A Man of Culture and Tradition in Fiji

A few months ago journalist, PEKAI KOTOISUVA, wrote an article for The Fiji Times that I’ve been meaning to share and post. The article is about seventy-eight-year-old Atunaisa Macanavere who is known by his family and the people who have met him along the way as a man of honour, culture and tradition.

Originally from Korokoli Village in Vaturova, Cakaudrove, Macanavere while growing up he had taken the initiative to learn the iTaukei culture, its customs and traditions by accompanying his late father Marisilino Naceba to soqo (functions) within the village and villages nearby. “I learnt at a very young age,” he said. “I would always observe what my father did and how he did things and that’s how I caught on very fast.”

Macanavere is neither a shy individual nor a stranger when it comes to presenting yaqona at ceremonies.

“I started presenting the sevusevu when I was in class eight at Napuka Primary School,” he reminisces.“I was given the duty to receive all the priests who came from overseas to Napuka, and then present on behalf of the school.” Macanavere said learning iTaukei customs was not compulsory for young boys during his time.

“Once we’d grow a bit older then we’d be required to learn the customs and traditions, this was because there were older people to handle these areas.

“I, however, took it upon myself to learn at a young age and was given great opportunities.”

Because he was driven to learn at such a young age, the 78-year-old was chosen to be the matanivanua (representative of the chief) during his time as a student at Saint John’s College at Cawaci on Ovalau.

“I was given this responsibility when I was in Form 5 in 1962. My duty was to be present on behalf of Father Foliaki, a Tongan priest, and receive guests who visited the school.

“I remember after the ceremony, during the visitation of the Marist priest, the head of the Marist society of priests congratulated me and asked if he could take me to Belgium to study and become a priest. But I had told him it wasn’t a good time.”

Not only has Matanavere been a leader for his family, he’s also shown great leadership skills towards his village.

During the installation of the Tui Vaturova, Macanavere was given the responsibility of presenting the tabua to the Tui Vaturova on behalf of his mataqali. “I went on behalf of the mataqali because the head of the mataqali was of old age; it was a great experience, one that I am proud of.”

Matanavere said change was happening every day and that it’s important for boys and men to know their customs, culture and traditions and, in addition, learn their dialect.

“I always tell the young people in the village, especially my grandchildren, that they must speak in the Cakaudrove dialect because they are from Korokoli.”

He believes that all these are important aspects in life as it carries and identifies a person of iTaukei heritage.

“In the village, I teach the young men what should be done and how it’s done and whenever there’s a soqo, I tell them to present the sevusevu.”

Macanavere encourages young men to pay attention when going to soqo and make an effort to learn and educate themselves about their culture, customs and traditions.

Atunaisa Macanavere with wife Adi Aseri Kulamailagi. Picture: SUPPLIED

Early years

Macanavere’s late father Maraisilino Naceba and his siblings were brought up by their uncle (mother’s brother) after the passing away of their father and the remarrying of their mother Seini Sovatabua.

“My father and his siblings were looked after by their uncle in his village Vatukuca from their young age right till they were able to live independently.

“They then moved to their mataqali land Vuinadi in 1941 and were later brought to their village Korokoli by their uncle. It was there that they built their house.

“Actually, we started off with just one house in the village and that was my dad’s house, which is our family home today. After the building of their
house by Macanavere’s father and siblings, his father travelled to all seven mataqali to recruit members to build their houses in Korokoli Village.

“It was around the 1950s when my father brought members of nearby mataqali into our village.

“We did not have that much land, so they had to seek land from the Nakase mataqali which is where the Tui Vaturova is from.

“They were given about 200 acres of land, so two of my uncles had to go to the land that was given by the Nakase mataqali while my father and his eldest brother stayed at home in Korokoli.”

Today, Korokoli Village, a small island, houses seven homes, two of which belong to two of Matanavere’s sons, one which is their family home and the remaining five belong to other members of the village.

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