‘New’ Nakelo House in Viseisei

Men and women from Levuka, Nabukelevu on Kadavu celebrate after the official opening of the Nakelo House last week. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

Men and women from Levuka, Nabukelevu on Kadavu celebrate after the official opening of the Nakelo House last week. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

AN amazing piece of history lies in the beautiful, chiefly village of Viseisei, Vuda which is 10 minutes’ drive from Fiji’s second city, Lautoka.

For many years, we may have heard stories of the people of Viseisei, accounts of history stating their forefathers may have been the first to settle on our shores.

As a visitor enters Viseisei, he/she will be amazed with the beautiful and unique setting of this village. Its quiet surrounding will reminds him/her that the village should be a sacred Fijian community maintaining its richness and unique taste of culture blended with a rich touch of tradition and colour.

Last week, the village yet again unveiled one of its unique features as villagers, and those who have traditional ties to Viseisei, gathered to witness the opening of probably one of the oldest and important buildings in the village, the refurbished Nakelo House. It is also known traditionally as Na Were ni Vibuli (the traditional house of chiefly installation).

It keeps a visitor wondering the reason behind the house’s name, Nakelo, and its ties to one of the districts in one of Fiji’s biggest provinces — Tailevu.

To be a part of such an auspicious occasion gives one the urge of getting to know the deeper meaning of the reasons behind the name of the house and its significance to the people of Viseisei, Vuda.

Nakelo House belongs solely to the traditional king makers, sauturaga, of the Tokatoka Nakelo of Viseisei of the Mataqali Eluvuka and Yavusa Sabutoyatoya. Recorded history has it as one of the houses to be constructed in the village way back in 1877.

Ratu Josaia Tavaiqia of the chiefly clan of Viseisei, who was also the chief guest at the opening of the refurbished house, shared that an important piece of history for the people of Viseisei was the humble beginning of Nakelo House.

He said Tokatoka Nakelo was led by the late Ratu Jone Tavai I when Viseisei Village was moved from its original location to where it is now.

The late chief then asked elders from his clan if they could visit their vasu who had just been born at Navatulevu, Nadi.

It was at this visit that the elders of Nakelo admired the art work and the inner beauty of Waitaci, the house where their vasu was. The elders of Navatulevu then agreed that Waitaci House be taken to Viseisei following the admiration from the elders of Nakelo.

Ratu Tavaiqia said the house was then taken across from Nadi Bay to Viseisei where the first Nakelo House was constructed.

Refurbished Nakelo House, a concrete structure, sits neatly beside Vunisei House, the traditional house of the Momo Na Tui Vuda overlooking Nadi Bay and the beauty of Vuda waters.

Such is the beauty of Nakelo House that some visitors might mistake it to be a beautiful mansion or a guest room at one of those five-star hotels.

Its inner beauty serves an important purpose and has a master bedroom which is only used when a chief is installed.

During the four days and four nights of the traditional, the chief will use this bedroom while remaining in the house with the traditional king makers (sauturaga) clan, the elders of Nakelo.

During this period, the chief will solely be looked after by his king makers from the Tokatoka Nakelo.

According the men of Nakelo, who were generous enough to share some details of the house, it was built on a budget of $260,000 and the carpenters were just the men from the Nakelo clan.

Inside the house is a beautifully framed whale’s tooth, which according to the elders, is the only whale’s tooth that is used during the traditional installation of the Tui Vuda.

Viseisei villager Eroni Nasilasila said stories passed down the generations highlighted the connection between the people of Viseisei and Nakelo in Tailevu stemmed way back to the days when the early Fijian settlers were moving around the country looking for places to settle.

This gentleman from the Nakelo clan of Viseisei, according to Mr Nasilasila’s version, was said to have been the first to settle at Nakelo, Tailevu.

When other settlers found the place, he was already settling there so they decided to name the place after where he was originally from and this was how the name Rara o Nakelo was given until today.

Rara in the western dialects means a village.

Nakelo House, amazingly, has hosted the traditional installations of eight paramount chiefs of Vuda.

The first was the late Ratu Timoci Uluivuda I, who was also the grandfather of the late president of Fiji, Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda.

He was succeeded by the late Ratu Josaia Tavaiqia I who after his passing was suceeded by Ratu Jeremaia Natokovakatatiki II.

The chiefly title of the Tui Vuda was then succeeded by the first woman, the late Adi Mere Naulu Tavaiqia before her successor Ratu Jeremaia Natokovakatatiki III was handed the traditional reins of leadership.

After Ratu Jeremaia, Ratu Josaia Nasorowale Tavaiqia was installed followed by former president Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda.

The last is the sitting Tui Vuda, Ratu Eparama Kitione Tavaiqia.

After his installation, the elders of Nakelo decided to change the whole setting of the house.

To get the chance to be shown around the Nakelo House by a few men from the Nakelo Clan was indeed a humbling experience as they fully explained the beautiful inner features of the building.

Last Friday, those with traditional ties to Viseisei, particularly to the Nakelo Clan, travelled all the way from Nakelo, Naselai and Natogadravu in Tailevu as well as those from Levuka, Nabukelevu on Kadavu to be part of the historic occasion.

This get-together was special for the people of Viseisei because it strengthened their traditional ties with those from other parts of the country.

This is just Nakelo House in Viseisei. There will be many other houses, in Viseisei and also throughout Fiji which have a deep historical meaning significant to those whom it matters.

* Watch this space for an explanation from an elder of Nakelo in Tailevu on the meaning on the name Nakelo.

? History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish their account of history too.