Te Rii ni Banaba - Backbone of Banaba

Te Rii ni Banaba - backbone of Banaba reveals the indigenous history of Banabans through their genealogies, myths, legends and customs. Their small Pacific Island, known as Ocean Island during Colonial rule was ravaged by phosphate mining, occupied by Japan in WWII, and tragically Banabans were forcibly removed from their homeland and relocated to Rabi Island, Fiji, makes compelling reading. More
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2019-06-01
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About Raobeia Ken Sigrah

Raobeia Ken Sigrah is a Banaban born on Rabi, Fiji. He is Clan spokesman and historian, and International Spokesperson and lobbyist for Abara Banaba – Banaba our homeland. From the age of 14 years, he was trained by Banaban elders in cultural protocols in his inherited role as Clan spokesman. In 1972, he joined the Banaban Dancing Group which officiated as the Rabi Council of Leaders cultural representative to perform in foreign countries. He travelled with the dancing group at the invitation of the Australian authorities to perform at the official opening ceremonies of the Sydney Opera House. In 1974, he toured with the group to Nauru, Banaba and Tarawa and in 1975, attended the South Pacific Festival of Arts at Rotorua, New Zealand.

In 1997, he acted as interpreter for United Kingdom television documentary: Coming Home to Banaba, BBC OUL, filmed on Banaba Island. In 199,7 he formed a personal and collaborative partnership with Stacey King, an Australian woman whose family had been involved with the early mining industry of Banaba. Together they have built one of the largest private collections on Banaban history from an indigenous and European perspective. Their first published work, Te Rii Ni Banaba – the Backbone of Banaba (2001), is the first on Banaban history written from an indigenous perspective and endorsed by Banaban Clan elders. Since moving to Australia in 1997, he has worked on various projects relating to his community.

In 2004 he co-founded Abara Banaba – Banaba our homeland, an international lobby group to campaign on behalf of the Banaban community. In November 2004 he was part of the Banaban delegation of four that attended the International Small Island Study Association conference in Kinmen Island, Taiwan where he presented the following papers, The Cultural Identity of Banabans (2004) and Essentially Being Banaban in Today’s World: The Role of Banaban Law ‘Te Rii ni Banaba’ (Backbone of Banaba) In a Changing World (2004). In 2005 he was elected as President of the Kiribati-Australia Association and was involved in various aid projects undertaken by the Association to supply computers to impoverished schools throughout Kiribati and Rabi Island, Fiji. In Jan 2006 he presented a paper, Banaba-Ocean Island Chronicles: Private collections and indigenous record keeping proving fact from fiction (2006) at The Pacific in Australia - Australia in the Pacific conference Brisbane, Australia. In May 2006, he coordinated an Austrian television production company and the making of a Banaban documentary filmed on Rabi, Fiji.

His current work is concentrating on lobbying for Banaban recognition from the Australian government and his vision of seeing the eventual rehabilitation of his homeland. He is currently working with Stacey King on their latest project, Banaban Vision Publications to record and convert his traditional knowledge into digital publications in his quest to uphold Banaban identity for future generations and further dissimilation of the Banabans as a unique Pacific people.

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