Sunday 12th May – Saturday 18th May 2024 is Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm Ta, Rotuma Language Week.

Celebrate Rotuman Language Week

Celebrate Rotuman Language Week

THU 16 MAY, 1PM - 3PM

Noa'ia, greetings! The Auckland based Mairani-Rotuman group will be showcasing their love for their culture and tradition.

Come and make your own tēfui (garland), an interactive weaving activity taught by experts to celebrate Rotuman Language Week at Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Once equipped with your tēfui, enjoy cultural performances including Tautoga, Sua, and other distinctly Rotuman songs and dance to celebrate their unique language. 

Mere Taito

An evening with Mere Taito


Join us for a special celebration of Rotuma Language Week 2024 with esteemed scholar and writer Mere Taito. 

Mere will be reading a new work exploring the dormant practice of bark cloth making, and its presence throughout wider Rotuman culture and language. 

Don't miss this opportunity to be part of a vibrant community celebration of poetry set in the heart of Auckland Museum's Research Library. 

Rotuman Siva Fan

Community drop-in


Te Aho Mutunga Kore warmly invites our Rotuman community members to join us to view a selection of textile and fibre treasures at Auckland Museum. Book a session time below to visit these precious taonga in person, and then share a cuppa and a chat afterwards. Sessions are limited to 10 people each and must be booked in advance. 

Iri. Fan. Woven in check from drau ni niu (coconut leafl) ncorporated. AWMM. 1949.11, 30792.


Trace-ing and re-constructing uha through digital and visual archival poetics

Blog and poem by esteemed Rotuman poet Mere Taito

Mere Taito Poem

Uha by proxy

In the field of forensic science, I am intrigued by ‘traces’ left behind in crime scenes by both perpetrator and victim that cannot be easily seen or understood by the naked, untrained eye. Trace evidence includes items such as hair, fluid and object transfer, bodily fluids, fibres, tool marks, and impressions created by moving objects such as vehicles (tyre marks) or the human body (finger and footprints). In a somewhat parallel way but without the violence and gore, I have been thinking about the traces of the dormant practice of Rotuman bark cloth making and its use dispersed across Rotuman consciousness and memory over time. I contemplate the residual marks of this practice and wonder where they might be camouflaged and hiding in plain sight.


Mata' ne tē ȧfȧf'ȧk (archives) 'on kạunohoga ma famori ne matạ'um 'e 'on tạusa

Caring for your family archives

Tē ȧfȧf‘ȧk ‘on kạunohoga hat la väegat ‘e ‘os rogrog ne sok‘ạkim ‘e ‘on tạusa. Iạ hoa‘ ‘is se tēkäet ne ‘is la pō la ‘inea ne sei ‘isa ma ut ne ‘is leume. Tē ȧfȧf‘ạki hat tape‘ ma mạl ne sik ‘e tē sikiạg mạlu, ‘alpam häe mạlu, puk fạ‘i, ma puk ma peap pumua.

‘On la sapsap ma matmatạ‘ ne tē ȧfȧf‘ȧk ne ‘os kạunohoga ne fakput ma roam täe hunit ne tē ‘i la pō la noh roa ne ‘igkȧ‘. Puer‘ȧk ma sal lelei ‘i täla hạiasoagan ‘äe la matạ‘ua tē ȧfȧf‘ȧk ne ‘ou kạunohoag ta se fup famorit ne kankanamo.




Mạl ne av ta ne ho‘am ‘e tē ȧfȧf‘ȧk ne mou se Pacific Islands Education Resource Centre (PIERC) ne kel‘ạkia le‘ puer mumuạ ne PIERC, Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane fạut ‘e fạu saghul ne 1970s.


This Fa’paurou was purchased from the ‘Rotuma Village’ at the Pasifika festival in 2004. It is made of sa’anga, pandanus, and features decorations made from masi, barkcloth. The construction of this fa’paurou is split across three main parts; the crown, the brim and the decoration. The crown consists of woven strips of sa’anga which are machine-sewn together. The brim is made using hand-woven strips of different coloured sa’anga and then sewn together with a sewing machine. Lastly, the rose decoration, which is made from masi is then sewn on to the brim. These hats are usually worn to Rotu, or church, by women in Rotuma and are a source of pride for the makers and wearers alike.

Fa’paurou, hat. Rotuma. AWMM. 2004.78.29, 56187.

