She discusses her “vakatabu” journey with the “Nana” project that she and three of her colleagues started in her village of Nalase in Rewa over a year ago. She drew from her people’s indigenous knowledge of science to construct a land reclamation project that will also stop land erosion along the riverbank beside her village. As she says, such a project takes time but if we remain true to the spirit of “vakatabu”, about ‘slowing things down’, it will not only good for our people but also for the environment.
It acknowledges that the world is in crisis and that indigenous peoples have experienced such moments many times in our long histories, developing a language, strategies of survival and an ability to understand and incorporate these moments into our cultures. Hawaiian mele and moʻolelo (songs and stories) contain a resiliance that comes from knowledge and a refined sense of being that persists to this day and is visible in the lives of contemporary Hawaiian activists.
Jonathan Osorio is a Professor of Hawaiian Studies and the Dean of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa. He serves on non-profits that promote the return of Hawaiʻi’s lands and waters to Native Hawaiian control and his work at the university focuses increasingly on facilitating ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) usage in the Hawaiian Islands.
In the Pacific the disconnect between aspirations for contextually relevant solutions and imported mainstream systems of practice fuels what we might call the Pacific development paradox. These systems are shaped by development ideologies and approaches conceptualised in and for contexts in the global north. Driven by capitalist aspirations, they fail to capture Pacific worldviews and ways of being and doing. Recently, however, a culture positive shift in thinking about contextually responsive ways of working has emerged in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. The 2050 Strategy captures Pacific Centred Development as one of seven key thematic areas. In a similar vein, the Pacific Community has begun work on a People Centred Approach (PCA) to institutional strengthening and delivery of programmes. These new ways of thinking about development challenges the status quo and captures the Pacific sociological imagination. While this is a new way of doing development, Pacific researchers have for over two decades advanced Pacific approaches to culturally grounded research methodologies and methods. These approaches which are premised on Pacific values and encapsulate indigenous notions of relationality and ecological identities offer an important insight into how we might do development better. In this presentation, we discuss the potential of a Pacific centred approach to development and research. Drawing from our experiences, we share our reflections on the potential of meaningful culturally informed practice that takes into account the worldviews, aspirations and culturally and spiritually informed identities of indigenous and local communities in the Pacific.
Albert Seluka is a lawyer from Tuvalu and has over twenty years of experience on work grounded on the contextual application of human rights with particular interest on the interface between human rights, gender equality, cultural heritage and environment protection. He currently works at the Pacific Community (SPC) following roles with the Government of Tuvalu in the Office of the Attorney-General, Office of the Peoples’ Lawyer and the Department of Local Governments and Rural Development. He graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Theology from the Pacific Theological College and also holds a Master of Laws, Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Drafting, Professional Diploma in Legal Practice and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the South Pacific.
Seu’ula Johansson-Fua is a Tongan academic and educational researcher. Her research explores how indigenous concepts of leadership can be tools in education systems across the Pacific region. She is currently Director of the Institute of Education at the University of the South Pacific. Her current research projects include Pacific approaches to community consultation (with UNICEF); Build Teacher Capacity in Inclusive Education (Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue and Cook Islands), Development Leadership Project (RMI, Tonga and Solomon Islands), Higher Education in Oceania, and Education and Culture in the Pacific region (UNESCO). She attained her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and her Masters and PhD in Educational Administration at the University of Toronto, Canada.
The Fijian and Oceania peoples experience vulnerability in the context of climate change and mining. In fact, we can add that the whole world is in a state of vulnerability. Some historical events like the 9/11/11 Twin Tower bombing, the Iraq War, Covid 19, the recent Russian invasion on Ukraine and climate change reveal the world’s vulnerability. Theology and spirituality therefore speak of God in the context of global vulnerability. How do we speak about God in the context of vulnerability? What is God saying to us in the world’s vulnerability? How do we discern God’s will? To address climate change, we have to address its root cause, namely carbon emission. We need a language that will bring about an ecological conversion particularly in coal-mining companies and countries. I will argue in this paper that to claim that small island nations are resilient bring about an ecological conversion among coal-mining companies and countries. When we portray ourselves as resilient, coal miners and world leaders will assume that we can survive the onslaught of climate change and continue their business (coal-mining) as usual. We need an effective language that will shock, interrupt, disturb and bring about an ecological conversion. The paper will propose that the theology of vulnerability is the effective language for addressing the root cause of climate change.
