Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fijian migrants in Melbourne

from w
Yesterday Peceli and I went up to Melbourne to a singing and dance practice as a small group of Fijian people prepared for their items at the upcoming Pako Festa in Geelong planned for Saturday 23rd February. We met at the Altona Meadows Uniting Church where a Fijian congregation meet every Sunday for worship. This continues the cultural heritage of singing in harmony, remembering the string band songs, the polotu from Lau, and the Methodist hymns. Some of the girls who were born in Australia and haven't seen the villages of their parents and grandparents are learning to perform their traditional dances. Rev Eseta Meneilly was the teacher of the set of dancers and songs.

As I listened to the full voices especially in the singing of the hymns I realized how important it is to keep up the practice of this beautiful style of singing in four voice parts. If the migrant Fijians 'assimilate' into the Australian norm (whatever that may be) the world would be a poorer place. To maintain language, music and dance for Pacific Island people makes for a rich multicultural society here in Australia.

As they sang I sketched two views this modern church - the colour purple dominating and the cross and round window suddenly became the icon for women so that was interesting. On the way to Melbourne the sky was very dark and cloudy but a rainbow was visible for about ten minutes.


meg said...

Language is so important; as dame Whina Cooper said it is not a wall that separates us, it a blanket that can keep us all warm. when we first came to Fj I still spoke a little Maori to the kids (but they lost it pretty quickly); it was their way of knowing they were different from Aus or South African expats. I totally admire the Fijians for keeping their language, not just the standard Fijian, but also the preservation of all the dialects too. Our kids may be losing their (only ever rudimentary) Maori, but they can say thank you in 3 Fijian dialects! ( Vinaka vakalevu, Vinadu Riki, Sa malo!) What does that tell you?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

It is wonderful to see children being able to speak in different dialects and languages. The kids in Labasa often do so because of the two main cultural groups living side by side there. Peceli spoke his home dialect, Hindi, some English, and some Standard Fijian as a child. It makes us Ozzies seem so limited as we are monocultural apart from perhaps a smattering of French or some European language taught at school but soon forgotten. Peceli sings Hindi songs sometimes - in fact he sings a lot - around the house, - sentimental string band songs and hymns - or in the car. Fijians seem to not be self-conscious about singing in front of people and they can sing like angels! I wish I could sing so freely! I've taught classroom music, trained a choir, written a music thesis etc. but I still can't sing well - except when I join a Fijian language choir!

Anonymous said...

Hello there, I am currently looking for a Fijian native speaker who may be interested in tutoring learners in their language in the Melbourne area.

If you know of anyone who is qualified and able to assist me, please ask them to call me on 02.62073550.

I have a little knowledge of your beautiful culture and it is wonderful to see that you are keeping the Fijian spirit alive in Australia.

Kind regards