Whale in Rain: A Proverb from Rotuma 

The rain has been falling all day, 

and a whale serene,  

in slow motion, slips through the marine, 

massive, eerie, sublime; 

moving through wave troughs, 

under the roll of white-caps. 

This is the time of  'Ua-roa, the long rain, 

falling on the fertile heart of the ocean, 

made melancholy by the heavy rain. 

So behold the whale, 

surfacing slowly in the mournful rain, 

rain that shrouds and shadows the ocean. 

But the rain will stop some time; 

no storm lasts forever: 

E le'e se 'ua e tōtō ai. 


By David Eggleton (2022) 

'​Al ne Tolo, 4055, Auckland Museum Collection.
Rotuman whale tooth bead, on display in the Pacific Lifeways gallery, 

Interview with David Eggleton

Poet Ruby Macomber interviewed David for Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm Ta 2023

RM: As a face of Rotuman poetry in Aotearoa, what does Rotuman Language Week mean to you?

DE: Noa'ia 'e mauri Ruby, for me Rotuman Language Week here in Aotearoa is a reminder of my heritage, my family's history, of the island where my mother grew up and of my extended family, many of them now scattered across the Pacific archipelagoes and beyond. I spent my younger years in Fiji, but now many years later after living in New Zealand for so long I remember very little Fijian language and even less Rotuman.

RM: How do you maintain a connection to Rotuma from the diaspora?

DE: My connection now is mostly social media with my siblings, and I connect with Rotumans on Facebook and elsewhere. My brother and sister travelled to Rotuma a decade or so ago to visit family there, but unfortunately I could not go at that time. Nevertheless I know of our strong links with the Itu'ti'u district of Rotuma, and of the foods such as feke, the customs, such as the fara, and the music: my mother's brother Uncle Jimione was a well-known musician on Rotuma and I have cousins there and in Fiji who maintain that musical tradition. My mother had a collection of fine white mats from Rotuma that are still in the family. Also, I travel to and fro to Fiji and elsewhere like Australia and catch up with my Rotuman cousins. My cousin Fesaitu Solomone, (her grandmother was my mother's sister Aunt Lijiana), is a well-known teacher and promoter of the Rotuman language in Tāmaki Makaurau and I would like to improve my proficiency in the Rotuman language some day.

I am who I am and so I stay true to myself as an artist. My ethnicity as Pasifika is part of who I am since the beginning, from my mother's people, and from being raised in Fiji at a particular time.

RM: Whale in Rain: A Proverb from Rotuma speaks to a sense of tender endurance, much like the theme of Rotuman Language Week 2023 is Vetḁkia 'os Fäega ma Ag fak hanua - Sustaining our Language and Culture. How do you see poetry as a way to sustain culture?

DE: Yes, the myths and legends of Rotuma are important to me as a poet; and there are other poets and writers such as Vilisoni Hereniko now in Hawai'i who have also tapped into that heritage and kept it alive, most notably through the 2004 feature film he made in Rotuma incorporating legends and customs called The Land Has Eyes (Pear ta ma ʻon maf). And there are poets in the diaspora across the Moana Nui who are incorporating Rotuman language and proverbs into their poems and writings.

RM: How did your time as Poet Laureate shape your understanding of Rotuman representation in Aotearoa?

DE: Well, because I was the poet of the pandemic there were few opportunities to travel, but I was proud to be seen as a representative of the Rotuman community in small ways, such as at the Poet Laureate inauguration ceremony at Matahiwi marae at Heretaunga, where I was presented with my tokotoko or orator's ceremonial stick. And also in various poetry presentations to Pasifika groups and communities. My Rotuman heritage finds its way in the drumbeat, the rhythm that runs through my poetry and echoes the voice of awakened ancestors resonating along to the charge and chant of my recitations.

RM: Rotuma is known for its fertile land and clear sea; we are small but mighty. What do you wish more people knew about Rotuma?

DE: Rotuma has long and complex history of representation of its own rich culture as a remote island, yet also one strongly connected by ancient navigation traditions to Tonga and Tuvalu and Fiji, and so on. After that, there are the effects of colonisation, and Christianity and the rest. You also have the visits of whaling ships and blackbirding, taking labourers elsewhere, and other practices. The Polynesian island of Rotuma was absorbed into Fiji where the people were Melanesian, related but different, back in the nineteenth century. Partly as a defensive move against possible annexation by the Kingdom of Tonga at that time, they sought British protection, and that came at a cost. But there were a lot of connections made between Tonga, Fiji and Rotuma going way back that continue. More recently at the beginning of the 'coup culture' in Fiji there was a strong independence for Rotuma movement that sprang up, and I remember some conversations about this around the kava bowl when I was in Levuka in the early 2000s. Then there was the guy who claimed to be the King of Rotuma by descent, who got laughed off the island. So, there are many fabulous stories, some almost the stuff of fiction, still waiting to be told. And in the end, Rotuma has much to be proud of in keeping a sense of going its own way, maintaining its identity, as an island and a culture.

