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Following a recent blog post (Interviews with Rotuman Film Maker Vilsoni Hereniko) I received several responses from readers who wanted to know more about the artist’s background. Here it is...

There is a lot to Vili, who is arguably one of the most influential cultural movers in Fiji today. Here is some background information on Vili courtesy of the University of Hawaii, where he has been teaching for a number of years.
Vilsoni Hereniko was born in the village of Mea, Hapmak, Itu'ti'u District on the island of  Rotuma 1954.  Rotuma (see photo below) is a Polynesian outlier 450km north of the Fiji Archipelago.  As a Polynesian outlier, it  differs from the rest of the Fijian both  in language and  culture. (See map).

He is the youngest of eleven children born to Hereniko Hapati and Reui Olovie. Vilsoni went to Malhaha School for his primary and part of his secondary education before leaving for Viti Levu, where he attended Queen Victoria School for two years. From there he went to the University of the South Pacific where he graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Graduate Certificate in Education. He went back to Queen Victoria School as a teacher and taught English and History for four years. He is married to Jeannette Paulson Hereniko and has a son, Daniel who attends school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England.

Hereniko was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship to study drama-in-education at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. After graduating in 1982 with a Masters degree in education, he returned to Fiji where he worked for the Ministry of Education for two years before joining the faculty at University of the South Pacific, where he taught literature, drama-in-education, and theatre arts. Many of his plays, including Don't Cry Mama, A Child for Iva, Sera's Choice, and The Monster, have been published and performed in Fiji and other parts of the Pacific. [For a complete listing of Vilsoni Hereniko's plays and publications, click here.]

In 1990, Hereniko was provided a grant from the Center for Pacific Islands Studies (CPIS) at the University of Hawai'i and the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) at the East-West Center to complete work on his doctorate. He was awarded a PhD by the University of the South Pacific in 1992, a year after joining the faculty at CPIS, where he is currently a full professor.

During his tenure in Hawai‘i Hereniko has produced two plays, The Last Virgin in Paradise and Fine Dancing. His latest play, Love 3 Times, was commissioned by Kumu Kahua Theater of Honolulu and premiered on 17 May 2001. He has also published extensively, including a book based on his doctoral research entitled Woven Gods and a beautifully illustrated children's book concerning the legend of Sina and Tinilau. In 1997 he was presented the prestigious Hawai'i Elliott Cades Award for a "significant body of work of exceptional quality."

More recently Hereniko has become interested in filmmaking. With his wife, Jeannette , he produced a short film entitled Just Dancing  based on his play. His full-length feature film The Land had Eyes, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004.

Vili is currently the director of Oceania Centre for Culture, Arts and Pacific Studies at the University of South Pacific.

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