Pacific Island Writers Share Work

On Nov. 18, UC Irvine’s International Center for Writing and Translation presented four world-renowned authors and orators from the Asian Pacific Islands for ‘Island Voices in World Culture,’ the first event in their series ‘From Here to There: Languages in Conversation,’ which focused on the idea of conversation between languages and cultures, in hope of connecting cultures and preserving language through poetry.
Guest speakers included Sia Fiegiel, Epeli Hau’ofa, Witi Ihimaera and Kamau Brathwaite.
As one of Samoa’s first female poets, Fiegel is most known for her work, ‘Where We Once Belonged.’
Her passion to write was ignited by an encounter with an author who told her, ‘If you want to write, begin with your own story.’ She described these words as what made her feel comfortable and confident with herself and her writing.
Fiegel values translation and communication across languages and cultures, but believes that when translation fails, the story can still be communicated.
‘Certain concepts can’t be translated [but] readers will know by the context of the story what I mean,’ Fiegel said.
It was Epeli Hau’ofa’s first time speaking on the mainland. Director of the University of the South Pacific’s Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture, Hau’ofa describes his passion for language as a result of his experiences growing up in Papua, New Guinea, which has several hundred different dialects.
According to Hau’ofa, his motivation for writing stems from a desire to preserve history.
‘[I want to] preserve [stories] by extracting the essence of our history,’ Hau’ofa said.
Witi Ihimaera, professor of English from the University of Auckland, is the author of ‘Whale Rider,’ a featured film at the Sundance Film Festival.
He stated that his role model, his ‘nana,’ taught him to question everything.
‘I would come home everyday from school with a new nursery rhyme, like ‘Jack and Jill,’ and she would ask me, ‘Why did they climb up the hill? A well on a hill