RM: Who are other Rotuman creatives that should be highlighted this Rotuma Language Week?

DE: Well, I am currently helping put a new anthology of Pasifika poets together, and it is good to have you included Ruby along with other Rotuman poets, in particular my co-editor Mere Taito, a very important Rotuman poet and scholar of the Rotuman language who lives in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. Amongst those who work in the visual arts, I will mention my brother Shane Tonu, formerly of Aotearoa many years ago, who is now based in the United States and who has made a name for himself as a master carver and eco-artist working with dead trees He is proud of his Rotuman ancestry and the talent he inherited from our Rotuman grandfather (our ma'piag fa), who was a carpenter and boatbuilder. Fai'akse'ea.

David Eggleton

David Eggleton is of Rotuman, Tongan and Palagi ancestry, and was raised and educated in Tāmaki Makaurau. David's grandfather was from Mofmairo on Rotuma and his maternal grandmother from Ma'ufanga on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga. He lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin, New Zealand, where he is an editor, poet and writer. 

David is a former editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s leading literary journal, and has published many collections of poems, a book of short stories, and several works of non-fiction on subjects ranging from New Zealand rock music to the history of New Zealand photography. South Pacific Sunrise, was his first collection of poems and was co-winner of the PEN New Zealand Best First Book of Poems Award in 1987. His book The Conch Trumpet won the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2016, a year in which he also received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry. In 2018 he held the Fulbright Pacific Writer's Residency at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa and the following year he was appointed the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate, a role he held until 2022. 

David Eggleton has collaborated with artists ranging from jewellers to fashion designers to filmmakers to musicians, with whom he has released several albums of his poems set to music. In 2022 he toured New Zealand with a poetry cabaret show accompanied by musician Richard Wallis and Fijian Pasifika poet Daren Kamali for Arts on Tour. His most recent book, Respirator, a collection of his Poet Laureate poems from 2019 to 2022, was published in March 2023 by Otago University Press.

Ruby Macomber

'Otou asa le Ruby Rae Lupe Ah-Wai Macomber! Gou fḁu ruḁghul ma tā. 

Gou hån ne Rotuma ma Taveuni. Gou noh 'e Auckland. Ruby is a poet and teina of Te Moana-Nui-a Kiwa (Rotuma/Taveuni), currently completing a BA/LLB in Pacific Studies, Psychology and Law at UoA. She is published in Landfall, Kete Books, Metro, Awa Wāhine and Starling. In 2022, Ruby was awarded a Prime Minister's Scholarship for Latin America to study indigenous rights and histories in Brazil.  

Ḁlalum 'ḁus 'e gasav ne fäeag rotuḁm te'is! (Happy Rotuman Language Week!) 

Things to read and watch

Rotuman stories of people, place, and community

Carving continuity

Rocky Ralifo, Rotuman wood-carving artist

Carving continuity

Rocky Ralifo is the only Rotuman club carver in Aotearoa, and likely one of very few in the world. Former Collection Manager, Pacific Ruby Satele explores Rocky’s work within the traditional art form and his aspirations for its greater recognition and resurgence.

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Sofia Tekela-Smith

Sofia Tekela-Smith

On the eve of Rotuman Language Week, Associate Curator Pacific Andrea Low met with artist Sofia Tekela-Smith to look at some of Sofia’s artworks. Tekela-Smith's life as well as her art practice was shaped by her journey as an infant back to Rotuma, where she was raised by her grandmother, Mue Tekela. Unlike many Aotearoa-born Rotuman people of her generation, Sofia grew up speaking Rotuman as her first language. 

Here, Tekela-Smith holds Sofia, a sculptural self-portrait that plays on the outdated notion of Pacific women as ‘dusky maidens’. Echoing 50s-era chalkware heads, these were once common retro depictions of Pacific people, a reference that Tekela-Smith has reclaimed in her work.

