by Kiran Fothergill
My name is Kiran and I was born in Middlesbrough in the north-east of England. My mother is Indian-Fijian and my father is British. Over the last ten years or so, ever since my nanna died, I’ve been exploring my Fijian roots a little bit more. I do this with a mixture of fascination and awe when I think about the journey that was first undertaken by my great-grandfather from India to Fiji, and then a similarly long journey by land and sea, made by my nanna from Fiji to London, with not much in his pocket.
I suppose I tap into that heritage every now and then. Rugby Sevens is something that comes to mind. I felt an immense sense of pride when Fiji won that gold medal in the Olympics, playing England in the final. I don’t know much about the country itself. I haven’t been for many years, but generally speaking, I want to explore more, and I want to find out more.
One memory that stands out is quite a special one. We were up in Yorkshire, the county of my birth, and we were with my Fijian family, my Fijian-Indian family, and Nanna James, who’s quite a character, lives in Reading, and he was insistent that we cooked a lovo, which is a process of cooking meat under the ground, digging a big hole and putting some meat in there with hot stones and things, and sort of slow cooking it for hours. And I remember digging the earth with him with this spade, and I must have been no more than twelve or thirteen at the time, and it was really exciting. It was delicious as well. And there was something special about cooking this lamb in the ground, in this traditional Fijian way, in Yorkshire. It was brilliant.
the other Fijian delicacy that I’ve tried over the years is grog, or as my Nanna James calls it, cava. I think it might be the Fijian national drink. Famously, the Queen had some when she visited Fiji many years ago. I wiled away many hours with my Nanna James, drinking this grog and sort of losing a little bit of sensation in my extremities! It’s always been a good time, with great conversation.
When I was at university, I had a Fijian flag up on my wall, and it was quite fun, because you’d ask people, “Oh, do you recognise that flag, you know, with the Union Jack up in the corner?” And people would guess at maybe a Caribbean country or a British overseas territory or something, and very few people would know it’s Fiji. I mean, that’s fair enough. But it would then spark a conversation, “Oh, where are you from? Did you get that on holiday or are you from Fiji?” And it it was nice to talk to people about a part of British history, a part of Fijian history, a part of Indian history, that not a lot of people are aware of, and bring that together in conversation, and of course then talking about me as a person as well and where I come from.