Nokonofo Kitea (We Keep on Living This Way): Myths and Music of Futuna, Vanuatu

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9780824831134: Nokonofo Kitea (We Keep on Living This Way): Myths and Music of Futuna, Vanuatu

Nokonofo Kitea, centered on stories and songs from the Polynesian outlier West Futuna, Vanuatu, aims to accomplish three goals: found a secular literature, celebrate and interpret the verbal arts, and connect ancestral discourses with the complex fabric of present-day lives.

In the narratives islanders past and present enunciate personal and social struggles, articulate power dynamics, and proclaim the cultural geography and cosmology that promote community. History emerges through their perspectives. Gender, marriage, residence, exchange, and alliance are interrogated; gluttony and conservation juxtaposed.

The disquiet associated with early evangelism is coded in metaphor. Homeland is ambiguously valued as secure yet confining while the horizon attracts yet endangers those who would travel. Offering a resource for renewed debate, the volume envisions a place for oral heritage in transforming present and future conditions associated with migration, urban development, nationalism, and globalization.

Every facet of the work is collaboratively shaped. Texts were selected and translations emerged in extended dialogues addressing literacy, audience diversity, and relevance. Narrative interpretations remain dialogic throughout the book, reflecting varying perspectives: melded, intermingled, or in conflict. Theoretical vantage points combine indigenous and Western positions. Local wisdom highlights the relations between surface utterances and underlying messages and emphasizes the potency of metaphor, enabling people to speak their minds while shielding their intentions. These ideas are linked in Western intellectual traditions to pursue relations between the said and the unsaid, center texts within imaginal and real contexts, and unravel figurative tropes.

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About the Author:

Janet Dixon Keller is professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Takaronga Kuautonga is staff member and field-worker at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre.

Review:

This volume is a superb example of the kind of quality that a collaborative project, between expatriate academics and Pacific Islanders, can produce. The collaborative strategy has major implications for the discipline of anthropology in general. From the Vanuatu point of view it is an indication of the value of an approach, supported by the Vanuatu Cultural Center, that overseas academics should involve themselves with Cultural Center fieldworkers to produce materials important for present and future Vanuatu generations. Publication of Nokonofo Kitea will be a boost to Futunese identity as well as being an important contribution to Pacific studies. It is of value to Futunese, to Ni-Vanuatu, to Pacific Islanders, and to overseas academics. Being a remote Polynesian cultural outlier within southern Vanuatu, this work will appeal not only to those interested in Vanuatu but also to those concerned with Polynesian history.--Kirk Huffman

This is the most detailed analysis of outlier oral tradtion I have read. Many of the points raised resonate with material from other outliers documented by my own experience and in published studies.--Richard Moyle

Nokonofo Kitea is an important theoretical and ethnographic contribution to Polynesian, and particularly Polynesian outlier, literatures. It is well presented. The tales are engaging. Translations are sensitive and reflect careful thought. The analysis is sophisticated yet readable and clearly tied to cultural and linguistic data. Keller and Kuautonga are eminently qualified to introduce West Futuna to anthropologists, linguists, folklorists, and ethnomusicologists and to preserve a record of oral traditions and language for the Futunese themselves.--Richard Feinberg

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