The sculpture Sofia wears a tēfui, referencing the Rotuman ceremonial garlands that have star-like motifs or ‘fui’ and are made from fragrant flowers, fruit, and leaves. The number of fui depends on the wearer and the occasion but there can be up to seven in a garland. Tekela-Smith's single fui is made from a layered cluster of mother-of-pearl pieces that is then threaded onto woven waxed thread with a glimmer of gold wire. 

Tekela-Smith's jewellery practice reflects the notion that art is a part of life, present in every day. Though they have adorned many gallery walls over the years, breastplates like the one Tekela-Smith wears here are made to be worn by people as they would have been by her ancestors.

Carrying the materials and forms from her forebears through to here and now, Tekela-Smith's pieces carry many small, intimate trademarks, like the four-pointed shape she uses as fasteners. Collaborations with artist John Pule or her children have seen poetry and drawings engraved into pieces that can be worn, hidden, against the wearer's skin. 

When Tekela-Smith returned to Aotearoa New Zealand at the age of fourteen, she brought with her the language of her maternal homeland, her lived experience in Rotuma and the stories of the communities that surrounded her there. All of these things are distilled in every piece of jewellery she makes, so a small piece of Rotuma, made by her, is carried off and worn in all corners of the globe. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum © Richard Ng
Fesaitu Solomone

Pacific Advisory Group

Fesaitu Solomone

“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

For Rotuman Language Week 2020, Fesaitu Solomone hosted two Zoom talanoa, the first of which highlighted one Rotuman cultural treasure in the Museum's collection, Tales of a Lonely Island. This book is a gateway for learners of the Rotuman language, and one that became incredible scarce until it was republished in 1995. You can read more about the book and its many community connections in this blog by Associate Curator, Heritage Publications Paula Legel and Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage (Pacific Collections), Leone Samu.

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Rotuma talanoa

Ngā Kākano series

Rotuma talanoa

The Ngā Kākano series is an invitation for our communities to come in and learn from respected Māori and Pacific leaders and experts, who share insights and expertise across Te Ao Māori and Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. For the inaugural Rotuman Language Week in 2020 we took our Ngā Kākano Wānanga into the digital realm. 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.

Watch now

From the 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.

Promoting Rotuman language treasures in our archives

Finding Fäeag Rotuḁm

Promoting Rotuman language treasures in our archives

Rotuman Language Week is an invaluable occasion for which to seek out and showcase tēfakhanis ‘on tēmamfua (Rotuman documentary heritage) in our archival collections. In doing this, we can show our support for this community's ongoing aspirations for Fäeag Rotuḁm in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

In our efforts to surface hidden examples of written Rotuman, we have recently discovered a series of articles from a regular column documenting Rotuman news in the pages of the Auckland-based MANA newspaper, which ran from 1977–1978. 

Started in 1977, MANA was unique in that it was the first multicultural newspaper to be run as a collective. Under the stewardship of Joris de Bres, who up until then had been working as a journalist for the Auckland City News, initially there were contributing editors from five Pacific communities in Auckland: Vapi Kupenga (Maori),  Nihi Vini (Cook Islands), Wairaki Toevai (Samoan), Nelson Tupou (Tongan) and Aiao Kaulima (Niuean). Later there were also contributions from Nancy Prebble (Fijian) and Joseph T. Eason (Rotuman). 

The editorial board asserted that the aim of MANA newspaper would be: 'to reflect the lives and opinions of the Maori and Pacific Island communities in New Zealand, and to provide information and news in Polynesian languages about New Zealand and the countries of the Pacific.' 

From 15 September 1977, a small news column in the Rotuman language was included, the contact being Mr Joseph T. Eason of Waiuku. Perhaps Mr Joseph Eason was some relation of W.J.E Eason, the author of A Short History of Rotuma (1951). Apart from the name of Eason, known Rotuman family names in Auckland and around New Zealand are included in this and subsequent articles: Gibson, Viliami, Bentley, Sokimi, Mrs Susau Strickland QSM, Antonio, Fullman, Whitton, Fonumonu, Tonu, Simpson, Smith, Reidy, Wiley and Whitcombe to name just some of the families discussed. Noticeably absent from the articles are the diacritic marks that make Fäeg Rotuḁm so unique. Articles in Rotuman continued until the issue of 6 April 1978, where there was discussion of the Rotuman Constitution. Though there is no indication, the last issue of Mana was published on 18 May 1978. 

MANA newspaper. Auckland War Memorial Museum. HT1501 MAN.

More information ›
rotuma bird


Jea – Polynesian Triller (Lalage maculosa rotumae)

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.

You can find more photos and information about the specimen below.

Find out more