Archaeology professor gifts 150-year-old text to Fiji archives

National Archives of Fiji principal archivist Timoci Balenaivalu (right) receives a rare manuscript from Professor Matthew Spriggs (Australian National University) at the National Archives on Wednesday, February 01, 2023. The manuscript, titled Vosa Vaka Viti, was penned in 1871 by Reverend Lorimer Fison. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

After more than 150 years, a rare manuscript penned prior to Fiji’s cession to Great Britain has made it home to the National Archives of Fiji (NAF).

Titled Vosa Vaka Viti, the well-kept manuscript documents life in Fiji, in particular the customs and language observed, through the eyes of the Reverend Lorimer Fison, an Australian missionary in Fiji from 1863 to 1884.

Vosa Vaka Viti, written in 1871, contains about 90 pages of information that has sparked the curiosity of archivists at NAF, who now begin the process of conserving the rare manuscript for future generations.

Yesterday, the manuscript was gifted to NAF by Australian National University’s (ANU) Professor Matthew Spriggs.

He said the manuscript was from the Library of Aubrey Parke, an official with the Colonial Government who was posted to Fiji in 1951.

“The story starts in 1997, when I was appointed the Professor of Archaeology at the ANU and there was a student at the time, he was a very old man at the time,” Prof Spriggs said.

“He was called Aubrey Parke and he was doing his PhD on the origin stories of more than 100 clans in Fiji and he collected all this information when he was a government officer in Fiji from 1951 to 1971.”

In poor health, Mr Parke passed away soon after and Prof Spriggs worked alongside his family to print Mr Parke’s thesis through ANU Press.

Later on, the Parke family handed over some old books and papers to Prof Spriggs.

Among them was Vosa Vaka Viti, in relatively good condition.

NAF principal archivist Timoci Balenaivalu thanked Prof Spriggs for the gift.

“It’s a primary source, and contains a lot of information about Fiji and what I’ve seen is that it can be used by educators to supplement other textbooks,” he said.

“It can be used for presentations because of the amount of information that is contained in this. It is a small book but the information there is so valuable to us,” Mr Balenaivalu said.

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