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‘Strange Disclosures’: The story of the criminal forger and absconder, Elias Rosenwax and his capture in Levuka by ‘Evarama, the Native Fijian Policeman’, 1871
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
It was as much the story of the criminal Elias Rosenwax as it was the tale of heroism featuring the Fijian policeman, ‘Evarama’, in 1871. The real-life event included all the literary elements necessary for a narrative of high adventure: a criminal, a chase, an exotic location, subterfuge, and the criminal’s eventual capture with the assistance of an unlikely hero in a thrilling climax. While the textual trace of this event remains all but forgotten, the extant nineteenth-century ephemera detailing the encounter endures as a cogent genre of literature. This paper explores the incident with a view to detailing Evarama’s major significance in the performance of Fijian identity during a period dominated by grand colonial narratives featuring highly stylized ethnographic displays of the ‘native’ Other. His cultural impact as a Fijian, his reification in popular culture as a celebrity, and his active engagement in the construction of his public persona counterpointed the static fashioning of Fijian identity so common in the era’s ethnographic exhibitions, public performances, photographic displays and anthropological presentations. Evarama’s popular presence in colonial culture makes it possible to identify the operation of a particular kind of fashioning of culture: individual expressions of racial identity as social performance―a practice of the public self.