Saturday, June 09, 2012

Homecoming for a Lovoni son

Fiji Times

by Ilaitia Turagabeci

TEARS flowed as the descendent of a woman who was sold off during ancient days of traditional sailing and tribal warfare reunited with relatives of a once feared warrior village.

Tui Wailevu Ratu Saiyasi Berenaitutu Rogoyawa wept as he watched with pride the arrival of a son at the helm of the Uto Ni Yalo in Levuka Harbour yesterday. It was a moment of pain and pride for the chief from Lovoni Village. The sight of Captain Jonathan Smith bringing home the Uto Ni Yalo to berth at Levuka Wharf revived memories of descendants who were torn apart by the wars of old.

I couldnt help crying but I was not ashamed. Thats our son, Ratu Saiyasi said. I cried because he is a descendent of a woman from Lovoni who was sold during those dark days.
Today (yesterday), seeing Jonacani leading this delegation to Ovalau has brought back many memories. It is a big day for Ovalau, a very proud moment.
Ratu Saiyasi said the woman was Captain Smiths great-great-grandmother. It was then the days when Lovoni remained one of the few villages that tribal forces swept through Fiji could not conquer.
The woman had a daughter, Flora, from whom came Captain Smiths lineage. Captain Smith, the grandson of old salt Stan Smith, said he was happy to reunite with his relatives from Lovoni who he last saw as a child. His father first took him to Lovoni when he was in Form Five.

I went to Lovoni for the kau ni mata ni gone. Thats the only time I went there, he said.
Ratu Saiyasi said when Captain Smiths father died the ocean-going son missed the funeral.
We buried his dad without him. I met the rest of his siblings and caught up with them, Ratu Saiyasi said.

Meeting him here as a hero is such a big thing for us, the people of Lovoni. We will remember this moment. Life has come full circle. Later yesterday, when the celebration in Levuka had died down and as the sun cast its long shadows over Lovoni, on the upper-most terrain of mountainous Ovalau, Captain Smith, accompanied by former civil servant Joe Browne, retraced his roots there.

His relatives at Lovoni had reason to celebrate late into the night. A son had come home.

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