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Corpus welcomes Pacific Islander Visiting Fellow

This summer we are delighted to welcome Wanda Ieremia-Allan to College for six weeks in the role of Pacific Islander Visiting Fellow.

Wanda, a PhD candidate at the University of Otago, New Zealand, is spending her time at Corpus researching the historical legacy of 'O Le Sulu Samoa' missionary newspaper, the first newspaper to be published in Samoan Gagana language.

Wanda shares the story of what led her to Corpus and the valuable research she is carrying out as a Visiting Fellow.

“Talofa lava, malo le soifua maua ma le lagi e mama. A warm Pacific greeting to all, I am a PhD student in the Pacific Studies Programme in Te Tumu, the School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies at Otago University, Āotearoa New Zealand. I am a descendant of the Samoan villages of Sapapali'i, Safotulafai, Sāoluafata, Lalomanu, Vaie'e and Matautu-Falealili. I also acknowledge the Kiingitanga movement in Tainui Waikato, Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Āotearoa New Zealand, on whose lands my family presently resides.

I am very grateful to be the recipient of the Pacific Island Visiting Fellowship at Corpus Christi for 2023 and I’m thrilled to be here. I applied for the Fellowship because I could not pass up the opportunity to travel to the European metropolitan areas where early extant Indigenous Pacific textual archives were relocated to by the London Missionary Society over the 19th and 20th centuries.

My research focuses on the Pacific Indigenous writing produced under the London Missionary Society Samoan church in the Samoan Gagana (language) church newspaper titled 'O le Sulu Samoa'.  First published in 1839, 'O le Sulu Samoa' is Samoa's first newspaper and one of the Pacific's earliest regional newspapers that fostered a dynamic cosmopolitan readership amongst a well-travelled multilingual Pacific populace.

Sulu Samoa. Image credit SOAS, University of London, UK

Pacific students who were educated at the Samoan seminary school, the Malua Institute, utilised Samoan as the language of instruction across the South Seas London Missionary School network, resulting in the newspaper becoming unrivalled in terms of circulation and readership in the late 19th and early  20th centuries.

The paper was reprised in the 1860s after a 14-year hiatus while Indigenous Pacific teachers and European missionaries focused on building seminaries,  translating the bible and establishing printing houses. It remains in circulation today and I am enjoying collating and engaging with extant issues that have been found in archives around the world including a significant number in the UK archives.

Despite being envisaged as a colonial instrument, the newspaper became an Indigenous Pacific site of resistance, ideological tension and celebration. The language became a refuge from the surveilling colonial  and church authorities.

In my interdisciplinary Pacific Studies work,  I am inspired by the late Professor Epeli Hau'ofa's reminder of Oceania's  vastness and the totality of our relationships. I'm here  representing my family, Indigenous Pacific colleages and friends. I am inspired by Prof 'Epeli Hau'ofa's reminder that 'Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us' (1993).

I trace the literary and literal movements of our Pacific people associated with this newspaper and apply Samoan epistemological frameworks to its reading. I am also on a mission to collate extant copies with the ultimate plan of repatriation.

During the Fellowship I will be tracing the footsteps of our Pacific writers who came to the UK, many of whom wrote prolifically about their experiences here. I will engage with Pacific and English archives, spend time meeting with academics working at literary intersections and work on my dissertation. Writing as an Indigenous Pacific person in the heart of Cambridge provides a unique opportunity to understand this monolithic colonial apparatus and follow the intellectual Indigenous Pacific scholars such as Professors Alice Te Punga Somerville, Noelani Arista, Albert Tuaopepe Wendt; Drs Featuna'i Liua'ana, Jess Pasisi, Tootooleaava Fanaafi Aiono Le Tagaloa;  the late Professors Fanaafi Aiono Le Tagaloa, Marjorie Crocombe, Epeli Hau'ofa and many more intellectual elders and colleagues in decolonising our archives and championing our Indigenous Pacific scholarship.

I encourage Pacific scholars to apply for this Fellowship. It is an incredibly rare, once in a lifetime opportunity to learn amongst and from other scholars at Cambridge, such as Canon Brian McDonald-Milne whose rich and significant archival collection of Pacific texts is unparalleled and perhaps only surpassed by his generosity of spirit and goodwill. Fa'afetai tele lava i lau Susuga Canon Brian McDonald-Milne, Ioeva i le ta va."

This Fellowship is open to scholars who are citizens of the Pacific Island nations and also those resident in the French Pacific territories (i.e. Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia).

Image credit: SOAS, University of London, UK