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Pride of the village

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, February 25, 2018

IF there's one thing Naividamu Village prides itself in, it is the fact that it has produced many university graduates who now work in various professions around Fiji.

Located in the province of Macuata, the village is situated along the coast of Macuata-i-Wai.

The main source of living is fishing but village headman Tomasi Moli says their people have always put the education welfare of their children first.

"This village has 14 soldiers, eight nurses, two doctors, four lawyers and many teachers and civil servants," he said.

"Apart from this, we have young people studying in universities in Fiji and the region. It's something that we're proud of."

The village has no access to electricity. Most families use solar power. It is hidden away among the Tahitian chestnut trees which line the front of the village.

When we visited the village during a trip on the traditional vessel, the Uto ni Yalo, we had to trek through a well-beaten path before we came upon the village.

"The village is called Naividamu because of the red Tahitian chestnut trees that grow abundantly here," said Mr Moli.

According to our folklore, when you walk along the coast you will see two islands called Vatuka — it is a marine protected area and Nukuci.

"Nukuci was where the first Tui Macuata was installed. Just down the coast on Nukuci is a freshwater lake where water for his yaqona would be fetched using bamboo.

"One day while he was passing this place he saw some Tahitian chestnut or ivi in Fijian.

"It was of reddish colour and he said why we don't name this place 'Naividamu' (meaning red Tahitian chestnut) hence the name," he said.

The village is also home to the oldest primary school in Macuata-i-Wai called Cadranasiga District School. It was built in 1939 upon the request of the Vunivalu Dreketi, Ratu Tevita Rokoqica (Laso) who wanted the children ofthe districts Dreketi and Macuata to have access to basic education.

"The Vunivalu Dreketi was a hard man in his time. He had a walking stick which he named 'Karisito'. He would use it to give his orders around," Mr Moli said.

"When he decided that there be a school, everyone heeded it. He had the foresight and mana which you hardly see in chiefs nowadays."

A fascinating aspect about the village is its claim to have the oldest living villager in its midst.

Adi Dionani Salavanua is reputed to be 117 years old. Though fragile and weak, the centenarian gave a quiet smile as she observed us.

Her family members say she doesn't talk much and is relatively left to herself. Mr Moli says the head of their clan had looked up her name in the Vola ni Kawa Bula where her date of birth was written.

"Adi Salavanua got married and moved to Naividamu. She has five children and many great great-grandchildren.

"Here, there are about 40 households and 200 villagers," he said. Naividamu has five mataqali; Ligaulevu, Narocake, Nasori, Navatutoka and Batiratu.

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