The Rotuman Community: A Colorful Culture and History

  • September 13, 2018      Friendly Borders Staff

Suva – A view of the colorful Western Polynesian cultures can lead to an appreciation of great influences from various communities. In one of the beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean lies the community of the Rotumans, which has become a home to a stunning display of cultures, practices, and even the development of language.

Visiting this region, which features influences from Fiji, Futuna, Samoa, Tonga, and Uvea, will surely be a delightful adventure. But what exactly are the influences in the Rotuman culture?

Rotuma: An Island Melting Pot

Located about 500 kilometers north of the Fiji group, Rotuma is a small, formerly volcanic island that is dependent on agriculture and is a part of the Republic of Fiji. Throughout the centuries, Rotuma has become a cultural melting pot of the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian practices. A major factor in this is the history of seafaring of the communities within this section of the Pacific Ocean. This led to the intercultural trades of various ethnicities. Despite this historical and cultural background, the Rotumans were still able to create their own distinct set of culture, practices, and language, which helps them distinguish themselves from their neighbors.

The similarities of the Rotumans can also be observed in their physical build. They resemble the people of Samoa and Tonga closely based on how they look. Moreover, compared to its Polynesian neighbors, the language of the Rotuman people is also closer to those of the Melanesian languages. Nevertheless, they are able to form their own set of rules and communication mechanics that can still be considered as a unique feature of their language. Gradually, though, their language and practices are now being affected by their emigration to various communities and countries.

The Movement, the Progress

Their means of communication is not limited to their communities anymore, as more Rotumans seek education and employment outside of their island. For instance, many of them travel to Fiji’s more developed islands. As time went on, they earned a good reputation for achieving success within the Fiji educational system. However, in terms of the ethnic consciousness being observed by the Rotumans, there is a growing concern with how they classify themselves.

The movements of people outside of their communities affect their ethnicity in demographic, socio-structural, and cultural aspects. Just like in other ethnicities around the world, as people move to new places, they keep their culture within their own people and adapt to the culture of the place that they are currently living in. There is now a mix of various Polynesian cultures as well as European influences in the homes of the modern Rotumans. Nevertheless, within their home island, the social life stays rich and vibrant. Even with the increasing changes in their communities, the Rotuman people have an evolving system of shared cultures, customs, and even beliefs that can truly distinguish themselves despite modern changes.

Image from Fiji Airways,