Peter Loy Chong is the Archbishop of Suva, ordained in 2013. He is also President of the Fiji Council of Churches and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences in Oceania.He did his PhD at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. His dissertation was titled: Towards a Fijian Contextual Theology: A Catholic Response to Fiji’s Coup Culture.” His special theological interests: Contextual Theology, Liberation Theology, Theology and Ecology, Ecumenism and Interreligious dialogue.
There is a reason why people with fanua-based consciousness are always ‘on the move.’ They move into the land and from the land for the sake of ‘walking with the land.’ Such movement depends on reading the pointers and indicators of an aging land. They read seasonal signals to inform the ‘slowing of time’ and their cycles of ecological cleansing and renewal. This reading, which in biblical language could be referred to as a sabbatical reading, is about ‘shared rest and shared growth.’ This talk focuses on the intelligence of the regenerative ecological system of my Samoan ancestry, a scream of wisdom clustered around the idea of time (Pacific time, Samoan time, Fiji time, etc), which is still there yet numbed and labelled in romantic classifications. It gives a different perspective of growth from the illusion of progress baptized by the current development narrative. It asks the question whether it is possible to walk with the land again and whether this can be relevant to forging a different development pathway. It also engages with the question of where God is in this slowing of time, fanua-based knowledge, and yearning for transformation.
Our nations’ leaders find themselves today caught between a proverbial rock—the want to improve the living conditions of its citizens, and a hard place—the promises made by foreign developers looking to invest. It is no easy feat because we live in societies where patience is no longer the virtue it once was and decision-making with the grassroots is now the nemesis of progress. This presentation aims to insert itself into that contested space offering an array of theological and cultural stories that exemplify slowness (delinked from instant gratification), stillness and maturity (delinked from fast-tracked growth), sustainability (delinked from the deliberate inflation of competition and desire), and responsibility (delinked from the profit driven). Although the insights are not new to our people, they have become mere footnotes in the dominant narratives of economic development. I bring them to light for the sake of negotiating and achieving two important goals. First, that we take initiative in owning or at least transforming the development trajectories in our respective countries. Just as one African proverb reminds, “when you carry your own water, you will learn the value of every drop.” Second, we acknowledge that delayed gratification and foregoing some of the low lying fruits are inevitable if the goal is to liberate true knowledge of our past and present selves. To that end, the command to “be still and know” will be presented as a contextual process of rethinking based on a biblical premise of waiting (Ps 46:10) and a vakatabu structure of hope for the future.
Faafetai Aiava is a Samoan-born theologian and currently serves as the Head of Department for Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Theological College in Fiji, where he and his family have resided the past 11 years. He has written, presented at international forums, and continues to teach on the intersections of theology, Pasifika hermeneutics and the ethical issues affecting human and non-human life.
Australia’s First Nations people have longed for a relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters of the Pacific. The School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Divinity provides an opportunity to build a theological platform that recognises our cosmology, worldview, and epistemology that informs our theological perspectives to address the injustices that confront Indigenous peoples and to bring about the transformative process for change.
In this presentation I will be discussing the role or place of Fa’aabu in Kwara’ae indigenous Governance and Politics and Theology and Spirituality in Solomon Islands. As such, the discussion will be informed by Kwara’ae indigenous epistemology, indigenous methodology, indigenous relational hermeneutics, indigenous ontology and indigenous praxeology. Fa’aabu consists of two morphemes combined, with fa’a as a causative verb prefix which means ‘to cause to become’, and abu as the adjective morpheme which means ‘sacred’, ‘forbidden’, ‘holy’ or ‘sacrosanct’. As a lexical item or word fa’aabu then has the dual or two-pronged meaning of: 1) sanctification and 2) the adornment or return of a fa’aolo/ fa’asua, defiled (fallen) object (person, animal, bird, space, etc.) to its former space or position of sanctity or sacredness in society. The connection of fa’aabu to the revitalization of cultural practices, broken relationships, bodies of knowledge or rejuvenation of the environment, is clear; that is, the re-establishment of interconnectedness, interdependence, mutuality, symbiosis, etc. in a household, community, tribe, church or society. Such (re)connections are possible only through spirituality welling from aroaro’anga (peace), enoeno’anga (humility), kwaima’anga (love), babato’o’anga (tranquility, stability), etc. Ultimately, the principal service of fa’aabu is to ensure the essence or foundation of Kwara’ae society, gwaumauri’anga (life lived at the highest peak), remains abu (sacred) and ali’afu (complete/intact).
