Sina and Tinilau

Vilsoni Hereniko, illustrated by Jasper Schreurs. Sina and Tinilau. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 1997. ISBN: 9820201276

Apparently in all cultures beautiful princesses need rescuing. Sometimes they just have to wait for the handsome prince to come along, and sometimes they have to kiss the frog and hope. But beauty it seems, is always rewarded with beauty.

This telling of the Sina and Tinilau story of various Polynesian legends is more or less the same as the European Frog Prince story: spoiled young girl reluctantly befriends ugly animal, who transforms into a more suitable suitor only after she sees past his ugliness. It’s a simple, sweet story for kids, but what makes the book Sina and Tinilau special is its illustrations.

Jasper Schreurs is a Dutch storyboard artist and digital illustrator who lived for some time in Fiji – long enough to have his design chosen for a commemorative $2 note in 2000. With assistance from Graham Taylor, Jane Borg and Melissa Wauchope, Schreurs has used this oversized publication to not only depict the story of Sina and the eel, but also to teach us a little about birds, flowers, insects, shells, sea life and cultural objects from around the Pacific. You can see some sample images online, but the colours in the Hawaii University site seriously undersell the vibrancy of the printed article.

At the Fiji Museum, Suva

At the Fiji Museum, Suva

Through these pages we learn both the Western and Polynesian names for fish from the region, as well as the names of various Birds of Paradise, and the styles of canoes built in different islands. It’s a beautifully depicted glimpse into the extraordinary diversity of Pacific Island cultures, touching on Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Niue, and Easter Island. A vast expanse of the world, brought together through a story that is echoed in so many places.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Pacific Islands production without a little chaos. Beautiful as the depictions of insects and flowers are, they seem to have come adrift from their corresponding labels, so that the bug fairly universally known as a lady beetle is listed as a frangipani, and the flower that I’m fairly confident is a frangipani is captioned as a shield bug from Fiji. The prosaic explanation is a production error, but, just perhaps, the labels are right, and a shield bug can become a frangipani if you see through its outer shell to its inner beauty.

Posted in Children's fiction, Chile, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Uncategorized, Vanuatu | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devil-Devil

GW Kent. Devil-Devil. Constable & Robinson, 2011. ISBN: 9781849017800

I’ve debated with myself (and a couple of commenters) on this blog about who gets to speak for whom. It’s something I’ve thought about at some point in pretty much every book I’ve read this year. Whose voice is this? What authority does it have? How deeply do I trust the ‘truths’ it is offering me? How much of it is fiction and how much fact, or at least experience? Have I truly learned something about a culture or a life by reading this, or am I asking too much of an author speaking outside her culture or within it? Am I asking too much of fiction?

I particularly asked these questions while reading Devil-Devil, because the book brought so much that was new to me about traditional Solomon Islands culture and belief. Author GW Kent is an Englishman who in the 1960s worked in the Solomons as an educator, visiting remote schools and teaching their teachers to use the educational broadcast programs he produced. The Solomons Kent knows were recovering from the short, massive onslaught of World War II and the changes it had brought. Exposure the American soldiers, and particularly black American soldiers, and the impressive western goods they brought with them. Inching towards independence under the increasingly reluctant rule of the British, who were slowly coming to realise that dominion over palm and pine could not last forever.

In these Solomon Islands of the 1960s Kent has conjured Sergeant Ben Kella and Sister Conchita. Sister Conchita is an American Marist nun, newly arrived in the Solomons, with an unconventional approach and a talent for getting herself into trouble. I have the feeling that the Sister is likely to grow into herself in books two and three of this series, and she’s an interesting character in her own right, but it is Kella I want to concentrate on here.

Ben Kella has been raised in two cultures. As a child he was identified by his Lau elders as their aofia, their hereditary peacemaker. He’s also been identified by the white missionaries and government officials as a potential leader of the coming nation. He’s been brought up and educated in the Catholic faith, and sent overseas to study in Australia, the US and UK. He’s the highest ranking Solomon Islander officer in the Royal Solomon Islands Police, and so far he’s been successful in balancing his competing cultures and roles. There is, though, a story hanging over him, a death he was held responsible for, that suggest that the balance has been a fine one, not always completely successful.

