Rotuman Language Week 2024: Sustaining Our Language and Culture
Updates / Community, 15 May 24
Noa‘ia ‘e mạuri gagaj ‘atakoa, meet Dr Jewin Michael Fuatau, who serving as a Senior Medical Officer within the Internal Medicine Department at Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) in Suva.

I am based at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) in Suva, serving as a Senior Medical Officer within the Internal Medicine Department. Concurrently, I am pursuing my Masters in Internal Medicine at the Fiji National University, with the goal of completing it this year.

My wife, Oripa, also works in the medical field as a Pediatrician at CWMH. She originates from Nagasauva, Caukadrove, Vanua Levu, with maternal ties to Mualevu, Vanuabalavu, Lau. Together, we are blessed with three daughters: Hevani, Phillipa, and Malia.

My parents are Antonio and Teresa Fuatau. My father hails from the village of Unu in the district of Itu’muta, while my mother is from Tuakoi village in the district of Itu’tiu 

I am the eldest of three siblings. My younger sister, Lauretta, serves as a Dental Officer in Public Health, while our youngest brother, Shane, is in his final year of the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program at Fiji National University.

I was born and raised in Suva. Coming from a Catholic family, I attended Stella Maris Primary School and later Marist Brothers High School before pursuing my MBBS at the Fiji School of Medicine (now known as FNU).

I was fortunate to have my maternal grandparents, Mareko and Vafa’ou, living with us since my childhood. Consequently, Rotuman became my first language, as my grandparents exclusively spoke it at home. Their stories and folklore captivated me, often leading to extended hours assisting my grandfather in his plantation.

Throughout my upbringing, my grandparents instilled -  “Ag fak Rotuma, Garue ne Rotu, Itu’u, Hanua ma Kaunohoga, ia te pumuet. Garue lelei, oaf se re famori ma huag toa” - the importance of Rotuman culture, tradition, and religion, emphasizing the values of diligence, assistance, and fortitude in all endeavours.

Actively engaged in village and district affairs, as well as Rotuman Catholic church activities, my grandparents deeply influenced my upbringing and preservation of Rotuman language and culture. I am truly blessed to have my grandparents around still, and they are probably the reason why I am able to maintain and sustain much of my Rotuman language and culture today.  “Hia' 'ou ra heta ma hia' la fa', re ta garuet ma re alelei ma avah” - Whatever work or task you do in life, do your best and do it well whilst making sure to complete it.

During medical school, my siblings and I actively participated in the Rotuman Medical Students Association (ROMSA) activities, which included cultural celebrations and traditional culinary practices. These experiences facilitated our reconnection with our language and culture.

This year’s theme, "'Vetakia 'os Faega ma Ag fak hanua," holds profound significance, highlighting the uniqueness and complexity of the Rotuman language and culture, which, if not preserved, could be lost to future generations.

My children, blessed with both Rotuman and Itaukei heritage, possess a vibrant spirit and enjoy traditional dances and cultural performances.

 While English predominates in our household, I am committed to ensuring that my daughters are proficient in Rotuman and well-versed in traditional customs and etiquette.

Given UNESCO's classification of Rotuman as 'endangered,' initiatives such as Pacific Language Week could help bridge the gap and rekindle our Rotuman language and culture for the generations to come.