11 Oct 2019

Fijian Language Week: New dance to be launched

3:48 pm on 11 October 2019

A new Fijian meke or traditional dance aims to encourage the islanders to embrace their identity and help them cope with life's challenges.

Alipate Traill, right, and Joana Monolagi teach young Fijians the meke seasea which will be launched at this weekend's Fiji Day celebrations in Auckland.

Alipate Traill, right, and Joana Monolagi teach young Fijians the meke seasea which will be launched at this weekend's Fiji Day celebrations in Auckland. Photo: Supplied

It's Fijian Language Week - Macawa Ni Vosa Vakaviti - and on Thursday Fijians marked 49 years of independence from Britain.

Director of Fijian dance at Auckland's Pasifika Arts Centre, Alipate Traill, said the new meke would be launched at the Fiji Day celebrations on Saturday.

The dance told the story of Fijians in New Zealand and the impacts of change on their lives, he said.

"The meke emphasises the need to hold on to each of our yavu or our foundation - the Māori call it tūrangawaewae.

"Everyday we wake up, there's something changing - whether it's through social media, through information or through the system that we live in.

"And the meke is a callout to our people - not only in New Zealand but on home soil back in Fiji."

Costumes for the dance are being put together.

Costumes for the dance are being put together. Photo: Supplied

The theme for this year's language week is Na Noqu Vosa - Ai Takele Ni Noqui Tovo - My language anchors my culture.

Mr Traill said it was fitting that the new meke, which took a year to put together, will be performed during the Fiji Day celebrations in Mangere, Auckland this weekend.

The dance project is the brainchild of fellow Fijian artist and activist Luisa Tora.

It was also supported by academic Dr Tarisi Vunidilo and Joana Monolagi who wrote the songs.

"And with the awesome support from the Auckland council through the community Pacific arts programme," he said.

"So, Joana created the lyrics to the original meke; a seasea (women's leaning dance), a meke wau (men's war club) and iri (men's fan dance)."

As part of the language week, Mr Traill said it was important young Fijians embraced and learnt about their culture and language.

'We must hold on to our foundation and identity'

Many young Fijians did not speak the language.

"The Ministry of iTaukei Affairs carried out a survey a couple of months ago in a few of the provinces and they found some startling results," he said.

"That a lot of our young people don't even know the basics of their oral history of certain customs and protocol.

"We put it down to a simple choice of ourselves: to be engaged more with Western culture, which we have to because we live here away from the homeland."

But Fijians must find that balance, he said.

"To first find your footing in your foundation which provides a secure platform to be able to handle life's challenges especially in these changing times," he said.

"So the meke talks about us as Fijians in Aotearoa: That change is about but nevertheless we must hold on to our foundation and identity.

"Only then can we sail through the storms of life with ease."

A carnival including a rugby Sevens tournament, food stalls and entertainment will mark the end of Fijian Language Week in Auckland on Saturday.