Monday, August 27, 2012

Answering with Rotuma

The blogger known as baruk* has scored a copy of Futa Helu's new book and some titles by Titus Books, after tackling the quiz posted here on Friday. Richard and Christel also breezed through the quiz, but were a little slower out of the starting blocks than baruk.

The sixth section of the quiz claimed that the people of one Fijian island have been able to vote in a series of national elections since 2006, at a time when other Fijians have been denied their democratic rights by the military regime of Frank Bainimarama, and asked for the name of the island and of the group which lives there.

When I framed the question, I was thinking of Rabi Island, which is a refuge for exiles from Banaba, an atoll in Kiribati which was hollowed out by British and Australasian phosphate miners in the twentieth century. The Banabans were removed to Rabi by British administrators decades before Kiribati won its independence, and few of them have returned to their ravaged homeland. But the five thousand Banabans on Rabi are entitled to Kiribati passports, and elect a representative to that country's parliament.

Neither baruk nor Richard nor Christel mentioned Rabi Island and its Banaban inhabitants. They all named Rotuma as the island of democracy in Fiji, and the Rotumans as the people with the right to vote in national elections in spite of Bainimarama's autocratic rule. And after I saw their answer, I realised that they were making a good point.

Rotuma is a small island which sits six hundred and fifty kilometres north of the rest of Fiji. With their Polynesian culture and unique, famously complex language, the Rotumans differ from Fiji's Melanesian majority. After Britain acquired Rotuma in 1881 it lumped the island together with the rest of its Fijian colony, angering the Rotumans. In 1987, after Sitiveni Rabuka seized power in a military coup and steered Fiji out of the Commonwealth, Rotumans created an independence movement. Although Rotuma remains a part of the Fiji, its people retain a feeling of independence from Suva, and elect an island council to run their  domestic affairs.

Given Rotuma's independent spirit and local elections, can't we call the place an island of democracy in Fiji? Shouldn't we consider the elections to Rotuma's island council national elections, given the nationalism of many Rotumans? Point taken, folks.

*Can you send your details to me at, baruk?


Anonymous Scott said...

I found it a bit harder, I must
admit, to understand why baruk thought that curling was a popular game in Samoa in the 1930s...

10:21 pm  
Blogger baruk said...

grin. i think i was trying to say cricket...copy-pasted the wrong option. and this is why, children, you must always proof read your quiz answers before submitting them!

7:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Support Rotuman on wikipedia

10:54 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I knew that Samoans etc play their own version of cricket (From memory - kiritiki they call it - from the English.)

I surprised myself but reading on here and the fact I had met some Rotumans (here and in Fiji) helped.
I wasn't sure whether it was politically a part of Fiji or what...

The small Island was a process of elimination, by coincidence Manhatten, N.Y., (but 'Eua is fatter!);(effectively I stayed there for just about all of my holiday in the US in 1993) and Fiji are the only places outside of NZ I have been to...but I did use Google and Google maps and it was interesting seeing where Atenisi was...I was also, like Pooh Bear hoping for "a little something"...from nice kind and very intelligent and deep and well read the Honourable Mr. Brett of Titus etc................

It is interesting - reading a fascinating book by V. S. Ramachandran (a neurologist who also comments (speculates on the evolutionary & biological significance on things such as art and metaphor as well language and literature...) he points to the "usefulness" of art as in part being the same as that of quizzes, and in part it is the challenge to "solve" and decipher*, and we, as well as other primates, derive pleasure from this. There is thus also a link to such things as mathematics art and humour...

So whenever you have a quiz, there will always be people wanting to participate. In fact it might point to the kind of cooperative learning that many "less developed" [because we rely e.g. more on mass technologies that aspect of us is diminished so in some ways those in "less developed places who use cooperative thinking are more developed [my own theory]...BUT there is place and need in all kinds of societies for individual achievements also.

*In our distant past we may have needed, say, to "work out" that something was or was not a predator. Most human evolution now (last several to tens of thousands of years) is "social".

6:32 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I guessed on James Cowan then I saw that Errol Braithwate was named. I had read something by Cowan (some non fictional stories) - and I think I picked up he had written a extensive fictional work (beside his works on history) but wasn't sure about Braithwaite... in fact I'm not sure I know much about him.

So what was the right answer on that one?

6:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

racist commentary FYI

9:26 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi baruk,

thanks for the e mail. I'll shoot something off as soon as I pick up some more copies of On Tongan Poetry from Brett. The book has been riding the coat tails of Paul Janman's fine film about Futa Helu, and will probably soon go into a second printing.

I'm somehow disappointed that your reference to curling was accidental: I thought it might be a sort of inspired surrealist gesture, like the Jamaican bobsleigh team which competed in a Winter Olympics...

Hi Richard,

I was thinking of Errol Brathwaite, though Cowan did write a history of the New Zealand Wars which ran to two volumes and often reads like the work of an inspired novelist!

It's remarkable how little information there is about Brathwaite on the internet, considering that he published half a dozen novels and had quite a profile in the 1960s. I recently found a copy of The Needle's Eye, his novel about the Waikato campaign: I'll give you a report on it.

Apart from the New Zealand Wars, Brathwaite wrote about World War Two in Melanesia, where he served as part of the British air force. His best-known novel, the prize-winning An Affair of Men, tells the story of the clash between a Melanesian headman who is sheltering an Allied POW in his village and a Japanese officer determined to find the POW.

I think it's fascinating that folks like Brathwaite and Roderick Finlayson, who set a novel in Rarotonga and wrote a long satire of New Zealand colonialism in Samoa, were writing seriously and sympathetically about the Pacific in the middle decades of last century. I think there's scope for an anthology not of the sort of romantic, escapist writing which so many palangi have set in the Pacific, but for excerpts from forgotten works like An Affair of Men and Finlayson's novel - works which perhaps foreshadow the sophisticated palangi engagement with the Pacific that we see in films like Paul's Tongan Ark.

11:53 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

HI Scott. Thanks. Yes, there's not much on Brathwaite. I actually had two of his books for sale, I just put them on hold [The Needle's Eye and The SI of NZ], I thought the name rang a bell!

Coal Flat is Finlayson's famous book, extolled by Horrocks, Curnow etal in one of their radical magazines in the early 80s. I have that but haven't read it. So he set a novel in Samoa and did a satire!

What was R. A. K. Mason's writing about the Pacific Islands like?

But in the light of this hysteria about these so-called Peace keepers and the comment by a film maker and the ref here [link below] to racism it is clear by responses that we meed a lot more information of the sort you and Paul have come up with to show the richness of "non White" culture.

This White Supremacy, and NZ's militaristic adventures and the general right wing swing in the world is of concern - but the White Supremacists face a hopeless future as the majority of the world will be non White in the not too distant future and numbers always win in the long run. In any case the US-Brit-Aussie-NZ adventure in NZ is clearly futile
so the woman speaking out was really only giving some common sense - if people want their sons or daughters to stay alive - one option to avoid the NZ Army (who are pretty useless) and refuse to be involved in any US or British Imperialistic adventures...We need to withdraw fast.

Our allies are in Asia and the Middle East and the Pacific. We have no choice but to respect the Pacific and Asian peoples. I don't want these bastards carrying guns into Afghanistan - we need to trade with China and the Pacific and India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc and we don't want to become the victims of a kind of 9/11 attack on NZ because of some stupid NZ Army adventures - of the sort by those who did so much damage in Samoa.

Is that info by Wiki right about the deliberate attempt to kill Samoan people by putting a ship in there whose passengers had that deadly flu? [The post 1918 influenza that killed so many. NZ authorities knew that Polynesians were very susceptible to European diseases.

There is also 'Shuriken' by Vincent O'Sullivan - that is good - NZ soldiers (guards) massacred Japanese prisoners of war.

In it is documented also that ANZAC troops massacred prisoners in WW2 (Joanna Bourke) - but the killing of captured soldiers was universal in war (all wars), although it wasn't necessarily the rule.

And I haven't even got to the barbarities of the NZ Wars yet

I also read about David Ballantyne a writer who has been more or less "rediscovered" (I had read about him recently in some essays by Stead but there was a feature about him in the Listener.)

1:01 am  
Anonymous captain correcter said...

Coal Flat is Finlayson's famous book'

You're thinking of Bill Pearson!

9:16 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, Bill Pearson. You are correct, Corrector!

I don't know of this Finlayson at all then, or I have forgotten.

5:59 pm  
Anonymous Rapatahana said...

Ko taku hoa David Eggleton no Rotuma hoki.

1:46 am  

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