The Ta’uika Festival, held on November 2 and 3, 2021 on Bellona Island, Rennell Bellona Province, was inaugural hosting of the annual event developed over traditional fishing practices on catching Flying Fish.
Hosted at Ahanga Beach, the western end anchorage of Bellona Island, the Ta’uika Festival 2021 arrangements surrounded the making, finalising and use of the “baka’eha”, the outrigger canoe specifically designed for flying fishing expeditions.
The baka’eha outrigger canoe took two months to prepare, and it should last between four to six years.
The finalising of the baka’eha used for the Ta’uika Festival 2021 event was deliberately set aside to be carried out during the Ta’uika Festival event – to allow young people and the public of Bellona to witness some of the finer details of traditional baka’eha canoe-making.
As a two-day affair, the Ta’uika Festival 2021 started with an Official Opening on day-one, November 2, followed in the evening with the “Hakaanga” ritual ceremony for the “Bengo” event – the baka’eha first flying fish outing.
The Official Opening involved cultural dance performers ushering in the Festival Coordinating Team, officials and invited guests, chiefs and other community leaders of Bellona Island; the presenting of Official Opening speeches; and refreshments with cultural dance entertainment.
The Ta’uika Festival is developed by the Rock Community – one of the extended families of Matamoana village, Sa’aiho district, of West Bellona.
In welcoming the officials and guests at the Official Opening, Chief Kusolo Tepuke of the Rock Community explained that the main aim of this festival is to put together the opportunity for the young generation of Bellona Island to learn about traditional canoe-making, to learn the skills around making all the necessary traditional tools and equipment for flying fish catching, and especially to witness and experience the details of flying fish expeditions.
Tepuke thanked the Coordinator of the “Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies, Solomon Islands Campus, USP, Calvin Rore, for the Campus Collaboration over this festival event, and specifically acknowledged him for being present to officiate the Ta’uika Festival 2021 inauguration.
He also thanked the Centre’s film crew for filming the event for recording purposes and with intentions to develop a film documentary.
Chief Tepuke also thanked the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, especially the Director of the Women Division, Vaela Falefehi, for responding positively to invitations to be part of the Ta’uika Festival event.
He gave a special thank you to Provincial Women Development Officer, Cyrene Vai, for being present as part of the officiating team and especially to run the Festival Event Workshop on Gender Equality and Family Abuse and Violence.
In explaining the background to the Ta’uika Festival, Tepuke thanked the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the support they gave to his community which made it possible to bring in and use the expertise of AFT Consultancy for festival coordination, and to bring in the official and technical team from the USP Culture and Art Programme for Melanesia to the event.
Tepuke mentioned that the Director of Culture is currently away in the Dubai World Expo, which impacted on the absence of the Culture Department in this event, but hoped that this departmental support will continue into the future, and departmental officials could attend the 2022 hosting of this festival.
Coordinator of the Ta’uika Festival, Angikinui Francis Tekatoha of AFT Consultancy, also welcomed the USP and Ministerial officials to Bellona Island and to the event, and explained the Ta’uika Festival purpose of addressing the concerns about the growing loss of traditional cultural knowledge, skills and expertise among their young generation.
Angikinui hoped for the details around the Ta’uika Festival – the Festival Workshops, the preparations and actual Flying Fishing Expeditions, and the sharing of knowledge and skills about the making and use of fishing canoes and all equipment and tools related to Ta’uika fishing activities – to be instrumental in ensuring the passing on of relevant traditions and culture.
The Ta’uika Festival, according to Angikinui, is developed around the annual Ta’uika season in Rennell and Bellona traditions between the months of July to December, where fishing activities surround the catching of flying fish at night with the use of fire torches and mounted nets.
Angikinui clarified to the people attending the Official Opening that the event being put together as the Ta’uika Festival was not a project earmarked for Bellona Island – from government or any other organisation – and not a Research Study pushed forward by any institute.
He explained that the festival is an annual event developed by the Rock Community, and AFT Consultancy coordinating is strictly based on the commitment to ensure sustenance of traditional knowledge and skills through cultural organic applications.
In his remarks, Angikinui highlighted the Women focus of the Ta’uika Festival in acknowledgement of the direct management role of women over family affairs and community productivity throughout the Ta’uika season, while the men are continuously busy with nightly fishing outings, morning rests, and afternoon preparations.
Ms Vai presented her thank you to the Rock Community and to the festival coordinating team on behalf of the Minister and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs for the invitation to run Gender and Abuse workshops for the Ta’uika Festival inauguration.
This Ministry, according to Vai, looks forward to expanding the workshop programmes for this festival event in its future hosting, especially to support and strengthen the role of women in community and family management and the part played by youths and children regarding cultural learning during this event and throughout the Ta’uika season.
In his Festival Inauguration Official Opening address, Mr Rore pointed out that his introduction to the Ta’uika Festival led him to recognise the Ta’uika Flying Fish season between the months of July and December in the traditions of Rennell and Bellona islands.
This recognition, Rore explained, led to his realisation that all activities surrounding the Ta’uika Flying Fish season and expeditions are based on relevant knowledge and understandings about annual cycles of stars, moon cycles, and their implications on the characteristics of the ocean and coastal areas, and of diverse wind directions, within Rennell and Bellona traditions and culture.
Rore mentioned his appreciation of the fundamental nature of Ta’uika season and activities to Rennell and Bellona culture, and that he was excited to collaborate over the hosting of this event and to film and record its sustaining through the Ta’uika Festival.
Rore stated he is very supportive of the development and hosting of the Ta’uika Festival because it is a meaningful vehicle to use specifically for passing on traditional and cultural knowledge to the younger generation.
Day-two of the Ta’uika Festival, November 3, was focused on Workshops on Gender Equality and Family Abuse and Violence, which was put on by the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Afairs. Another set of Workshops were specifically on the skills around the making and drying of coconut leaf torches used for catching flying fish.
By the end of the second day the festival came to a quiet closure, a sharing of a group meal and thank yous, and promises to do this event again next year, with resolves for a bigger event.
And at this point the second Ta’uika Festival is set for a four-day event on the last week of July in 2022.
By Angikinui Francis