Putting some 'mussel' behind Solomon Island language week
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Migrant workers from the Solomon Islands are leading the celebration of Solomon Island Language Week in the Bay of Plenty.
This week also marks the 45th anniversary of the islands gaining independence.
Solomon Islands Language Week will be officially included in the Ministry for Pacific People’s calendar from next year, but it has been actively celebrated in the Bay and around the country for the last three years.
There are about 96 different languages spoken with different dialects in the Solomon Islands, the main language is ‘pijin’.
Benji Eapi Karegua leads a team of 28 other Solomon Islanders working at the North Island Mussel factory, and says they feel privileged to be involved in the language celebrations.
The workers have come to the country under a newly accredited employer work visa programme, in a partnership between the company and the Pacific Island Community Trust in Tauranga.
Karegua says that, like many other Pacific countries, the Solomon Islands are being heavily affected by climate change, which is why this year is Green Independence.
He says logging is a significant source of income for the nation, but it also contributes to issues including biodiversity loss, land degradation, and deforestation.
Karegua compares being in New Zealand to being in his home country: “New Zealand is really green, and back home the main revenue is logging. It’s sad to see compared to New Zealand, all you see is green and beautiful scenery.
“It’s all about highlighting the importance of activities and the importance of protecting the environment and combating climate change and advocating more on it.”
Language Week also gives the group the opportunity to showcase its indigenous cooking, dancing, and traditional fare.
Pacific Island Community Trust spokeswoman Beryl Raza is also a Solomon Islander.
She says having the workers lead Language Week celebrations is significant.
“It is really important within the workers because they’ve come away from the islands and they can be isolated.”
She says living in a different environment in New Zealand, the standard of living and the cultural dos and don’ts are areas the migrants will learn from.
“All these are challenges, it’s so different. Back home is relaxed, and we have learned to adapt. Now, we have these skills to take back with us.”
Benji Eapi Karegua is inviting people to celebrate Language Week with them.
“Witness what our culture is about, have a taste of our Solomon tuna and the way we make our cassava.”
And Razak adds: “We may not have it all, but together we have it all.”
Hero Image: Migrant workers from the Solomon Islands are leading the celebration of Solomon Island Language Week. Photo / Alex Cairns