This is the transcript of a speech given by Viran Molisa Trief at the launch for Sista, Stanap Strong! held in Port Vila, Vanuatu in late June. We thank Viran for allowing us to reproduce it here.
I repeat and adopt the protocol already spoken by Rebecca.
Esteemed guests and everyone gathered here for the Book Launch today.
My name is Viran Molisa Trief. It's a pleasure and honour to be part of the Book Launch today.
My mother was Grace Mera Molisa:
- Vanuatu Writer;
- Vanuatu Poet;
- Vanuatu Politician;
- Vanuatu Women's Rights Activist;
- Vanuatu Educator.
I grew up knowing my Mum was a writer. Ating mi only appreciatem gud hemia afta we hemi pass away finis mo mi grow up moa!
In our house, my brothers I and were always surrounded by books. My Mum had her own formidable library that she began collecting whilst still a student in New Zealand. To her credit, she had my Dad too constantly buying books for us 3 children. This impressed on me what books can do – they open our minds, they open up different worlds/different perspectives to us.
And my own Mum wrote books! They weren't big books - as you can see -
Black Stone (1983)
Colonised People (1987)
Black Stone II (1989)
Wea Nao Rod? (1991)
She self-published most of her books under "Blackstone Publications", later "Blackstone Publishing". This involved scraping together money, driving herself to the printery here in Port Vila, checking the typed copy. Then once the books were printed – maybe just 1,000 books, driving them herself to different book stores or events to get the books on sale and then collecting the money once sold, perhaps weeks later. She didn't make money from any of this. She did it for herself.
Mum was blessed to have her writing published. It is due to the lack of a publishing industry and opportunities in Vanuatu that there are so few single-authored books, not because the writers can't write or tell stories.
To the end of her life on 4 January 2002, Mum encouraged other Vanuatu writers – particularly women writers – and wanted to see others too in print. So I know Mum would be so immensely proud to see the writing of the Vanuatu women writers collated in this anthology. Mo mi wan mi hapi tumas se mi invited blo raetem Foreword!!
I cannot begin to imagine what was involved in the unpaid labour of love of the editors Mikaela and Rebecca, and of the others in the editorial team, to bring their vision of this anthology into reality.
I congratulate and salute the editors and editorial team on their fine effort and achievement of this anthology, Sista Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women's Anthology.
It is an utterly fitting contribution to our continuing celebration of Yumi 40, the 40th Anniversary of the Independence of our beloved Vanuatu.
That some writers will only ever be published in an anthology does not make their writing and contribution any less than those published in books by single authors. The art of a country, the literature of a country, are equally important to the fabric of its life and culture.
To the writers, I salute you all. By your writing, you inspire me and so many more. Your writing is a gift to all of us and I thank you.
I would like to acknowledge Caroline Nalo, one of the writers in this anthology, who sadly passed away. I understand her daughter, Miriam Frank, is here today in her stead together with her sister, Sue Baereleo and Mr Baereleo. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. I acknowledge therefore Caroline Nalo and those who have already passed on.
Our words are important. Our words make our life.
There is particular power in the written word. We see that in this anthology: Sista Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women's Anthology.
The future of our beloved Vanuatu is bright with the strength of Vanuatu creative writing evident in this anthology.
–Viran Molisa Trief, 25 June 2021