Students, staff, and The University of the South Pacific (USP) Labasa Campus community worked together to ensure a memorable Girmit Day commemoration on May 9, 2023, and one that provides an opportunity for learning and appreciation of the role of Girmitiyas in Fiji’s history.
The commemoration kicked off with a prayer, followed by opening remarks from guests who shared the significance of recognising the history of Girmitiyas and the contribution they have made to progressing Fiji to where it is today.
According to USP Labasa Campus Student Learning Specialist Jiupili Simmons, the commemoration was emotional as guests also spoke about the challenges faced by the Girmitiyas, including the harsh living and working conditions and the separation from their families and communities their ancestors endured.
Various cultural performances, including Indian classical dance, plays, songs, and poems by local artists that portrayed the struggles and triumphs of the Girmitiyas, were the highlights of the commemoration programme.
Simmons said the performances showcased the diversity and richness of the culture and traditions brought to Fiji by the Girmitiyas and have positively influenced the local culture.
“Another highlight of the Girmit Day commemoration was an emotional, expressive, touching drama of an experience of the Girmitiyas leaving India for Fiji. It was performed by Nandani Sami, and Sonali Bishwa, students at the campus and members of the Sanatan Youth for Hindi and Culture. They also performed with colleague Ulamila Naitini at the national celebrations in Suva. They had their drama televised with newspaper headlines made on the 16h of May for both Fiji Times and Fiji Sun.”
The group of students from Labasa also performed at the International Girmit Conference held at the Japan ICT Centre at the Laucala Campus on May 12, 2023, and “it was a fitting tribute to the Girmitiyas, who had made significant sacrifices and contributions to Fiji’s development and progress.”
Guest Speaker Shalendra Bishwa also presented his book “Rejected Emotions” to the campus as a token of appreciation and an opportunity for students to learn of the struggles of Girmitiyas. It also highlighted the importance of preserving and promoting Fiji’s cultural diversity and unity, a hallmark of the nation’s identity and strength.
The Girmit Day Celebration at USP Labasa Campus was a vibrant and colourful event that showcased the Indo-Fijian community’s rich cultural heritage.