Japanese War Memorial, Mt Austin, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

Japanese War Memorial, Mt Austin, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

A bit like our friend Sam in Pacific, Ben Kella is a little too good to be true. He’s a war hero, respected by friend and foe alike. He’s intelligent and educated in both of his cultures, and a leader in both of them also. He’s an amazing rugby player who once single-handedly won a match for the Solomon Islands against Fiji and went on to play rugby league in Australia. His family is wealthy, owning a number of copra plantations on Malatia. He’s apparently irresistible to the Sikiana women living with the bush people on Malaita. Just a tad too perfect, really. Even his flaws are really triumphs, because they come from his need to straddle the two worlds he lives in.

His close friend, school principal Solomon Bulko sums up Kella’s dilemma:

Sooner or later you’re going to have to make up your mind whether you’re the progressive, technologically trained black hope for the future, or just another cosy, old-fashioned witch doctor.

But for now Kella’s not choosing one over the other. We find him back in his home province of Malaita, investigating a series of seemingly separate but tantalisingly linked crimes, acting as both police sergeant and aofia at once, and managing to piss off pretty much everyone in the process. Solving all of these mysteries will rely on his skills as a police officer, but they have much more to do with his traditional knowledge than anything he has learned in his police training. He’ll need to draw on both of his sources of authority to stop an impending blood feud.

I’m not good at detail so, like many of the mystery-type books I’ve read this year for Raintree, and last year for Caphs, I found it hard to keep all of the various stories in Devil-Devil straight. What is Australian plantation manager John Deacon up to and why does he seem to want to do Sister Conchita harm? What does school boy Peter Oro suspect, that has driven him to ask for a ghost-caller to investigate his grandfather’s death? Why has Pazabosi come down from the mountains to put a death curse on a coastal village and on Ben Kella? Is it part of a plan to relaunch Marching Rule? Where is the missing American anthropologist and did he have anything to do with the theft of the sacred havu? Why has the body of Lofty Herman suddenly turned up, and who killed him all those years ago? And exactly how many times did Senda Iabuli die?

Way too much going on for my poor brain. Of course it is all interwoven, and expertly untangled by Sergeant Kella, with a little help from the quick-minded Sister. Somehow it is all solved and explained somewhere towards the end, and all is forgiven, and the Sergeant and the Sister have something of a grudging respect for eachother. It’s a relationship that I think will be interesting to watch in the following books in the Kella and Conchita series. I’m not sure, though, that my feeble mind is up to following the twists and turns of Solomon Islands culture and intrigue as it rubs up against colonialism, Catholicism and the modern world.

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Pacific

Judy Nunn. Pacific. Random House, 2004. ISBN: 9781864712520

Samantha Lindsay is a young Australian soapie starlet whose career is taking off. The English audience love her role in “Family and Friends”, and she’s getting noticed for her work on the stage. Now she’s landed her first big Hollywood leading role, and it’s as though the part is made for her, not least because it is producing strange echoes of her beloved adopted home at Fareham.

Sam’s agent Reginald Harcourt finds her grating at their first meeting, but he decides that he likes her nonetheless. I felt very much the same. She’s a bit too good to be true – brilliant but humble, talented but prepared to take advice and work hard, beautiful and graceful but unaffected. But she’s hard not to like, a bit like Judy Nunn’s romantic historical adventure itself.

There are two stories at play here. One is Samantha’s as she travels to Vanuatu to film Torpedo Junction, a war-time drama inspired by the life of Englishwoman Jane Thackeray. In the telling, we dip in and out of Jane’s story, following her from her girlhood in Fareham with her dear friend Phoebe Chisholm, through her marriage to doctor and missionary Martin Thackeray, to her life as a nurse and advocate for the ni-Vanuatu in Port Vila during and after World War II.

Wartime Remnants at Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Wartime remnants at Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

It’s clear that Sam and Jane’s lives are linked somehow, but it is Phoebe, an old woman alone at Chisholm Hall back in Fareham, who Sam seems to have some sort of spiritual connection with. So what is the real tie between Sam and Jane? Nunn is a master at keeping us wondering until the end, and she does it without seeding a lot of irrelevant rubbish to lead us astray. While the end is a perhaps unexpected twist, the layering of the story to get there is plausible and logical, and the journey was one I was happy to take.