David Gegeo, from Solomon Islands, attended university in the U.S.A. graduating with a B.A. in Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology, an M.S. in Mass Communication and Public Relations, and a Ph.D. in Political Science and Political Philosophy. He has taught at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the U.S.A., Aotearoa/New Zealand and Fiji. His areas of academic interest and expertise include but are not limited to: indigenous/Pacific epistemology, indigenous research methodologies, indigenous ontology, indigenous philosophy, indigenous hermeneutics, indigenous praxeology, indigenous theocracy, de-colonization, ethical development, Pacific Cultural Studies, ethnic integration, globalization, etc. Until recently, Director of the Office of Research and Postgraduate Studies, David is now Professor of Social Sciences and Humanities in the Faculty of Education and Humanities at Solomon Islands National University.
She talks about the resilience of her people in Vugalei, Tailevu. She draws from the traditions that gave and continuous to give meaning and purpose to her people, even in times of crisis. These traditions, she argues, not only sustains and strengthens their resilience and agency, but are also counter stories to the frames that just because we are vulnerable, we are assumed to lack resilience and agency.
Unaisi Nabobo-Baba is the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the Fiji National University.
The notion of ‘Sautu’ in Fijian context comes with ‘abundance in excess’ when space is respected and observe with natural healing in the household of God! A ‘sau’ or ‘ sauvaki ni vanua tabu’ in the form of straight tree branch pole or reed planted on barren land or depleted coastal seashore to mark a ‘tabu’-taboo depicting a point of no excess nor trespass to allow natural healing and regrowth to take place. Ecological connection is often debated when mobile living beings relate and interrelate with other living but immobile living creations and form an ecological entwined environmental connection that are mutual and respectful. Human activities are often considered a critical component to this argument, as they provide the intertwined membership to that fellowship as these commands their existence and environmental affiliation to the ecological household. Eventually, its human activities that dictates the harmony of these ecological relations and absence of the living creatures in a so-called friendly environmental ecosystem. The book of Genesis outlines the supremacy and ownership of humans over other living creatures on planet earth. This is the notion of ownership, power and control. Men are summoned by God to have dominion over the birds in the sky, the fish in the ocean the crawling creatures on land. Man was mandated to manage the household of God and provide conducive spaces within the three given ecosystem spaces they live in- land-space, sea/ocean-space and air-pace. At all times, twined and intertwined ecological spaces given, they live, they give, and support each other! Man will be and is accountable to the creator and owner of the spaces and household of God! ‘Sa nei Jiova ko Vuravura kei na ka kecega sa sinai kina, A veivanua kei ira era sa tiko kina’ (Psalm 24: 1)
Soaked in the morning rain to the dawn of a new day,
The sunlight piers through the morning dawn for a new beginning.
Yesterday’s gone! now a tale in history book
Palm trees swaying to the south easterly wind breeze.
Birds singing for joy at the daybreak, protecting their young’s.
Adding life to a new-born day
Connecting lives with ecological beings-The Household of God!!
Eci Naisele is a Fijian-born education entrepreneur and currently serves as the Academic Executive Assistant and Acting Registrar at the Pacific Theological college, Fiji. He has written, presented at international forums. Eci recently completed his PhD titled: Climate Change: ‘The Resilience of Fijian Traditional Practices’ (Na Drakiveisau: Na Qaqa kei na Tokoni ni iTovo Vakavanua ka Tutaka na Valuti ni kena Ravuravu) at the Maori University- Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.
Creation is groaning with pain because development has bastardised its sacredness. Driven by a capitalistic culture, development has been selfish, extractive and destructive; disregarding the sacred relationship between humanity and the environment. The rising concerns with climate change, deforestation, extractive mining, poverty, NCD’s, depletion of marine resources, increase in crime and violence are indicators that sacred spaces are being profaned. We cannot depend on outsourced solutions as they have failed miserably. Instead, we must look within our own cultures for workable solutions. Informed by my own research, this presentation will highlight the “Iluvatu Framework as a liberating space or Vakatabu where the purity of renewal and rebirth can spring forth.
