Daren Kamali


20 March 6pm

■ book launch



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



Tears fall

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


Sorrowful Mysteries

Hail Mary full of grace…


She has witnessed children

Bearing babies


Unknown fathers

Generation What Next?


All she ever does is pray

GOD have mercy on us



Violent fathers



Desperate mothers


Sorrowful mysteries

Glory be to the Father - to the Son and the Holy Spirit


She refuses to go

Saying not yet


Growing older

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