VUNIMAQO AND ME
Vunimaqo And Me (Mango Bar Collections) is a new book of poems by one of our leading poets. This major work arises from the experience of growing up in the barracks or housing district of Samabula North in Suva, Fiji. This is a poetry collection that celebrates a time of unselfconscious multiculturalism, a time of different ethnic groups peaceably living side by side. It reveals the circumstances that moulded Daren Kamali's younger self and shaped his thinking as a poet of mixed ancestry, heir to a jumble of traditions represented in the voices from the streets of Suva that he captures in the daily theatre of life: the gossip, the curses, laughter, jokes and musicality.
'Vunimaqo', the mango tree of the book's title, with its harbouring branches where children scramble, becomes a symbol of benevolence and sensual munificence, of maturity and dignity, and of local time itself, seasonal and enduring. It is stands for unity and community.
The poetry uses vibrant, colloquial language leading us into the world of the poet's childhood being.
She is Nana
Like Suva rain
Sleepless nights - countless rosary beads
Between withered fingers
Freshly lit candle burning on the altar
Our Father who art in Heaven - Lord be thy name…
Pacing the front yard, step by step
Bead by bead as hours disappear
Hail Mary full of grace…
She has witnessed children
Generation What Next?
All she ever does is pray
GOD have mercy on us
Glory be to the Father - to the Son and the Holy Spirit
She refuses to go
Saying not yet
Watching grandchildren grow
Great grandchildren grow
To have children
The cycle continues
Untold stories unfold
Nothing good comes out of the barracks
I came back to visit Nana
To sit under the Mango Tree with her
One last time
For theirs is the kingdom - the power and glory
Forever and ever
Poet, writer, and musician Daren Kamali was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand as a child. He is the author of the trilogy of poetry books celebrating the Polynesian, Indonesian, and Melanesian world: Tales, Poems and Songs from the Underwater World (2011), Squid Out of Water: The Evolution (2014), and What Becomes of the Flying Squid? (2016). He has also released two albums, Story (2000) and Keep it Real (2005).
Before earning a BA at Manukau Institute of Technology, Kamali worked in youth arts programming as a mentor. In 2008, with Grace Taylor and Ramon Narayan, he founded the South Auckland Poets Collective, a youth program dedicated to poetry as an agent of social change. In 2013, Kamali and Taylor founded Niu Navigations, an organization aimed at encouraging Pan-Pacific writers to tell their stories. He is a former Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and has held residencies at the University of Iowa as part of its International Writing Program.
Photography : Jeremiah Tauamiti