Talofa! Talofa! Talofa!

Toku igoa ko Rosie Lameko

I am a Fijian-born Tuvaluan, I descent from the atolls of, Nanumaga, Niutao and Vaitupu from my father’s side and Nui, Vaitupu and Funafuti from my mother’s side. I currently reside in New Zealand since 2000. It has been 20+ years since I have been back to Tuvalu.

It gives me great privilege to partake in this year’s New Zealand’s Tuvaluan Language Week, hosted by the honourable department of Ministry of Pacific People’s.

In this year’s theme for Tuvalu Language Week is:

Fakamautuu ke mautakitaki te Gagana Tuvalu mote atafai Fakaloalo mo te amanaiagina”

“Nurture with sustainability the Tuvalu Language with Care, Respect and Dignity”

Since 2019, I had been active in the Auckland Nanumaga Community in preparing for community events such as the Pasifika Festival. Due to the unforeseen circumstances in 2019 and 2020, Pasifika Festival was cancelled. In 2021, we were finally given the chance as a community to share to the Auckland public an acute taste of the Nanumaga culture.

In the last 4 years, I was fortunate enough to gather and learn as much information as I could from the Nanumaga elders. I would like to share one particular aspect from the Nanumaga, it is the importance of “Te Felo” or “Yellow Fig Fruit”. Another translation of the word, “Felo” is the colour “Yellow”

In a Tuvalu-wide community event where there is a need of uniform, the colour Yellow is usually used by the community of Nanumaga in their costumes. People would ask, along with other Tuvaluans or even people whose ancestors hail from Nanumaga. Why the colour Yellow?

Some would comment it is because of the “Te Felo” or, it is because Nanumaga is infamously known as people of the Felo. Not fully knowing and understanding the importance and why it represents the people of Nanumaga.

Te Felo - Nanumaga

Te Felo Fruit tree in Nanumaga

If you do not know where Tuvalu is, that is OK.

It is totally remote from the rest of the world. Limited access to what most of us here in developed countries have access to such as, the latest technology, affordable internet and the list goes on. As for the island of Nanumaga, it is completely isolated from the capital where International Cargo Ships birth. Further limited access from the whole world, leaving them with very minimal access to technology, first world transport and convenient stores.

Map of Tuvalu

Map of Tuvalu - United Nations.  1978,  Tuvalu [cartographic material]  <https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1656480437>

Back in the day, Nanumaga people relied heavily on the “Felo” for survival. If the National Ferry was to delay with food from the capital or one’s family do not have the means to purchase food from the store. Their source of survival would be the “Felo”.

There are many purposes of the “Felo” in Nanumaga such as, making dancing costumes, house mats, paint and so much more.

Here is a brief conversation I had with our Tupuna, Solia Kefa.

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

Nanumaga Island was deemed “fakaalofa” or unfortunate, but regardless they remain as strong willed, hardworking people.

It is said in Nanumaga, that if you are not a hard-worker your family will suffer. Whereas if you are strong and hard-working, your family will thrive.

Today, Nanumaga is no longer unfortunate as the ancient days.

It is because of the Felo, they have produced generations to take on opportunities to venture into the world and seek success and fortune.

In saying that, with the knowledge and understanding I have gathered from Solia Kefa. “Te Felo” is a symbol of strength, humility and perseverance which is why Nanumaga wear the colour Yellow to symbolize that.

Welcome and warm Pasifik greetings

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