Rotuman Language Week

 Sunday 10 May – Saturday 16 May 2020

Noa’ia! See how we are celebrating the first of 2020's Pacific Language Week, as we feature Rotuman items from our collections and light up our iconic building in the colour of the flag.

Fesaitu Solomone - Pacific Advisory Group

Fesaitu Solomone - Pacific Advisory Group

“The Rotuma language is a time for all our Rotuman people here in Aotearoa to celebrate and embrace our heritage, our culture, our language and our identity and who we are as people. It is also a time for friends, families and those who want to learn about Rotuma get an insight to us as people who have crossed the ocean to make Aotearoa their home.

We are truly grateful and value the support and the work of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples in adding Rotuma officially in their line-up of Pasifika languages in 2020. To be officially recognised is an incredible step forward for our people and it will encourage them to value our language more. Our language is already listed as ‘vulnerable’ from UNESCO so hence the work to nurture our identity is ever crucial for us to collectively collaborate with key organisations and funding bodies to support and grow our language usage and create a community of fluent and confident speakers. However, our people must make that first step to want to learn.”

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One island, one book, many stories

One island, one book, many stories

 Check out our latest blog on one of the Rotuman cultural treasures, Tales of a Lonely Island, held in the Museum Library

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Lighting up the Museum

Lighting up the Museum

We will light up the Museum for Rotuman Language Week in the colours of Fiji’s flag, Rotuma’s official flag. 

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E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea.

I will never be lost for the seed was sown in Rangiātea.

The Ngā Kākano Wānanga series takes its name from this whakataukī. The series provides an opportunity for our whānau and wider audiences to attend monthly wānanga held in the museum’s auditorium learning from respected Māori and Pacific leaders and experts, who share insights and expertise across Te Ao Maori and Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. While the inaugural Rotuman Language Week 2020 has come at a time of necessary social distancing due to Covid 19, it has meant an opportunity to take our Ngā Kākano Wānanga series digital. A special two-part Ngā Kākano Series focusing on Rotuma brings members of the Rotuman community together with museum kaitiaki to showcase and celebrate Rotuman treasures from our collection.

Recording for Ngā Kākano Series – Part 1: Rotuma talanoa

On the night of Tuesday 12th May 2020 we held the first of two zoom talanoa which highlighted three Rotuman treasures held in the Auckland War Memorial Museum Research Library Te Pātaka Mātāpuna. Entitled ‘Tēfakhanis ‘on tēmamfua - a talanoa on selected Rotuman Documentary Heritage Collections’ we were joined by panellists Fesaitu Solomone, Fekau (Reverend) George Apitko, Frank Samuela, Nataniela Amato-Ali, alongside museum colleague Paula Legel (Associate Curator, Heritage Publications).


The panellists engaged in a rich discussion about provenance of the three treasures, the unique characteristics of the Rotuman language, as well as the influence of key missionaries in developing written forms of the Rotuman language over time.

Recording for Ngā Kākano Series – Part 2: Rotuma talanoa


Our second zoom talanoa of this special Rotuman-themed Ngā Kākano series was held on the night of Thursday 14th May 2020, entitled ‘Fạiạv Ne Si’u - a talanoa on selected Rotuman treasures from the Pacific Collection’. Our panellists were Fesaitu Solomone, Sopapelu Samisoni, and Alfred Prasad alongside museum colleague Fulimalo Pereira, our Curator Pacific at Auckland Museum.


Fuli Pereira shared some background information on the ethnographic collection of James Edge-Partington (1854 - 1930) which is held at Auckland Museum. The panellists discussed several Rotuman treasures counted among this collection including an apei or Rotuman fine mat first acquired by Edge Partington in the late 1800s which has been in the Museum collection since 1929. Once again we share our gratitude for our panellists who gave insights into the cultural significance of the apei, as well as bringing thought-provoking discussion around what the apei and other treasures mean to Rotumans today.

We wish to thank our panellists for their time and expertise in creating a memorable talanoa. Fãiåkse’ea!

Rotuman objects from our collections

These items from our collection offer a glimpse into the Rotuman way of life, an introduction to the island's people, customs and a detailed exploration of precious and daily objects.

rotuma bird

Jea – Polynesian Triller (Lalage maculosa rotumae) – LB7901

This mounted Polynesian triller known as Jea (pronounced “Chair”) in Rotuman was collected on Rotuma prior to 1885 by a missionary Reverend George Brown. This subspecies of Polynesian Triller is endemic, only found on the island of Rotuma. It is found in small groups throughout both the coastal and inland habitats of Rotuma, even found in the vegetable and fruit markets of Ahau. Polynesia Trillers feed on both insects (insectivorous) and fruits (frugivorous).

During the Pacific Collections Access Project specimens from Rotuma, including this bird, were brought from the collection stores by Severine Hannam, a Collection Manager in Natural Sciences to show the Rotuman community. While discussing the specimens and sharing knowledge the community initially identified the triller as being a pest, as it is everywhere and eats their vegetables. Everyone was eager to hear how special and important the species is for Rotuma, as it’s found nowhere else in the world. The community that was present shared the need to protect their unique bird, the Jea, with family and friends in Aotearoa and back in Rotuma.

We love connecting with community through our collections and sharing their unique wonders together. You can find more photos and information about the specimen below.

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