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Wednesday 2 May 2018 | Published in Regional


NEW ZEALAND – The Rotuman language is listed on the Unesco’s list of endangered languages as “vulnerable”.

And now, members of the Rotuman community living in New Zealand have set out to do something to stop the demise of their native language.

Hence, the Rotuman community of New Zealand is excited to announce their first-ever “language week” set to showcase the best of Rotuman culture.

Rotuma is a Fijian dependency, consisting of Rotuma Island and nearby islets, with a population close to 2000. But outside of Rotuma, the population is believed to number more than 50,000.

The island group is home to a large and unique indigenous ethnic group which constitutes a recognisable minority within the population of Fiji, known as “Rotumans”.

The week-long celebration of Rotuman culture, May 6-13, is being organised by the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Group Inc (ARFGI). Activities will be held at the Western Springs Garden Community Hall.

And in another first, they have also created a language chart to help those new to the language, and which will be of particular benefit for the younger generations.

“We took the initiative using our own funds and resources, to move things forward and help save our unique language,” chairman Faga Fasala said.

The group hopes that this may also inspire other ethnic groups, including Rotumans, who live in other cities and countries throughout the world, to hold similar events.

“Language is what makes us who we are, and is part of our culture and identity,” Fasala said. “And it is our duty to preserve this invaluable taonga.”

The group hopes the week’s activities will help bring people together and showcase Rotuman culture.

“We invite all Kiwis to come and join us, and celebrate being Rotuman,” Fasala said.

“It has not been easy for our community to keep our language alive in Aoetearoa,” Fasala said.

“We pay tribute to our elders and leaders, who for the last 30 years, have continued to celebrate our culture in New Zealand, and for helping keep our customs and traditions relevant.”

A separate media event is also being organised as part of the activities, in the hope that this will help introduce the unique Rotuman culture to the wider New Zealand public.

“Each day of the week has been allocated to the different groups within our community,” Fasala said.

“With the elders, youth, sports, cultural, music, advocacy and religious leaders hosting their own days, Rotuman people are a separate ethnic group with their own distinct language, culture and identity, and originate from the polynesian Island of Rotuma.”

Rotuma consists of the island of Rotuma and its nearby islets, and is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 500km north of Fiji, and 500km west of Wallis & Futuna. Rotuma was annexed by the British on May 13, 1881 (Rotuma Day).

Rotuman is not the only Pacific island language list on Unesco’s endangered list.

Tokelauan language is “severely endangered”, along with Nauru, while Niuean, Tuvaluan, and Norfolk are “definitely endangered”.

Rarotongan (Cook Islands) is also “vulnerable”. - Stuff