Through Sam’s modern story I got to revisit some old haunts, such as Iririki Island, Hideaway Island, Chantilly’s and the yacht club, and to be reminded of wonderful sights, sounds and tastes, like mother hubbard dresses, Bislama, string bands, Tusker beer, the waterfront markets. Through Jane’s historical narrative I gained something of an appreciation of the condominium government of the New Hebrides, the use made of the Vanuatu islands during the war and its impact, the lead-up to and consequences of independence.

And unlike our criminal friend from Port Vila Blues Wyatt’s perfunctory views of the landscape, Nunn gives us some lovely images to contemplate:

Never had she seen colours of such intensity. It was as if the artist who had painted this landscape hadn’t bothered with a palette at all, but had simply dipped his brush into the paint pots, so unblended, so pure and stark were the contrasts.

The blurb quotes – and their sources – tell you plenty about Pacific. Woman’s Day calls it “A fabulous read”. The Australian Women’s Weekly says it is “A rattling good yarn of secrets and passions”. The Illawarra Mercury talked of “A powerful novel of love and revenge set in a Pacific paradise”. I’m tempted myself to use terms like ‘epic sweep’ and ‘historical saga’. The term ‘bodice ripper’ kept coming to mind as I read it, although it’s more sophisticated and complex than the formulaic historical romances that spawned that phrase. A page-turner it certainly is.

A bit like the other book I’ve read this year set in Vanuatu, Pacific is a sympathetic portrayal of the ni-Vanuatu people, but it’s not really about them. Locals Savi, Sera, Pascal, Selena and the others have vital roles to play in the story, and they portrayed as intelligent, independent people who are rooted in their own culture but also grappling with a new one – two new ones, in fact – that have come to dominate their own. This is, though, a story of Western experiences of Vanuatu, both during World War II and in the present. It can’t be anything else, and it doesn’t need to be. I find myself still wondering, though, what a ni-Van view of this same story might be.

Vanuatu has a quite innovative home-grown theatre and television production scene, including the rather wonderful TV soap “Love Patrol”, which you can sometimes catch in Australia on NITV. Yet apparently there is still no local writing making it to broader audiences, at least not in English. The same is true, of course, for many other Pacific Island nations. I wonder, though, what the barriers are? Why, in this age of e-books and self publishing, the odious Mark Young, of The Best Ever Book of Tuvaluan Jokes fame, can also publish books called The Best Ever Guide to Demotivation for Vanuatuans, but I still can’t find an indigenous ni-Van voice in fiction?

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Like Bees to Honey

Caroline Smailes. Like Bees to Honey. Harper Collins, 2010. ISBN: 9780007357130

Yes, I know. I said Pacific islands. But since I was headed for two weeks on a couple of Mediterranean islands I thought I would bend the rules for a short while and read something set in Malta.

I wondered before I began what underlying universal truths I might glean. What are the commonalities of islands regardless of the body of water that embraces them? I didn’t expect to find such startlingly similar stories.

Nina is Maltese. As a young woman she convinced her family to let her travel to the United Kingdom to study. Within months she was in love with an Englishman. And pregnant. But not married. And her fiercely Catholic, fiercely proud father has disowned her, called her shameful, forbidden her to come home, and forbidden her family to come to her. She is cut off from her home, her family and her culture.

Malta had first crumbled under the sun, then under siege, bombardment, invasion and yet each time it grew stronger. The dust, the ashes, it all formed into labyrinths, secret passages that connect, divide, protect. The islanders have resilience, a determination, an acceptance of sorts. It is said that if you have been stripped to nothing, when you mend you alter, your aura changes, your purpose becomes clearer.

My mother once told me, “In-nies jigu Malta biex ifequ.”

  • people come to Malta to heal.

I left. I do not know what that means.

Nina’s son Christopher has been killed at the age of ten, run over by a car while crossing the road to greet her. But such is Nina’s grief, and guilt, she has lost the last remaining part of her Maltese identity, her faith. Lost, perhaps, her will to continue this life, with nothing left to sustain her.

I was naïve. My Lord does not punish people with an inability to make rice balls. My Lord punishes with the death of a child.

And so Jesus has sent Christopher back to her.

