BY GEORGINA KEKEA
A SOLOMON Islander, is set to be the next director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies (CPIS) in Hawaii.
Dr Tarcisius Kabutaulaka started his journey from Haimatua village in the Tasimauri area of Guadalcanal on the southern side of the island. Tasimauri simply means ‘alive sea’.
Educated in a Catholic Primary school in Avuavu called St Michael, Kabutaulaka recalled those days through an article he wrote called Kabutaulaka Tuhu-Vera.
In this article he spoke of how he used to walk two miles each day, to and from school in the morning and back at the end of the day with cooked sweet potato, taro or yam for lunch.
“When it rained, we used banana leaves as umbrellas folded our clothes and wrapped them in leaves and ran naked in the rain.”
Kabutaulaka recalled that life was difficult and he was constantly homesick when he left his parents and became a boarding student prior to the grade six exams.
“It was the first time I had left my parents and village to live elsewhere but I soon grew used to it because I knew everybody and was related to most of the other kids at school and some of the teachers.”
Thereon he furthered his studies to St Joseph Tenaru where he was one of two students that was accepted to do secondary education there.
He did forms one to five at St Josephs and did form six at King George Six School before going on to the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji.
Kabutaulaka received his undergraduate and MA degrees from the University of the South Pacific and a PhD in political science and international relations from the Australian National University.
Making his way up has not been easy as Kabutaulaka told Island Sun.
“Dedication and hard work are the keys to achieving our goals,” he said.
When announcing the news of Kabutaulaka’s appointment, CPIS described Kabutaulaka as well known and widely respected throughout the region.
The statement said Kabutaulaka has established a distinguished record of teaching, research, and service in academic institutions, as well as a reputation for his work as a consultant for regional governments and nongovernmental organisations across Oceania and beyond.
“I think that Solomon Islanders can compete for and get jobs internationally. We can serve and represent our country through those jobs. I encourage other Solomon Islanders to set goals and work for it,” Kabutaulaka told Island Sun.
Kabutaulaka joined CPIS core faculty in 2009, teaching Pacific Islands studies courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This is with particular emphasis on issues related to land and economic development, conflicts, post-conflict rehabilitation/peace-building, natural resources, governance, regionalism, and China in Oceania. In addition to his teaching, Kabutaulaka is currently the Editor of the Pacific Islands Monograph Series and member of the editorial board of The Contemporary Pacific.
Prior to joining the Center, Kabutaulaka was a Research Fellow for the Pacific Islands Development Program of the East-West Center. He has also taught at the University of the South Pacific and the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education.
In the book he wrote, Kabutaulaka muses about his cultural identity as a Solomon Islander and his connection to Guadalcanal where he originated from.
“While I might be mobile, home is not. For me, a Tasimauri man of a particular generation, mobility is not about disconnections. Rather, it is about creating new connections while at the same time maintaining one’s roots in vera; that is what directs and defines one’s mobility”.
Kabutaulaka revealed that family is what brought him home every now and then including work.
“Despite the travels and working overseas most of my life, Solomon Islands is home for me. I am thankful to Solomon Islands for the early years of my education and proud to be a Solomon Islander taking on this job.”
The Center for Pacific Islands Studies, in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is both an academic department and a larger home for initiatives that bring together people and resources to promote an understanding of the Pacific Islands and issues of concern to Pacific Islanders.
Working with scholars at institutions in the region and elsewhere, faculty at the center are seeking new ways to encompass a deeper understanding of a region whose boundaries are constantly expanding.
Kabutaulaka is one of the few Solomon Islanders holding such positions in education institutions overseas.
His wife is also a Solomon Islander from Malaita and they have three daughters.