Fijian poet and activist Peter Sipeli promotes LGBTQ + rights with narrative.
Peter established a shop and collective of poetry that organizes readings, activities, publishes anthologies and collections of poetry, prose or writings of young Fijians. Peter is also known for conducting public speaking sessions to highlight the experience of LGBTQ + people in Fiji.
In an email interview with this author, Peter said that art is an integral part of the promotion, talks about the challenges facing artists and activists in Fiji and highlights the need to rethink how promotional activities are conceptualized in the region Oceanian.
Peter observed how development problems are framed in many ways that do not fully capture the experiences of Pacific Islanders. Peter said colonialism is partly to blame for discrimination against the LGBTQ + community.
I think the problem we face in Fiji and generally across the Pacific is that the unjust laws that govern the lives of LGBTQ + people are archaic and the ones created by the British that our people after independence have inherited; and that all these are not only reflected in our laws, but in Christian ideals as well that pervade and blur cultural ideas, and so we are left working to remind our peoples that before 'contact' we were quite sexually diverse and sexuality was very fluid .
I believe that the problem we face in Fiji and in general throughout the Pacific is that the unjust laws that govern the lives of LGBTQ + people are archaic and were created by the British and our people inherited them after independence. All of this is not only reflected in our laws, but also in Christian ideals that permeate and blur cultural ideas, so we have to work to remind our people that before “contact” we were quite sexually diverse and sexuality was very fluid
Peter said the colonial legacy has prevented Pacific peoples from interacting with each other:
I think the problem even we in the Pacific face is that we are so busy looking down working in our own burrows that we don't look up to see other people in the Pacific, in Asia, across the world in Africa and beyond. There need to be newer ways of seeing that allows us to look at creative work being used for societal change so we can not only know but to learn from each other.
Too often the utterance that we hear in the Pacific, is ‘Asia, Pacific region’ and Asia is so large that they cannot even see us. The Pacific is broken up in three parts, parts that the colonizers created 1] French Pacific – that is locked from us because of language 2] the North Pacific, that was colonized by the Americans, we are unable to see them because of geographic location … They're so far north, we know a little about their nuclear history and us 3] the Anglo pacific and we all work in isolation from each other… there are political and trade relations but the people are divorced from each other.
I think the problem we face in the Pacific is that we are so busy looking down working in our own burrows that we don't look up to see others in the Pacific, in Asia, all over the world in Africa and beyond . There is a need for new ways of seeing that allow us to see the creative work that is used for social change, so that we can not only know but also learn from each other.
Too often, the expression we hear in the Pacific is “Asia, Pacific region” and Asia is so big that they can't even see us. The Pacific is divided into three parts, which the colonizers created 1] the French Pacific – closed for us by language 2] the North Pacific, colonized by the Americans, we cannot see them by geographical location … they are so far north, we know something of its nuclear history and we 3] the Anglo-Saxon Pacific and we all work isolated from each other … there are political and commercial relations, but people are divorced from each other
To remedy this, Peter turned to the arts to create “a new and more humane conversation about rights, about pain and about how we, the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, can work to repair the rupture caused by the colonizers.” Add:
The idea behind ‘storytelling for advocacy’ is about remembering. In the Pacific, if you speak truth and do so with power and with resonance about a lived experience, and the levels of fracture of that experience and indicate to different audiences this reality, people understand, people are awakened to our needs and our work for equal rights
The idea behind “storytelling for defense” is about remembering. In the Pacific, if you tell the truth and you do it with power and with resonance about a lived experience, and the levels of fracture of that experience and indicate to the different audiences this reality, people understand, people wake up to our needs and Our work for equal rights.
Peter discussed how the narrative, instead of merely relying on legislative pressure, became an effective approach to defend LGBTQ + rights:
Too often the rights conversation is a linear one that talks about only one aspect of gaining equality, about advocating for rights, through this movement towards legislature and policy shift. I wanted to create a human conversation about the pain that we hard, that ostracization, and unpack that for people to see into. I also allow the talk to delve into scripture and to look deeply at the parts of the Bible that speak against homosexuality and to demystify these aspects for the audience, to again create a conversation about the biblical text and find kinder ways of caring for people.
Too often, the conversation about rights is linear and refers only to one aspect of obtaining equality, that of defending rights, through this movement towards changing legislation and policies. I wanted to create a human conversation about the pain we are going through, that ostracism and unraveling for people to see. I also allow the talk to go deeper into the scriptures and look deeply at the parts of the Bible that speak against homosexuality and demystify these aspects for the public, to re-create a conversation about the biblical text and find kinder ways to care for people. .
Peter said the story proved to be “transformative” in the sessions they held with the Fyji Women's Crisis Center and even with members of the Army and Police.
I think my work through poetry and through the storytelling for advocacy is finding new ways of having a conversation about creating kinder communities for LGBTQ + people.
I think that my work through poetry and through narration for promotion is to find new ways to have a conversation about creating more friendly communities for LGBTQ +.
Finally, Peter stressed the need to develop a “new way of seeing” in the Pacific:
I think we need all collectively to find a new way of ‘seeing’ so we might appreciate, learn and thus become humanly connected to each other in a deeper way that can overcome meaningless utterances.
I think we need everyone to collectively find a new way of “seeing” so that we can appreciate, learn and thus connect humanly with each other more deeply that can overcome meaningless statements.
Watch Peter's TEDx talk about ‘narration as advocate’ in this YouTube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb3XSgJFEH4 [/ embed]