Brown Bag Biography with Apolonia Tamata

March 9, 12:00pm - 1:15pm
Mānoa Campus, Biomed B-104 & Zoom Add to Calendar

The Center for Biographical Research presents: / “Damu, color concepts, and chief in Fijian” / Apolonia Tamata, Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence (2022-2023), Hawaiian Theatre and Performance Studies, Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and Senior Lecturer in Fijian Language Studies, School of Pacific Arts Communication and Education, University of the South Pacific / Chiefs, like royals, are treated with the highest form of respect and deference, as they are regarded as the manifestations of the gods in our Indigenous communities. In most cases, the reverence and worship shifted to the God of Christianity with the arrival of missionaries onto Pacific shores. Then, education and foreign governing systems brought inevitable socio-economic changes. Many Indigenous societies are based on oratures as the receptacles of their knowledge. Practices in how people live continue to be relevant, but these value systems can change or suffer loss as new values and ways of knowing become necessary. The result is in many cases confusion, a sense of loss as Indigenous peoples are left searching for their identities and ill-equipped to understand their own values as a people. In this presentation, Dr. Tamata will demonstrate that amongst Indigenous Fijians, one color category is reserved for chiefs and things chiefly. Although this practice is neither taught nor told, it is a knowledge that has filtered through the generations through custom – but it is fast losing its place amongst Indigenous Fijians. Dr. Tamata posits that words for individual colors were non-existent in Fijian because the current forms are reduplications of words related only by the similar shades they share. However, there is one word for color, which encompasses all colors: roka. Through the linguistic morphological process of reduplication, the words for four main colors emerged. Following a discussion of color words in Fijian, Dr. Tamata will elaborate specifically on “damu,” a color category associated with chiefs and things chiefly. Color coding is but one aspect of the Indigenous Fijian conceptualization of its values in terms of the approach to reverence for chiefs. As Dr. Tamata argues, knowing one’s place and color relationships matters because it speaks to one’s identity in the social responsibility of being Fijian. It also speaks to Indigenous leadership and the associated heritage knowledge that one must have and practice to have stability and resilience in a changing multiethnic and multilingual Fiji. / Dr. Apolonia Tamata is an Indigenous Fijian and a speaker of a number of the Fijian dialects. She is a linguist and a Senior Lecturer in Fijian Language Studies at the University of the South Pacific. She writes and produces plays in the Fijian language in the effort to revitalize the Fijian language and culture. Dr. Tamata is currently a Fulbright Scholar in Residence, 2022-2023, at the Hawaiian Performance and Indigenous Studies program within the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. /Cosponsored by Hamilton Library, the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, Hui ʻĀina Pilipili: Native Hawaiian Initiative, the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, the School of Cinematic Arts, the School of Communication & Information, the Departments of Anthropology, History, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies / Thursday, March 9/ Biomed B-104 & Zoom / 12 noon to 1:15PM HST / Zoom link: Zoom Meeting ID: 929 0366 1186/ Password: 421816

Event Sponsor
Center for Biographical Research, Mānoa Campus

More Information
Caroline Zuckerman, (808) 956-3774,,

Share by email