Read time: 2 mins

Mama Graon what have we done?

Written in response to the Tonga volcano eruption and reaction from the Vanuatu volcanoes

by Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen
20 February 2023


Coconuts dot the landscape

An intricate shell lei     a salu salu     around Mama Graon’s crown

Rivers snake like eels slice into Mama Graon’s hip down to the       solwota

Tattooing Mama Graon with squiggly shapes through her fine greenery

Meeting the ocean in a soft gentle kiss       a     c a r e s s

An urgent resounding smash as it pours in the hills

Sediments swept out into the solwota       colouring it a steady brown

Killing fish      sea creatures and          bleaching coral


A cavernous yawn in the ground s   t   r   e   t   c   h   i   n   g for miles

Unfathomable natural phenomenon perched on the Ring of Fire

Mama Graon growls       birthing lava       stones and ash

Groans deep from Mama Graon’s belly

Groans of a woman in labour

Perhaps Sapai and Maunga are in the depths of it

Birthing proud plumes of ash falling back to earth

Inundating homes   gardens   pigs    chickens    homes


Monstrous quaking     of the   earth destabilizing all we know

A large angry wall of solwota        r   a   c   i   n   g        inland

Rearing its serpent-like head poised to strike

People run for the hills

Your children run for the hills

Social media flood with ash-filtered devastation to livestock livelihoods lives

Majijiki and the other gods are    f        u       m       i         n        g

Mama Graon             what have we done?



Mama Graon: Mother Earth

Solwota: saltwater, sea

Sapai and Maunga: two sisters trapped in the depths of the volcano in a creation story on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, about how the Yasur volcano was formed

Majijiki: a demi-god in a creation story from the southern islands of Vanuatu who fished islands out of the ocean

About the Author

Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen

A ni-Vanuatu poet, storyteller and editor, Rebecca coedited Vanuatu’s first women’s anthology, Sista, Stanap Strong! (THWUP, 2021) and first non-fiction children’s book, Taf Tumas. Her poems and short stories were published in anthologies in Vanuatu, Fiji and Aotearoa, including Sport 47, Voes, Rising Tides, A Game Of Two Halves, Va – Stories by Women of the Moana, and a collaborative poem was […]