Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The boat builder from Mali

from Peceli
Pita the boat builder
Tuesday, October 07, 2008

WHEN Malau, Mali, Kia and neighbouring Vorovoro islanders in Vanua Levu want a punt made, they seek out Pita Buisena the only boat building expert for miles around. Sixty-eight-year old Mr Buisena has spent the better part of four decades building boats, perfecting not only his skills but also building a reputable name in this industry.

His skill is a necessary one and attractively remunerated because punts are an important part of island life both as a means of transportation and more important still for making an income from the sea.

As a child Mr Buisena didn't have those big dreams of becoming a hotshot pilot or lifesaving doctor or anything else that captivates a child's imagination.

"I just wanted to grow up to be a boat builder from the little I learnt from my father," he said. "I wanted to be a good father and to provide for my children as best as I could and because I liked to work with my hands I thought this was a good way to make money," he added.

In 1969, on a provincial council scholarship he graduated from the then Derrick Institute of Technology with a Certificate in Boat Building. Back on the island, his service was in high demand because those were the days of wooden boats and punts.

"I made money to help feed and put my five children through school and that I did," he said.

"I also learnt a lot about building a boat and making it the best around. My reputation was important to me because with that people spread the news of my skills and I had more customers. So I put my best in the more than 100 boats I have built over the years."

With the advent of everything modern came the fibre glass boats that would prove to be his biggest challenge yet because not only were they sleeker and more durable than a wooden boat, their design made them speedsters on the seas. "Every islander wanted a fibre glass so that affected my business," he said.

However, the fact that fibre glass boats were considerably more expensive for the average islanders pocket worked in his favour.

"So even though I lost some customers I retained some and that helped my family survive throughout the years," he said. "The important thing is to have patience with life, work hard and put in the best you can in your work," he said. "That is what God wants from us so once we show that he rewards us with exactly what we need to make it from day to day." Now on the verge of retirement, Mr Buisena is passing down the skills he once learnt from his father to his son.

One day the boat builder everyone in neighbouring Mali, Malau, Vuo and Vorovoro Island know will call it a day, but his son will continue his father's legacy.

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