About Teresia Teaiwa: Kiribati poet (born: 1968 - died: 2017) | Biography, Facts, Career, Life
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Teresia Teaiwa
Kiribati poet

Teresia Teaiwa

Teresia Teaiwa
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Kiribati poet
Was Poet Teacher Writer Political scientist
From Kiribati United States of America
Field Academia Literature Politics
Gender female
Birth 12 August 1968, Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA
Death 21 March 2017, Wellington, Wellington City, Wellington Region, New Zealand (aged 48 years)
Star sign Leo
Residence Suva, Rewa, Central Division, Fiji; Wellington, Wellington City, Wellington Region, New Zealand
University of California, Berkeley
The details (from wikipedia)


Teresia Teaiwa (12 August 1968 – 21 March 2017), or Teresia Kieuea Teaiwa was an I-Kiribati (Banaba, Tabiteuea and Rabi) and African-American scholar, poet, activist and mentor. Teaiwa is internationally known for her ground-breaking work in Pacific Studies. Her research interests in this area embraced her artistic and political nature, and included: contemporary issues in Fiji, feminism and women's activism in the Pacific, contemporary Pacific culture and arts, and pedagogy in Pacific Studies. An "anti-nuclear activist, defender of West Papuan independence, and a critic of militarism", Teaiwa solidified many connections across the Pacific Ocean and was a hugely influential voice on Pacific affairs She received prestigious academic fellowships and multiple teaching awards. Her poetry is widely published and appreciated.

Building on the work of her late mentor, Epeli Hau'ofa, her memorable words: "We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood" has empowered Pacific scholars everywhere to be proud of their heritage and culture. The Guardian in April 2009 declared her to be one of Kiribati's "national icons". The University of Oregon described her as "a groundbreaking scholar in the research of the culture of the Pacific Islands".


Teresia Kieuea Teaiwa was born in Honolulu to an I-Kiribati father and an African American mother. She has two sisters, Katerina Teaiwa and Maria Teaiwa-Rutherford, a spouse and two children. She was raised in Suva, Fiji and attended St Joseph's Secondary School where she excelled at her schooling. She achieved a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College, Washington D.C. and a Master of Arts from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. With a thesis committee of Jim Clifford, Angela Davis and Barbara Epstein, she completed a PhD in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on the topic "Militarism, Tourism and the Native: Articulations in Oceania". She has been much touted for her academic and teaching style, as Clifford has stated, he:

"learned enormously from her insights, gentle prodding, and sense of humor. Her “style” was something unique. Teresia had charisma. At conferences she could address the most difficult points with political and analytic rigor, but always with a lightness of touch and a conversational eloquence that invited discussion."

Throughout her journey through academic study and research, Teaiwa kept an impressive teaching resume. In 1996, Teaiwa turned down a job with Greenpeace to take up her first lecturer position at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji at the request of legendary Pacific Studies scholar Epeli Hau'ofa. She taught history and politics for five years. Throughout this time, Teaiwa was part of intellectual communities that stemmed from the University environment such as the Niu Waves Writers’ Collective, the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum.

In 2000, she moved to New Zealand to teach the first ever undergraduate major in international existence in the discipline of Pacific studies at Victoria University as programme director. In 2016, she became director of Va’aomanū Pasifika, home to Victoria's Pacific and Samoan Studies programmes. She was also co-editor of the International Feminist Journal of Politics.

In 2010 she received the Macaulay Distinguished Lecture Award from the University of Hawai’i. Moreover, Teaiwa's talents in the classroom were further recognised in 2015 when she won the Pacific People's Award for Education, in 2014 when she received the Victoria Teaching Excellence Award and as the first Pasifika woman awarded the Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award.

Teaiwa's legacy at Victoria includes a number of successful teaching initiatives, such as introducing ‘Akamai’ for 100-level students, where students can choose to present their learnings through a creative interpretation. Teresia advocated that Akamai helps students to understand that art and performance are part of the intellectual heritage of the Pacific.

Teaiwa died on 21 March 2017. She is sincerely remembered for her deep dedication to the scholarship and peoples of Oceania.

Partial bibliography


A compendium of Teresia Teaiwa's work available on open access has been comprised by Alex Golub.

