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Francis Tekonnang: Beia and Ioane

This is the second story that I have found written by Tekonnang. As far as I am aware there are no others available by him or, indeed, anyone else from Kiribati. I would love to be proved wrong about this. The previous one was only two pages long. This one is twenty-seven pages long. Both could be seen as sketches for longer works but, since he died in 1994, that is sadly not going to happen. This one tells of two young Kiribati natives. Ioane and Beia have both finished the school year. Ioane is probably going to leave school and go to work. He lives with his father, Maremare, a widower. Beia is living with her mother, Nimanoa, but both plan to return to Tarawa, where Nare, Beia’s father, lives. Nare is out of work and is living with his niece, Maria. He is actively looking for work but there are not many jobs available. Ioane is clearly attracted to Beia and, as is the custom, has used a go-between, a relative, Teretia, to contact Beia. However, after the end of the school year, though he knows Beia is leaving the island, he focuses on his work and neglects her. Ioane is involved with the local church, where he sings. He also collects coconuts, makes toddy and traps bush-fowl, at which he seems particularly adept.

Meanwhile, Beia and Nimanoa return to Tarawa. Nare is still struggling to find work. He applies for a job on a water project but is not successful. He does get a small job, building a fence for a local man, though his lack of English is something of a hindrance. Meanwhile, Beia starts at a new school – Nare and Nimanoa somehow find the necessary school fees – and meets Tenten, a brash young man. Ioane and Beia have exchanged a couple of letters but when he does not hear from her, Ioane is concerned and tells his father that is going to Tarawa to find a job. He goes to stay with his uncle (turning up unannounced) but he, too, struggles to find a job before finding some work as a casual docker. Meanwhile he goes to a local dance with a friend, where he sees Beia with Tenten. Sadly, things do not work out with Beia and Ioane and he heads back home. It is a fairly simple story but well told and could have been developed into a novel. It also gives us an interesting glimpse into Kiribati culture, so is worth reading if you can find it.

Publishing history

First published in 1995 in Nuanua, by the Auckland University Press