Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History

READ THE WORLD – Vanuatu: “Colonised People” by Grace Mera Molisa

Trigger warning for domestic abuse and violence against women.

This is where working at a university whose library boasts it has a copy of every book ever published in English, whether digitally or physically, comes in handy. This is where I found some texts for the smaller countries, especially those in the Pacific. A book called Remembrance of Pacific Pasts: An Invitation to Remake History edited by Robert Borofsky came in very handy. The book’s thirty-four contributions, written by a range of authors spanning a variety of styles and disciplines, are organised into four sections. The first presents frames of reference for analysing the problems, poetics, and politics involved in addressing the region’s pasts today. The second considers early Islander-Western contact focusing on how each side sought to physically and symbolically control the other. The third deals with the colonial dynamics of the region: the “tensions of empire” that permeated imperial rule in the Pacific. The fourth explores the region’s postcolonial politics through a discussion of the varied ways independence and dependence overlap today.

In the fourth section titled “Postcolonial” Politics, there’s a poem from Grace Mera Molisa called “Colonised People” which will be the focus of this post.

The “Colonised People” in question are the women of Vanuatu. Grace Mera Molisa writes how while Vanautu “supports movements for the liberation of colonised people” in other countries, it does nothing to protect its own women from the violence they receive from husbands, boyfriends, fathers, any men in their lives.

It feels unusual to see a portion of a free nation referred to as colonised but Grace Mera Molisa does make a good argument of how that is the case. In the poem she writes “Colonialism is violence. Colonialism violates the spirit the mind the body.” and all those things happen when women are abused, it’s seen as the norm and as part of society, and there’s no form of justice.

This poem was originally published in 1987 and it’d be interesting to see if/how things have changed for women in Vanuatu since then. Misogyny and violence against women is epidemic across the world and in all cultures and while change does happen, it often happens slowly.