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Banaba lullaby with lost language

 Could this lullaby be written in the lost Banaban Language?

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The Banabans often lament the loss of their traditional language. Leading up to the discovery of Phosphate in 1900, was the first arrival of the Missionaries to the island. Captain Walkup from the American Mission Society travelled the Pacific in his small yacht and arrived on Banaba in the late 1890s. The Banaban's folklore had foretold the arrival of such a man or prophet, and the community eagerly adopted this new religion.


Captain Walkup had translated the Bible into the Gilbertese language and encouraged the community to adopt the language so the Banabans would be able to hear the word of God. Over the years this was promoted, and today the Banaban Elders are unable to talk or understand their old language.

This copy of an old 'lullaby' that was part of the Dalton Family's Collection from the island in 1921 has been thoroughly researched by various Gilbertese language experts and the Banaban Elders themselves. The language experts have drawn a complete blank, while the Elders are sure this is a lullaby from the old language. Due to the fact that the old language has never been recorded, there are no known written facts on the subject. However, one of the Banaban traditional dances called the - 'te Karanga' or Stick-dance is sung in words that the Banabans do not understand. The tradition of this dance is still strictly carried out today on Rabi Island, and the old words are still used. Even though they are not understood, this precious part of the traditional dialect is still preserved for future generations.

The words used in the lullaby were phonetically spelt by the Dalton Family, and over the years the actual pronunciation has probably been altered by the English translation. One day we hope that more pieces of the puzzle will fall into place and the mystery of the - LOST LANGUAGE OF THE BANABANS, will be discovered.

Te Karanga traditional Banaban dance

Children performing the unique Banaban dance - Te Karanga on Rabi 2009

Some of the words used in Te Karanga are unknown from the old  Banaban lost language

​A  chapter is devoted to this important topic with the release of old Banaban words in Te Rii Ni Banaba - The Backbone of Banaba" by R. Sigrah & S. King new edition available now on Ebook:

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