Now Nina and Christopher have come to Malta. Six years of grieving later, Nina must learn to heal, and learn to let Christopher go. In Malta, Nina’s dead mother welcomes them and cooks bragioli. Tilly the hares (“~ ghost, usually protector of a house but may become resentful”) is having trouble coming to terms with her own death, so soon after she had finally discovered happiness in her true self. Jesus is hanging out in Larry’s bar in Valletta, drinking beer to see if it is possible for him to get drunk. There are rumours that John Lennon is living in Malta. Dead people are everywhere because, Nina’s mother reminds her, all troubled souls come to Malta. Malta is where the good come to heal.

Triq Ir-Reppublika, Valletta, Malta

Triq Ir-Reppublika, Valletta, Malta

It is such a similar premise to that of Baby No Eyes– grief so insupportable that the grieved-for child returns to provide comfort, and is kept beyond that time – It’s hard not to continue to look for comparisons. Both stories look to the importance if identity in dealing with grief. Having a community, a tradition, and faith in who we are and how and where we belong, is something that sustains us. I wonder if this is something that is particularly strong in island cultures, or if it is indeed universal?

Malta has at some stage or other been overrun by pretty much everyone. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Goths, Vandals, Normans, Ottomans, French, British. They’ve all been and left their mark. And somehow these have all be absorbed and melded into a single, new, unique Maltese identity, language and culture. Malta a nation of survivors. Nina needs to be reminded, to be convinced, that she still wants to survive, and that there are things to survive for. Coming back to Malta and reclaiming her Maltese identity may give her the strength to continue to stand alone when she is far from home.

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Baby No Eyes

Patricia Grace. Baby No Eyes. Penguin Books, 1998. ISBN: 9781742288147

I hadn’t come across the term ‘bioprospecting’ until I read Baby No Eyes. Also referred to by its critics as ‘biopiracy’, bioprospecting is the search for new pharmaceutical products through traditional remedies, often making use of (or, to the critical, exploiting) indigenous knowledge. The term is rarely used in Baby No Eyes, but its concepts of the protection, ownership, sharing and ultimate significance of a people’s knowledge, run throughout the book.

When Te Paania gives birth to her son Tawera, she wants him to know he is not an only child.

‘I knew there was someone,’ I said.

‘You have a sister four years and five days older than you.’

‘Now I see her,’ I said, ‘Shot. Two holes in her head.’

‘You mean she has no eyes,’ my mother said. ‘You mean her eyes were stolen.’

In her note at the beginning of the book, author Patricia Grace explains that her story is based on actual events in 1991. I haven’t been able to find any online details of that 1991 event, so I don’t know at what point Grace’s story becomes her own and not this other one. That any part of it could be true is deeply shocking.

Te Wakarewarewa Cemetery, Rotorua

Te Wakarewarewa Cemetery, Rotorua

Te Paania’s first child died, unborn, in a car accident. The accident also killed Baby’s father Shane, and almost took Te Paania with them. While Te Paania is in hospital and Shane’s grandmother Gran Kura and her family are making funeral arrangements, someone at the hospital has stolen Baby’s eyes.

We don’t know for certain why this awful thing has been done. Te Paania’s lawyer and activist friend Mahaki links the act with bioprospecting and the Gene Kings, exploiting indigenous knowledge and genetics without consent, dispossessing a dispossessed people all over again.

The unspeakable thing done to Baby is one in a long line of affronts to this Maori community. Another is the taking of their land and their sacred sites, added to which is the insult from the local Council which offers to sell their land back to them. This event galvanises the community, who mount a protest by occupying a city park, pointing out that this also had been their land, never willingly ceded.

In the course of their meetings developing, debating, agreeing on strategy, the old people tell the stories of the land and its history, and the young people want to know more:

The old man had gone on to talk about the rest of the land too, on and on, until there was an eruption from the younger people. The hard core began talking about laying claim to all Council property, so called, as they watched the old man’s cupped hard pointing in every direction. ‘This family there to there. This family there to there. Crops there to there. Homes there to there. Bones moved there to there…’

But at last they’d come back to arrangements for occupying the park in order to make known their demand for the return of Anapuke. ‘Anapuke first,’ they’d said. ‘Then once we’re set up on the park we want the grandmothers and grandfathers to tell us the rest.’ It was talk they wanted. Information. Other action could wait until later.

