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The Contemporary Pacific 16.1 (2004) 198-201

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Seksek'e Hatana /Strolling on Hatana: Traditions of Rotuma and its Dependencies, with excerpts from an archaeologist's field notebook, edited by Aubrey L Parke. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 2001. ISBN 982-02-0323-6; 308 pages, map, photographs, Rotuman and English, glossary, bibliography, index. Paper, US$37.00.
Kato'aga: Rotuman Ceremonies, by Elizabeth K Inia. Edited and typeset by Alan Howard and Jan Rensel. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 2001. ISBN 982-02-0341-4; 266 pages, Rotuman and English, pronunciation guide, map, photographs, appendixes, notes, glossary. Paper, US$14.00.

These two books offer readers glimpses of Rotuman narrative and ceremonial practices. Seksek 'e Hatana begins the task of creating a cultural geography by tying oral traditions to the landscape of Rotuma and its offshore islets, whileKato'aga details the occasions and customs associated with collective celebrations. Both works contain some materials in the Rotuman language with translation into English and provide a glossary at the end of the volume. Each work also provides an overview of indigenous spiritual beliefs essential as an encompassing framework for interpreting the descriptions of events and translations of the verbal arts. Parke opens with this section, while Inia appends it to her chapters.

Inia herself is a Rotuman, who is reporting from extensive personal experience and a review of pertinent literature (although a conventional [End Page 198] bibliography does not appear in her volume). Parke is currently an archaeologist affiliated with Australian National University, who was posted to Rotuma as district officer in 1964. He gathered the material forSeksek 'e Hatana at that time, working closely with local residents who are acknowledged at the outset of the work as its authors. Elizabeth Inia is included in thislist and mentioned specificallyfor assisting in acquiring materials for Parke's collection. Both Parke and Inia in their respective contributions are aiming primarily to provide resources for Rotumans who may wish to consult this material in contemporary times, although interested scholars and lay readers will find information of value as well.

Inia divides her book into two main parts. The first focuses on components of ceremony describing material culture, local technologies, excerpts of botanical knowledge, sociopolitical structures, gendered responsibilities, and means of officially reckoning contributions of food and mats produced for collective events. Some of these components are illustrated photographically. She then launches into descriptions of various classes of ceremony, including those marking the life cycle occasions such as death and birth with which she opens Part Two. An accounting of traditional marriage rituals and modern marriage customs concludes the second part of the book. In between, Inia addresses recovery from illness or the end of punishment for transgression. These occasions are marked publicly to prevent recurrence. Ceremonies to heal, farewells and welcoming, installation of chiefs, collective means of paying homage, and special festivities for marking highly significant events, most recently associated with Christianity, are all included.

Each descriptive segment in Inia's work attends to the order of events, the proper etiquette for organizing and implementing collective practices, relevant information and means for communicating this, and the symbolic significances of some specific practices. Where appropriate, the place of kava ceremonies within the larger set of activities is addressed. Ritual pronouncements, chants, and musical lyrics are given in Rotuman and translated into English. The functional significance of these verbal arts is usually noted, but without further interpretation their symbolic import beyond the fact of their performance at particular moments remains unclear. Photographs usefully illustrate features of funerals, chiefly installations, paying homage, the special festival called koua puha, and weddings.

Two appendixes and a glossary close Inia's work. These are valuable components of the whole. The first appendix addresses indigenous spirituality, explaining relevant vocabulary, classes of spirits, conceptual frameworks, and the cosmological imprint on land- and seascapes. A helpful map locates the many named underworlds. The...