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Inspired to start own business

Ilisapeci Tinanisigabalavu
Friday, December 08, 2017

EMALINI Taqaya's love for the kumete can evidently be seen by the way she neatly stacks them them inside her stall at the Suva Handicraft Centre. The kumete, or tanoa as it is commonly known cannot be missed in an Itaukei home because it is traditionally used to serve yaqona. The people of Naikeleyaga are traditional crafters of the tanoa, and the sweat they go through to make one are only known by them.

"My uncles are my main suppliers for the tanoa, and every time they come to Suva; I make sure I buy the tanoa from them. For me, buying whatever they bring is easier than placing my orders and waiting for them to carve it because they have other village obligations to carry out," she said.

"Kabara is very far and the means of communication with those back in the village is quite difficult, so buying ready-made tanoa from my uncles is easier and saves me a lot of time," she said.

She is married with three children and lives at Kalabu. Ms Taqaya's inspiration to start a business began when she was sharing her older sister's stall to sell mats she wove from home. She was never serious about running a business because she was a very reserved person.

"I was weaving mats at home and I was selling them from where we lived.

One day my husband came to see my older sister at her stall and saw how rewarding owning a stall was, so I started by sharing a stall with my sister for a while, and when the previous owner of this stall decided to sell it, it was a door of opportunity I did not want to pass.

"I am a very shy person, so starting a business in a place like this never crossed my mind. However, when I saw how my sister did it while we were sharing her stall, it motivated me so much. When we bought this place, that shyness began to disappear and I became encouraged every single day to continue striving for my business. I told myself that I come from Kabara, a place rich with artifacts and I can make a living out of it," she said.

Ms Taqaya's husband had recently retired from the Fiji Military Forces so she is now the sole breadwinner for her family. She explained that this business allowed her to enhance her talent and skills she never knew she could.

"Running a business like this has enabled me to showcase the talent that I have been keeping to myself. I have discovered things I never knew I had the potential to do.

I soon realised that selling my mats from home was not as effective as selling them here at the stall. I weave here and when potential customers come around the centre, they see me doing my work and immediately place their orders.

Ms Taqaya describes the process of making a tanoa as a struggle because the timber used to make one grows on sharp, rocky hills. Sometimes men from her village have had to go on journeys for days to get the perfect wood to carve.

"When the men go to get the timber, they come back to the village and say that they have come back from (lomalagi) heaven. They have named the place lomalagi because those places are far from the village and when they find the right tree, it is heaven for them," she said.

Being from a tanoa-carving family, Ms Taqaya personally knows the struggle and effort put into making one; therefore she tries her best to reasonably price the tanoa to reflect the hard work in making one. Her family are experts in fancy carvings that are seen on some tanoa. The young men in her family grow up without being taught how to carve because it comes naturally for them. It is in their blood.

The soft-spoken Mrs Taqaya encourages youths to go out of their ways and think outside the box to make a living because times are tough and finding employment can be a challenge.

"Youths should not be discouraged to use their talents to their full potential. Use that little skill that you have and use it in a positive way to generate an income for yourself. Maturity is also an important aspect and it is better to use your energy to discover yourself and the talents that you have rather than wasting it elsewhere," she said.

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