And so the community begins to renew itself, to share its knowledge amongst its members.

In the middle of this renewal, Gran Kura is waiting to go home to die, and she is trying to convince Tawera to let Baby go with her. Because Baby has been sent back to look after her mother in her grief. “’I was only on loan because Mum needed me,’” Baby tells Tawera “’but it was meant to be just for a few years. Then you came.’” As Te Paania told him at his birth, Tawera is not an only child, and he has never been alone.

It is hard not to compare Te Paania and her people with the Hekes and their community in Once Were Warriors. Te Paania and her family are educated in the pakeha way, but they are also connected to their culture and their land. While they still suffer discrimination and deficit – the treatment of Baby being the most horrific example – they are increasingly equipped to fight for themselves and their community. The Heke family, without a western education to speak of, and a generation removed from their cultural inheritance, have no such resources and very little hope.

Baby No Eyes is, for me, about learning to stand alone. That is easier to do when you know who you are, and you know that you have family, a community to stand with you and to fall back on. Tawera has spent his life being the eyes for his unseen sister, but eventually must be his own person. Te Paania and Mahaki and the people of Anapuka must find ways to keep their community strong, to pass on their knowledge, and to gain respect through self-respect. They are all linked and made stronger by knowledge and self-knowledge, and these are things that won’t be taken away easily.

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, New Zealand | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tuvalu

Andrew O’Connor. Tuvalu. Allen & Unwin, 2006. ISBN: 9781741148718.

When you search Amazon’s Kindle store for the word ‘Tuvalu’ you get nine results. Most of them are travel guides. One, called The Best Ever Book of Tuvaluan Jokes, apparently substitutes Tuvalu for every other disparaged group used in an off-colour joke. Now you are able to tell your racist joke about Tuvaluans instead of Jews, and so, claims author Mark Young, those jokes are suddenly funny again. Awesome.

The first on that list of nine is Andrew O’Connor’s Tuvalu.

‘Everyone has a place like that. A dream land or life they’re working towards, however vaguely.’

‘Why?’

‘Because without it we realise we’re obliged to die wanting.’

‘You don’t think you’re being just a tad melodramatic?’

‘Am I? Some people probably have more than one Tuvalu in a life. It changes as they grow. Or maybe they get to the first and find it’s nothing like they imagined and need a new one. You must have had at least one?’

In response to Tilley’s challenge, Noah can only come up with Tokyo. And it’s a pretty lame response, because he is already in Tokyo, and the life he’s living is hardly a dream. He’s eking out a living teaching English to listless Japanese youths, living in Nakamura-san’s cockroach infested, cat surrounded hostel. He’s starting to suspect that he won’t be seeing the large amount of money he loaned to fellow hosted-dweller Harry any time soon. He is without direction or ambition, without a Tuvalu.

Fellow English teacher Tilley is Noah’s girlfriend, but somehow he’s also got himself entangled with the unfathomable heiress Mami Kaketa. They each for a time seem to be his only points of reference, although each pulls him on a different track. When they both disappear from his life, Noah seems to slowly disintegrate, like his parents’ marriage, like the hostel around him.

Tilley’s Tuvalu isn’t real. She’s never going to get there. Tilley’s Tuvalu is only possible while she knows relatively little about the actual Tuvalu. While Tilley insists that her Tuvalu is not merely a dream, neither is it a tangible place where real life happens:

‘I’ve never been anywhere near it. I’ve never even studied it. For all I know is might well have sunk. But that one word’s taken on a meaning all of its own.

…There is no perfect place to live. …And knowing that, in order to keep Tuvalu I have to keep away from it. Anyway, if I really believed I was going there, going to find a Tuvalu, I’d never live. I’d live only in waiting.’

Information abhors a vacuum, and if you leave people without any good solid data about a subject they’ll make it up for themselves. Perhaps that is what has happened to Tuvalu. With seemingly no written fiction of its own to give to the world, the rest of us make up our own stories about Tuvalu. If we were left with only The Best Ever Book of Tuvaluan Jokes it would be a sad thing indeed. But luckily we have O’Connor’s Vogel’s award winning novel. This Tuvalu doesn’t try to give us a picture of what the real Tuvalu is like, but lets us come up with our own version, and our Tuvalus can be whatever we want or need them to be. One day soon I hope there will be Tuvaluan writers to tell us what their Tuvalu is.