Sereima Naisilisili is a iTaukei woman from Wainika, a village in the Udu Point, at the northern part of Vanualevu, Fiji. She is an independent consultant and mentor on Pasifika indigenous education. Sereima has explored and written on a variety of themes including the indigenous research framings, culture and education for sustainable development. She has used the ‘Iluvatu mat as a metaphor for research, allowing her to study her own people in the Vanua of Cu’u using an indigenous lens. She has a deep interest in understanding remote and rural communities and how they have remained resilient through generations.
Using saefua, an Indigenous Gula’alaa (Mala’ita, Solomon Islands) storying genre (with key moral of the story points), this paper narrates the experiences of Sera, a mute child as she journeys with her community in a flotilla of vaka (waka). Interacting with her paddle and the environment, Sera explores through questions, the worlds of her mind, experiences and spirit to negotiate the leadership tensions of her world. Readers with imagination and insight are likely to find value from this creative saefua and its ancient wisdom about transforming capacities for leadership in new times.
Humanity’s greatest challenge today is for people to figure out and adopt a code of conduct that will allow them to live in harmony with each other in a safe and productive environment that can sustain the altering demands and needs of the current as well as future generations. The challenge has been around for generations as shown by the many development frameworks that have been tried and then replaced by contemporary initiatives that are attempted by people and their countries to address their perceived goals. Within the last 50 to 100 years, humanity has pursued modernisation, integrated development, needs based development and now sustainable development. It is obvious that people know what they need to do but are unable to attain that desired level of development that meets their aspiration and their altering circumstances.
While there have been agreements on what has to be done, as indicated by the many legal instruments, agreements and plans of action that have been agreed to at all levels of governance, there has been relatively little success at how these global, regional, national, district and local plans and agreements are to be implemented to attain their desired impacts. This paper proposes a sustainable development code of conduct approach to improve the relationship with the natural environment in local communities in Fiji and in the Pacific Islands and outlines the specific requirements and activities that are necessary for sustainable development now and in the future.
Dr. Kumar and Mrs. Sharma will co-present the paper. Their paper will illustrate the concept of sustainability in Hindu mythology related to nature, focusing on coconuts commonly known as nariyal by the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji. The concept of balance and gratitude to mother earth is at the core of the Hinduism. The Sanskiriti shows various pathways to the purification of our mind and body so that we righteously perform our dharmas (duties) and hence pay our rins (debt) for a sustainable and balanced society. Coconuts are symbolic in Hindu mythology because its origin gives it a divine status referred to as Shriphal. The origin of coconut lies in the mythology of Trishanku, where the coconut tree signifies the connection between two different realms. The trishanku motif inspires unification of ideas from different cultural and religious practices to provide a post-anthropocentric conceptualisation of sustainability. The paper proposes that in this post anthropocentric era, there is a need to initiate inter-religious/faith dialogues to, collectively as a plural community, find parallels that can help conserve our nature and coconuts in Fiji and the Pacific.
Dr. Subashni Kumar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Language and Literature at the Fiji National University. Her Ph.D. is in Hindi diasporic literature of Fiji. She has written and published research papers in the Hindi language, literature, culture, creative writing and Hindi writers of Fiji. She has published four books in Hindi: Fiji Ka Hindi Kavya (2019), Fiji Mei Hindi Bhasha Aur Sanskriti (2019), Indradanush (2021) ( A collection of short stories), and Mohammed Yusuf Ka Kavya- Srijan Evam Dristi (2021). She was the leader of the publication team from Fiji for the 12th World Hindi Conference which was recently hosted by Fiji. Dr. Kumar has presented papers at many national and international Hindi conferences.
Runaaz Sharma is a lecturer in the School of Education, Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at the Fiji National University (Natabua Campus). She is a PhD candidate at the University of the South Pacific. Her research work is focused on discourses surroundings science education. In particular, the following research areas in science education are of pertinent interest to her: technology integration, cultural knowledge, the nature of science, teachers and teaching, scientific literacy and sustainability. She has several publications in ranked journals, and creative publications in the form of children’s storybooks with science content.