Business | SUNBIZ

Minimum Stay In Levuka Should Be One Week

Success is living with the opportunity and grace to use one’s talent for one’s livelihood, and improving the lives of others, and the physical world.
11 Jun 2022 12:30
Minimum Stay In Levuka Should Be One Week
Writer and communications specialist, Mary Rokonadravu, was adopted by a Tamil South Indian family in Fiji.

Success is living with the opportunity and grace to use one’s talent for one’s livelihood, and improving the lives of others, and the physical world.

It’s a philosophy that self-taught writer and communications specialist, Mary Rokonadravu, lives by.

“There is no writing programme in the Pa­cific,” she said.

“Every writer in the Pacific Islands is self-taught, and that’s a testament to our resilience and love for the craft,” Ms Roko­nadravu said.

Her writing career began with long-for­mat novels, and the novella genre.

“In the early years, I could not afford the mail and courier costs, to send hard copies of the first three chapters, or first 50,000 words, to literary agents, in other coun­tries,” Ms Rokonadravu said.

“I moved to short stories, and entered my first competition in 2015, in which I won the Pacific regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

“The short story was my second choice, but I’ve come to love it too much to abandon it.”

One of her achievements was a four-year writing programme for the rehabilitation of offenders in seven correctional facilities in Suva.

Ms Rokonadravu is of mixed heritage – a descendant of the Indian indentured labour system, she has indigenous Fijian, and Eu­ropean settler blood.

“I was adopted by a Tamil South Indian family in Fiji,” she said.

What is one place in Fiji you would take friends to?

Levuka, Ovalau.

It is a cultural world heritage site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

For me, it has deeply personal significance, as it was home to 12 years of my formative education.

Fijian Labour Corps monument is one landmark in Levuka Town.

Fijian Labour Corps monument is one landmark in Levuka Town.

Its history, as the seat of the British colony, ingrained in me my appreciation for human cultures and history.

The very school that at one time only ad­mitted whites as students, then whites and the children of Fijian chiefs, was open to everyone by the time I began school.

The town is a crash course in the history of Fiji, a time capsule, a microcosm of al­most 200 years of contact history.

As a writer, my stories and style of telling come from this beach town that is a tapestry of human migration, dispossession, loss, resilience, and hope.

To visit Levuka is to encounter art and his­tory.

The minimum stay should be a week, and the best guides are its locals.

What is your favourite spot for a coffee or pie?

I’m for tea in its traditionally brewed leaf tea state, not teabags.

Lemon leaf tea, or lemongrass, is also a fa­vourite, and best served at home.

I’d say if you can get these at any coffee-shop, do so – it’s the real Fiji.

The best pies were from my childhood – our neighbour, aunt Priscilla Warbrooke, made wonderful pastries in Levuka.

In Koro, bubu Ana of Nababalavu, Nabaso­vi, made the best pies and cookies.

In Suva, the many coffee shops offer a good range, and some have found their way into these outlets from small family kitchens.

You’ll know these by taste.

I rarely visit coffee shops, but do get occa­sional takeout packs.

The pies from Hot Bread Kitchen are great on the go.

Rhubarb Cafe is good for the sit-down.

What is your favourite backyard spot?

Levuka.

It feeds my writing soul.

It’s unfortunate that we lack the will and imagination to make it a model heritage site with lessons for the UNESCO World Heritage system.

I believe its citizens can, and I’d like to be part of that.

We have a small project going through the renovation and opening of the Ovalau Club soon.

What are some places in Fiji that are on your bucket list?

Vanua Levu, and Taveuni.

A leisurely, unplanned road trip around the two islands would be ideal.

There are coconuts, rice, pine, fish, taro, yaqona, and sugar.

The people who build their lives around this harvest – that’s a magical space for sto­ries.

These seemingly simple products are re­positories of stories spanning geographies and bloodlines through hundreds of years.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



Fijisun Ad Space


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper