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Poet Daren Kamali reads Vunimaqo and Me

Poet Daren Kamali transports himself back in time, sharing memories through the eyes of a young teenage boy growing up in the soldiers’ barracks in Suva, Fiji.

Vunimaqo and Me is one of over 40 poems in Kamali’s new book of the same name. The third compilation in a series of books, Vumimaqo and Me is a tribute to Kamali’s grandparents, Ipolito and Emmaline Kamali.

“I grew up in Suva in a place called Samabula North, in Tubou Street. My grandfather was a soldier, so we stayed in the military barracks,” Kamali says.

“Outside my front house was a mango tree, so I collated 41 poems about growing up there; it’s memoir poems actually; normally poems are very metaphorical, mythical and mystic, but this one is very real and raw. I wanted to capture the communities in the ’80s; that’s where I grew up, writing out of a teenage boy’s eyes before coming to Aotearoa.”

As well as a book of memories, Kamali hopes his new work will inspire others, especially the younger generation.

“My inspiration is people, places, communities, about the ocean, the sea, the old, the new, contemporary, traditional and heritage. So I just try to mash them up and sort of bring a modern-day voice into it, which makes it a bit more appealing for youth as well,” Kamali says.

Kamali is no stranger to the arts scene. Since 2010 he has released three books, two albums as well as being a founder of both the South Auckland Poets Collective and Niu Navigations with poet Grace Taylor.

Gaining his Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Auckland University, Kamali is currently a Pacific Heritage Advisor at Auckland Libraries.

In 2018 Daren married Labour MP Hon Carmel Sepuloni in Fiji, with treasured family celebrations inspiring him to write his new works about his friends and family – especially his late grandmother who passed away in 2019.

“I was writing it while she was alive, and when she was on her deathbed, I was reading poetry from this book to her and telling her that one day it’s going to be published,” Kamali says.

“Man, I had a dream about her the other night. In the dream, she wasn’t dead. She didn’t feel like she was gone; she just felt like she was there. I just think she’s happy, you know.”

Mango Tree Collections
Dedicated to Ipolito and Emmaline Kamali

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