Mālō e lelei 'ae kāinga kotoa pe oku mou me'a mai. 

Ko hoku hingoa ko Suliana Vea. 

Oku ou lele mai mei Faleloa, Lotofoa, Kanokupolu, ‘Ahau mo Kolomotu’a. 

My name is Suliana Vea and I am a first generation, New Zealand born Tongan. I have ancestral ties to the villages mentioned above from the main island of Tongatatpu and one of the other islands that make up the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga – Ha’apai.   

I have one of the coolest jobs as the Research Librarian, Pacific at the Alexander Turnbull Library where I get to deal with general research enquiries to the library but especially ones pertaining to the Pacific. One of the things I love about this job is coming across items in the collections that I have a direct connection to.

I also appreciate how DigitalPasifik seeks to make visible records and items from organisations other than library and archival institutions. In searching the site, I found this video. It is one of a series created by the Pasefika Proud programme within the Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand.

It also features a member of my family, as the gentleman in this video is my Uncle Nimi or as he is otherwise known - Nimilote (Nimi) Finau.

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/pti7eRPHV4Q

Uncle Nimi is first cousins with my paternal grandmother Melemafi. Melemafi’s mother Tupou Anau and Uncle Nimi’s mother Mele Kesaia are sisters with my great grandmother being the older of the two.

These two sisters are from the Paumolevuka family in Lotofoa, Ha’apai and they both married into the neighbouring village of Faleloa. Tupou Anau married Noa Lavaka (Peni Tokelau) Taumoe’anga and Mele Kesaia married Sione Kinikinilau. They settled into their new lives in Faleloa with the existing familial ties between their husbands further strengthening the bond between their families. They lived by their values of faith and love in their actions of fe’ofa’aki (mutual love shown by action) and fetokoni’aki (mutually helping each other) especially after the passing of Mele Kesaia’s husband leaving behind 7 living children and the youngest yet to be born.

These values and humble beginnings in the ancestral land of Faleloa is what has brought us – the future generations of Tupou Anau and Mele Kesaia to where we are today in our connection with one another in the land of the long white clouds – Aotearoa.  

Mele Kesaia with her daughters Mele Tupou Muliipu (bride), Elisiva Vaisioa Russell (sitting), Ema McAuley (standing) and my grandmother’s sister Atelaite Miller on the ground and mokopuna Katinia (Uncle Nimi’s daughter) in Wellington, 1979/1980. 

As stated in the video, Uncle Nimi was able to eventually bring over to New Zealand from Tonga, his mother, siblings and their families but it did not stop there. He also helped bring many more of the extended family members from Ha’apai and Tongatapu which included my grandmother Melemafi’s sister Atelaite, her children, my father and his siblings, other first cousins, uncles, aunties, in laws – too many to be named!

He wanted to give everyone a chance to make use of the opportunities that New Zealand offered. He was an avid advocator for our family, our home land and the Tongan community so it comes as no surprise then that in 1990 he was granted a Queen’s medal in recognition of his services to New Zealand.  

Man, woman and child with certificate

My grandmother Melemafi with Uncle Nimi and his son Chris at the celebration of his New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal. 

There is a lot that I want to say about this man but I do not know where to begin.

Uncle Nimi has done so much for my family and our community that this video barely scratches the surface of that. There really should be a book written about him and his journey in this world, but he is now 76 years of age and with aging comes the declination of the body. 

Coming across this video is a reminder of the many times I was meant to get in touch with not only him but his siblings as well to record their migration and life stories but ended up getting “too busy” with life.

I tear up every time I watch this video because I am reminded of the struggles, the determination and the love that keeps our Pacific families going in trying to establish our lives away from the home land. A determination that is founded in the belief and search for better opportunities and a more fulfilled education for us, their children.

I am also reminded that time is precious and that we should make the most of our time with our loved ones. It is important to talk to our elders and get them to tell us their stories so that we can pass them on to the future generations as a reminder of why we are here and how we got here and to make the most of the opportunities offered here in the wonderful land of Aotearoa.  

My paternal family with Uncle Nimi at my graduation from the Victoria University of Wellington 2010.

Welcome and warm Pasifik greetings

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