DESPITE his old age, he still has a passion for cultural dances and traditional practices and nothing stopped this 66-year-old grandfather from leading the meke that consisted of men half his age at the opening of Manulevu Park in Saqani last week.
Ratu Tomasi Bonaveidogo of Vuniwai Village in Saqani, Cakaudrove has four children who are all married and have families of their own.
Seeing the grandfather of 13 children leap around energetically on a hot day with a genuine Fijian smile at the Vuniwai Village green as he performed the spear dance makes one ponder where he gets all his energy from at his age.
Ratu Tomasi defines it appropriately when he says that it has to do with the passion for the meke and the feeling of the chants.
"I have a passion for the local chants as they always relate to a story and the passion began when I was still a music composer with the local Methodist church in our village," he said.
"The passion for singing and the traditional Fijian meke has taken me as far as New Zealand where I took part at the Polyfest in 2010 and went around creating awareness on Fijian folk songs and dances Fraser High School and the Sacred Heart Girls College also talking on topics relating to preservation of the Pacific culture."
"I had my first taste of music under the tutelage of a New Zealander Mrs Colley when I was a student in Ratu Sukuna Memorial School in 1961," he said.
Ratu Tomasi led the meke wesi in the Vuniwai village green during the official handover of the Manulevu Park for the youths in the area.
"I am making it my duty to pass on the knowledge of vucu or traditional songs and dances to the youths of Saqani and I always encourage them to take part in spear dances as such by leading the practices in the village green during special events."
"I am glad that the secondary and primary schools here in the village do allow me to take children in the school for classes and practices when they have any school celebrations and I am happy when I see how my handiworks perform during the occasions drawing gasps of awe and admiration.
"The vucu art is often linked to witchcraft but this is something that I have the passion for, maybe in the ancient times this were true but for me this is something that I do from the heart and I am scared that a time may come when they will all vanish out of knowledge," he said.
Ratu Tomasi said the youth of Saqani are the guardian of their culture and their tradition and its future assets, referring to the recent opening of the Manulevu Park as a good sign for them as it would further develop the talents of the youths in the village.
"Saqani has been known for its fierce rugby players in the famous Pusi Loa or the Saqani Black Cats that used to roam the north in the past.
"Our youths had to wait for the low tide in the past to play on the village shoreline but now that this park has been officially opened it will develop the hidden talents out there in Saqani.
"I am happy that the youth in the village are given a chance like this to develop their talents both on the sporting field and also to gain knowledge on their culture and tradition that sets them apart from the other children of Fiji," said Ratu Tomasi.