My name is Katerina Martina Teaiwa
My father is Banaban and I-Kiribati from Rabi Island in Fiji.
My mother is African American from Washington D.C.
I was born in Savusavu and raised in Lautoka and Suva.
What is your heritage link to Fiji?
The British moved the Banabans from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony to Fiji in 1945 and my great grandfather and grandfather came with that group. The Banabans inhabit Rabi Island in northern Fiji. It was bought as a freehold island for us but there are Rabian (or Rabean) descendents in Vanua Levu and Taveuni who are still connected to their ancestral island.
Since you are based overseas (Hawaii & lately Australia), what do you do to remind you of Fiji?
I do writing and research that is related to Fiji particularly on Banabans, contemporary Pacific dance and the rise of creative and cultural industries.
Can you share your educational background?
I went to Yat-Sen Primary School and St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Suva. I have a Bachelors of Science from Santa Clara University, an MA in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai'i, and a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University. When I wasn’t in school or overseas I spent my time in Suva performing with my younger sister, Maria, at the Tradewinds, the Red Cross Fashion Show and the Barn! I also worked for Radio Fiji as an announcer in 1991 and 1994.
How do you describe yourself as someone of a mixed heritage?
I identify myself as a person of Banaban, I-Kiribati and African American descent from Fiji.
What are some barriers you faced as someone of mixed descent?
In Fiji Banabans are a minority group that do not have the same rights as Fijians. They are not always visible economically and politically but Banaban dance is famous in Fiji. We are in a category called “Others.”
What are some of the benefits you have had as someone of mixed ancestry?
I understand and am connected to multiple worlds that hold multiple possibilities for family, identity, education, creativity, and my career.
How would you share your family links and stories to your children?
I don’t have children…yet. I plan on having about 10... or less. But I always remind my niece and nephews in the USA and New Zealand of their Pacific heritage.
What are some of the key lessons you will leave behind with your children for them to remember as someone of mixed ancestry?
Relationships, kinship and land (including the sea and sky) are the most important things for Pacific Islanders. When you are confident with who you are and your role in this world, you have no trouble being compassionate and generous, thus sharing your land and extending your kin networks to others.
Any comments you would like to share to those of the same mixed ancestry as you reading this page?
It’s cool to be mixed, and it’s cool not to be either. Ethnicity and race are not as important as attitude, culture and values. A strong identity is what makes us Pacific islanders but being nice, having a genuine spiritual consciousness, caring for the environment and for others is far more important.
If there are other Banaban-I-Kiribati-African Americans out there, other then my two sisters and I, I’d be really surprised and really happy to meet them!
VINAKA KATERINA! LOLOMA FROM THE FIJITUWAWA TEAM!