Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Preparations for a funeral
Peceli told me that the Vatuadova village is full of people. Yesterday a large group of people related to Suliana's husband, Samisoni, arrived from Bua and Tavea Island with their gifts, as well as relatives and friends from Labasa. There are now many cows and pigs brought by the visitors. The vakatunuloa sheds are up and the houses are filling with people, some arriving on the ferry and bus from Suva and other places, including lots of children. More will come by plane today. Everyone knows their responsiblity - the cooking, speech-making, preparation of kava, prayers, singing, crying. The funeral will be tomorrow.
My tribute for Suliana
I have known Suliana Sigani for over forty years. We first met in Lautoka when she lived with Peceli in a household with three generations. Peceli was one of the ministers attached to Wesley Methodist Church then.
But Suliana's early life had been spent in Labasa (where St Mary’s hostel now is) and when her father died Suliana nd Peceli went to live with older relatives in Naseakula village while other brothers and sisters went to Mali Island. After schooling finished, and as a teenager, Suliana worked for an Australian family in the Colonial Sugar Refinery as their housegirl and she moved with them to Suva and then Lautoka. She married Samisoni who is from Bua and who was working with land surveying.
After a family tragedy in Naikoro, Suliana took over raising two little girls, Ulamila and Ateca, and the family moved back to the family land of Vatuadova starting with a small bush hut. This was reserve land but no one was living there at the time. Peceli and I were living in Lautoka then.
Suliana and Samisoni and Irimaia and Evia developed a cane farm and gradually the farm grew into a village as more wooden houses were built. Peceli and I lived there for three years and all the childen had an idyllic life in Vatuadova. At one time we lived in bamboo bures beside the sea at Nukutatava, but Vatuadova was the base for the family which was related to Wailevu so there were always many visitors coming, and visits to relatives in Wailevu, Nakama and other places.
At that time Nau Levu (Peceli and Suli’s mother) lived with Suli’s family and when she died, she was the first to be buried on the little hill at Vatuadova. Nau Levu came from Vesi village in Mali and always there has been a strong connection with Mali Island.
Suliana continued to be the strong matriarch of the family and a woman of great devotion to the church, community and family. She was a very strict woman, sometimes hot-tempered, and she always wanted all the mataqali children and young adults to behave according to her high standards.
She and Samisoni moved to Tuatua housing and the house there soon became filled with many young relatives as Suliana became the mother and grandmother to many children. Diuna, their youngest daughter grew up, married, and lives in Labasa. One day Suliana was surprised by visitors from Australia - it was the family she had worked with when she was a teenager and young adult.
After the eldest brother Pala died, Suliana was appointed head of the mataqali and she became the formal leader of the family.
However her health deteriorated in recent years. Isa lei, it was her time last weekend to leave us. We celebrate her life and remember her goodness, strength of will, smile and unique personality.