Sole-Authored Pieces

  • 2015. What Makes Fiji Women Soldiers? Context, Context, Context. Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific 37.
  • 2014. Porirua market with Susana and Jessie, 2009 and a trip to market with Margaret,
  • 2007. In “Baninnur: A Basket of Food, 2014″. Black Market Press 36.
  • 2013. “Dyed in Paru”, “Makariri”, and “Draft Manifesto for a Feminist Asthmatic in Aotearoa” (three poems). 4th Floor Literary Journal.
  • 2012. disarmed (13 poems, including audio). Queensland Art Gallery for the Asia Pacific Triennial.
  • 2010. The Thing About It Is... (Part of Special Section “Essays in Honor of Epeli Hau‘ofa”). The Contemporary Pacific 22 (1): 105-108.
  • 2007. niudity (I-IV). Pacific Studies 30(3&4):103-105.
  • 2006. On Analogies: Rethinking the Pacific in a Global Context. The Contemporary Pacific 18 (1): 71-87.
  • 2006. The Classroom as Metaphorical Canoe: Co-operative Learning in Pacific Studies. World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.
  • 2005. Articulated Cultures: Militarism and Masculinities in Fiji During the Min 1990s. Fijian Studies 3(2): 201-222
  • 2004. Review of The Network Inside Out, by Annelise Riles. The Contemporary Pacific 16 (2): 443-45.
  • 2002. Review of Te Rii ni Banaba. Journal of the Polynesian Society 111(4):402-405.
  • 2001. An Analysis of The Current Political Crisis in Fiji. In Coup: Reflections on the Political Crisis in Fiji, edited by Brij Lal and Michael Peters, p. 31-34. Canberra: Pandanus Press. (N.B. This link is to the 2008 reissue of this book by ANU Epress).
  • 2001. L(o)osing the Edge. Special issue, The Contemporary Pacific 13 (2): 343-57.
  • 2001. Review of Compassionate Exile by Bob Madey and Larry Thomas. The Contemporary Pacific 13 (1): 302-06.
  • 2000. Review of Gauguin's Skirt, by Stephen F. Eisenman. Pacific Studies 23(1&2):103-111.
  • 1997. Review of Speaking to Power: Gender and Politics in the Western Pacific, by Lynn B Wilson. The Contemporary Pacific 9 (1): 290-94.
  • 1997. Learning...to Love it: Some thoughts on Teaching History. The History Teacher: Magazine of the Queensland History Teachers’ Association 35(1):1-7.
  • 1996. Review of A New Oceania: Rediscovering Our Sea of Islands, edited by Eric Waddell, Vijay Naidu, and Epeli Hau’ofa. The Contemporary Pacific 8 (1): 214-17.
  • 1994. bikinis and other s/pacific n/oceans. The Contemporary Pacific 6 (1): 87-109.


  • 2016. Dvorak, Greg, Delihna Ehmes, Evile Feleti, James Perez Viernes, and Teresia Teaiwa. Gender in the Pacific. Volume 2 of Teaching Oceania Series, edited by Monica LaBriola. Honolulu: Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa.
  • 2013. Teaiwa, T. and Slatter, Claire. Samting nating: Pacific waves at the margins of feminist security studies. International Studies Perspectives, 14(4):447-450.
  • 2012. Kihleng, E. and Teaiwa, T. Review of The Orator/O Le Tulafale [feature film]. The Contemporary Pacific 24 (2): 434-438.
  • 2010. Teaiwa, T., and Marsh, S. T. Albert Wendt's Critical and Creative Legacy in Oceania: An Introduction. The Contemporary Pacific 22 (2): 233-248.
  • 2006. Fairbairn-Dunlop, Peggy; Asmar, Christine; Teaiwa, Teresia; Davidson-Toumu’a, Ruth. Inventory of Pacific Research at Victoria University of Wellington 1999-2005. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences: Victoria University of Wellington.
  • 2006. Teaiwa, Teresia and Malakai Koloamatangi. Democracy and Its Prospects in the Pacific. In Pacific Futures, edited by Michael Powles, 20-35. Canberra: Pandanus Books.
  • 2005. Teaiwa, Teresia and Sean Mallon. Ambivalent Kinships? Pacific People in New Zealand. In New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations, edited by James H. Liu et al., 207-229.
  • 1994. Ochoa, María and Teresia Teaiwa. Introduction to “Enunciating our Terms: Women of Color in Collaboration and Conflict”. Inscriptions 7.
  • James Liu, Tim McCreanor, Tracey McIntosh and Teresia Teaiwa (eds), New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2005.


  • 1995. Teaiwa, Teresia. Searching for Nei Nim'anoa (poetry), 1995
  • Teaiwa, Teresia. I can see Fiji: poetry and sound (CD of poetry), featuring Des Mallon, sound design by Hinemoana Baker
  • Vilsoni Hereniko and Teresia Teaiwa, Last virgin in paradise: a serious comedy, 2001, ISBN 982-02-0317-1
  • Teaiwa, Teresia. "Real Natives Talk about Love" (creative non-fiction), in Niu Voices: Contemporary Pacific Fiction 1. Wellington: Huia, 2006: 35–40. ISBN 1-86969-254-3
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 13 Jun 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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