Sunday, August 15, 2021

Vanuatu: Sista Stanap Strong, edited by Mikaela Nyman and Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen

Some of the countries on the United Nations list are quite small, especially some of those from the Pacific Islands. It's likely that a country which has fewer inhabitants than a smallish city is going to struggle to have much published literature. So I was delighted to learn of the anthology "Sista Stanap Strong", a collection of writing by women from several generations in Vanuatu. This is a truly wide ranging collection. Some of the women are very young, others are grandmothers. Some are ni-Vanuatu women, others are of European or mixed heritage but living in Vanuatu. There is a good deal of poetry, some songs, some non-fiction accounts of various aspects of life in Vanuatu, and several short stories. The latter are what interested me most. Carol C Aru, a teacher born on the island of Ambae, wrote a story "Beatrice's Visit" which portrays two women who had met when they were training to be teachers. Losata Natuman, a 24 year old mother of two from Tanna, wrote "The Bitterness of Sugar Cane" which tells of events in the days of "blackbirding", when white owned sailing ships would kidnap islanders for forced labour on sugar plantations and the like. Nicole Colmar who is part ni-Vanuatu and part New Zealander, who has attended Victoria University's creative writing institute the IIML, wrote "The Octagonal House", a section from a longer work in progress. I found the standard of the work varied but even the simplest spoke from the heart. A frequent topic was the problem of violence against women, and of women's voices not being listened to, for instance, the problems of women who wanted to enter politics. For an example, the Spinoff published an extract from the book here. Sista Stanap Strong was published by Victoria University Press in May 2021. I hope that we have not heard the last from these women and that some longer works will be forthcoming.