman language and translated into English, members of the Rotuma and Pacific community came together over the weekend to celebrate and acknowledge Fesaitu’s first work of poetry Methodist Lay preacher Terito Peyroux-Semu led the blessing of the book complemented with a beautiful Fijian hymn and Cook Islands melodies.
In this personal collection of poems, Fesaitu’s journey starts in Rotuma, continues to Fiji and lands here in New Zealand. The book shares themes of love, family, connection and migration.
Published by Moanaroa Press through the Pacifica Arts Centre, Director Jacinta Stowers-Ama says it is a proud time to launch the ‘first of its kind’ book of poetry published in the Rotuman language with some poems published in a very rare dialect that was spoken in reverse.
For the first time, Jacinta says, people will have a chance to see this rare dialect written in some of Fesaitu’s poems because she was gifted the knowledge and taught by her grandmothers.
She says this book is not only a beautiful book of poems but also a work of art.
“I also like to think of it as a resource, a resource that I know will be used for generations to come and a resource that so beautifully contains the Rotuman language.”
The book was also made with the support of Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Digital Moana Nui a Kiva initiative.
Creative New Zealand Arts Council Chair Caren Rangi paid tribute to Fesaitu for sharing her story adding that the book has also opened up the world of Rotuma to the wider Pacific diaspora.
“By publishing this special book you have opened up to the world your thoughts, your dreams and your views as a Rotuman.”
Of Rotuman and Tongan heritage, Fesaitu says her overwhelming feeling was one of blessings to be able to not only launch her book of poems, but also to display publicly her political aspirations – her billboards as the Labour Party candidate for the Tamaki electorate in the coming general election went up that day.
Fesaitu paid tribute to her family for their support and love leading up to the launch as well as to her partner Moana Fasala who saw the value in her early writings and had kept many of her poems over the years.
“I want to thank Moana for her encouragement to actually push me to do it (publish) my work… because I was so reluctant, I was so afraid if people would read it they would judge me for that, but the encouragement she has given us with helping me publish the book is the blessings we see today.”
Fesaitu was adamant the first place she wanted to take her book for its initial blessing was her beloved Rotuma.
“I wanted to make sure this book gets back to the island and gift it to the people but also to give it in the proper traditional way, and to acknowledge our chiefs acknowledge the community, my family, but also the schools,” she says.
“Not only is it a resource but it might be able to inspire somebody to write their own book of poems. My language, my culture, Rotuma is always at the centre of my heart,”
‘Otou Maeva,Otou Fatu, Otou Hanisi – My Memories, My Heart, My Love, is available for purchase via Moana Fresh.