Mother by Teresia Teaiwa
The sky that
A lightening storm
The earth that
The ocean that
A tidal wave
(Searching for Nei Nim’anoa)
Poet, academic, and the director of Va’aomanu Pasifika at Victoria University in Wellington, Teresia Teaiwa, has died following a short illness.
Victoria University page
A poem tribute from at Huffington Post
An E-Tangata interview in full here:
‘Teresia Teaiwa is a poet and award-winning teacher at Victoria University, where she lectures in Pacific Studies — a field she’s described as “literally oceanic in proportions”, covering a region with 1,200 indigenous languages and 20,000 islands spread over a third of the earth’s surface. Here, she talks to Dale, about the complexities of the Pacific, why Pacific Studies matters, and her own complicated cultural heritage — as the child of an African American mother and a Banaban and I-Kiribati father whose community was relocated to Fiji because of British phosphate mining.
Teresia — a nice place to start, often, is names. So could you tell us about your whanau, your aiga, your mum and dad and where you were when you grew up?
I was born in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, but I was raised in Fiji.
Teaiwa is my grandfather’s first name. In Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bas) it wasn’t customary to have last names. That was a colonial introduction. So my father took his father’s first name as his last name. My father is John Teaiwa. John wasn’t his birth name — that was the name the priest gave to him when he went to school.
Teaiwa is a name from the island of Tabiteuea in Kiribati, which is the largest island in the Gilbert Islands group. Teaiwa is composed of te meaning “the”, ai meaning “fire”, and wa meaning “canoe”. I like to interpret it as the fiery canoe. But when you look for the word aiwa in the dictionary, it has a less poetic rendering — agitation is one of the interpretations that comes to mind.’