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Islands of the Frigate Bird

Daryl Tarte. Islands of the Frigate Bird. Institute of Pacific Studies, 1999. 9820201470

I don’t recall ever having heard before of the island of Banaba. Everyone should. It is the history of the world, and it’s future, demonstrated in one small rocky atoll.

Right from the beginning, its story is one of one group of people conquering another. When Rotan and his companions land on a rocky island after months adrift at sea, they call it the most obvious name possible, Banaba, meaning ‘rocky island’, and they soon murder the men among the short, dark-skinned people they find there, and establish a new life with the women and children.

So begins the life and culture of the Banaban people. It is one spent in balance with the earth and the sea. We follow the history of Banaba through the first person voices of many people, Islanders and others, from Rotan in ancient times to Ion Itabirik, a voice from the future.

It’s an engaging way of giving us a detailed history lesson. Through these first person accounts we can understand something of the culture and development of Banaba and its intersections with its neighbours, including Hawaii, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu (the Gilbert and Ellice Islands), the Marshall Islands, and of course, the i-Matang.

We trace Rotan’s founding of a settlement, and the hardships of living on the atoll of Banaba, later known as Ocean Island. The people carefully steward the resources of food and water. We learn how fresh water was found and is husbanded. The stories of infanticide, to keep populations at a sustainable level, are both confronting and, in the context perhaps understandable. We stand beside Tiata Tewai on the beach after he has performed the requisite feat of endurance so that his “father and all the elders greeted me as a man, and I felt like a man, though I was only 12.”

On Tarawa, the main island of present day Kiribati, Australian Charlie Carrol decides to set up a trade store to buy coconut oil from the locals, the ingredient newly precious for soap and candle making. He works respectfully with elder Kabure, but Kabure’s son, now the grown man Tiata Tewai, does not trust white men. They each, though, confront the advent of the missionaries in their own ways but with similar fears.

Blackbirding takes men like Ten Ten away to Hawaii, but it is the discovery of phosphate and the advent of the Pacific Island Company that truly changes the fate of Banaba. While maintaining an ever smiling face of friendship and paternalism, the British, Australians and New Zealanders slowly mine the island of Banaba out from under the feet of its people. As the miners come to clear almost the last of their productive land, Sito and the other i-Banabans watch on:

Many of the trees had been planted years before by our ancestors. They were part of our heritage. They had life in them and they gave us life. I watched a machine root up an old mango tree and remembered how I had played in its branches as a young boy…

I saw Talu, my wife, hugging her favourite pawpaw tree as one would a dear relative. I felt her pain… The look on her face made my heart want to burst. It was that of a strong and proud person who had been completely defeated.

World wars and occupiers come and go. Borders are drawn arbitrarily around and between island groups by people far away, oblivious to or uncaring of the identity and wishes of the locals. So, the Banabans become i-Kiribati, even though they have never identified themselves as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. They wonder why they can’t have an independent existence like their neighbours in Nauru. It hardly seems to matter, though, because Banaba has been rendered uninhabitable by mining, and their monumental fight for compensation through the British courts has been lost. The people have been resettled on other islands, although a few have returned after mining ceased in 1979.

Now the people of the Pacific’s atoll nations are facing the new threat of climate change. Islands of the Frigate Bird recounts Ronti Tekai’s address to the United Nations General Assembly pleading for the future of Kiribati and the other Pacific island atolls. I’ve not been able to determine how much author Daryl Tarte has fictionalised his telling, but there is no shortage of accounts of Kiribati pleading this case. The nation has, sadly, become the poster child of climate change impact.

Tarte is evidently not confident of a solution. In his fictionalised version, Ion Itabirik tells us from the year 2234 that

Out in the Pacific Ocean, the waves washed over the reefs that were once the habitat of man and insect, birds and beast. Only such high islands as Banaba and Nauru remained above the ocean surface but devoid of humans. They had become the roosting places of frigate birds that no longer had small islands and atolls on which to nest and have their young. These enormous migrations of birds scavaged far and wide across the vast Pacific and returned to Banaba and Nauru to lay their eggs and to leave their droppings among the crags and crevices like other birds had done for millions of years.

And so the cycle repeats, as it seems to again and again.

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