Last Virgin in Paradise, Vilsoni Hereniko and Teresia Teaiwa, 1993
- Fiji, #3 and Kiribati, #3
- Borrowed from SF library
- Read November 2016
- Rating: 3/5
- Opening line: “Fulbright has given me $20,000 to study sexual harassment among the Marawan people.”
- Recommended for: drama/women’s studies double majors
So. Back to our regularly scheduled programming (This does not mean that the resistance is over. Today’s public service announcement: Join the national general strike on February 17 to, in the words of Francine Prose, “make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.”). In the last post I forgot to remark on the fact that Tuvalu was the last entry for Polynesia, and Fiji marks our progression to Melanesia.
I didn’t actually read this play when I was reading Fiji; it was hard to find and I was lazy. But then I got to Kiribati and realized I had nothing by any i-Kiribati author, so I dug it up. Vilsoni Hereniko is from Fiji and Teresia Teaiwa was raised there, so it’s a solid choice for Fiji. Counting it for Kiribati is a little more dubious; Teresia Teaiwa is of i-Kiribati descent, her father being from Banaba. She was born in Hawaii and her mother is American, but I figure she must have gotten some insight into Kiribati culture from her dad, and it seems likely that she might have hopped across the Pacific to visit relatives in Kiribati once or twice. Because otherwise I’ve got nothing, not a single published i-Kiribati writer in the world, and the entire scope of my Kiribati reading will be a few poems in Lali and a memoir by an English colonial administrator. So imperfect as it is, this is my Kiribati offering.
It’s a pretty good play in that, unlike some other plays I’ve read recently (*ahem* Nora Vagi Brash *ahem*), it actually works as both a play and a cultural document. It’s not Shakespeare (though there are a couple of roles for clowns), but I could imagine this play, in the hands of a talented director and some competent actors, actually being reasonably entertaining to watch.
Hina, the titular virgin, is being fought over by three other characters who represent different faces of society. There is Helmut, a dirty old European guy who thinks he’ll find purity, love, and unspoiled innocence in the South Pacific, and wants to claim it (and, essentially, despoil it) for himself. There’s Jean, a Western anthropologist who sees the island and its people as something to study, and wants to observe Hina’s wedding to Helmut from pure scientific curiosity. Then there’s Hina’s cousin Temanu, who is the voice of newly revitalized culture: she’s interested in exploring her (pre-colonial) roots, but she’s also a feminist. She wants Hina to have what she thinks Hina should want: to live in the village, not marry Helmut, be “free” as Temanu sees it. Actually though, what Hina wants is to get away from the village and see the world, and if she has to sleep with a skeezy old white guy to do it, she’s ok with that. Hina turns out to be a lot wiser in the ways of the world than any of her would-be possessors give her credit for. The dialogue can be a little clunky, and the drama is less than riveting, but on the whole, it’s a sly send-up of post-colonial Pacific culture.