Wellington, NZ. A journey which began 70 years ago has come to an end; a life that was given freely and willingly in the service of the family, of the village and of the island, is no more. Hon Aokuso Pavihi has passed on.
I write these words in a northern suburb of Wellington while gazing out the window onto the green lamb-dotted hills in the distance, a world away from the village of Avatele, the village where Aokuso and I grew up. A thousand miles away maybe, but the memories are still there, memories of attending the new Liolau Primary, so new in fact that the grass had yet to grow. There was no flag pole – there wasn’t even a flag if I can recall – so one of our teachers Kavisi drew the flag with coloured chalk on a blackboard and propped this up for our Friday assembly.
But perhaps more importantly we were introduced to that fascinating art of reading, writing and arithmetic. We didn’t know it then but this strange art would take us to places far beyond the horizon that we can see from the village green. When the school day ended, there were chores to be done in the home, but in the late afternoon we would head off to that patch of coarse sand, the legendary home of our ancestor Mataginifale, our very own water play ground.
All too soon that part of our lives came to an end. I was bundled off to boarding school in a country far away while Kuso, together with our village cousins, stayed on the island and learned the ways of our people. The architect of our destinies had decreed that Kuso was to stride across the local stage; mine was less clearly defined.
Over the years Kuso had served in all of the leading roles of the village. In matters spiritual he became a deacon; he was a Senior Deacon at the time of his passing. He served on the village council and then moved on to be Avatele’s representative in the Niue Assembly. He entered the political arena at a time when the island was struggling to navigate its way in the absence of Niue’s first Premier Sir Robert Rex.
Aokuso Pavihi had sat at the feet of the family patriarch Sir Robert. And so it came as no surprise when Premier Frank Lui, in an effort to bring some stability, appointed him to a cabinet post. When Kuso’s time in politics came to an end he continued to play a role in village and church affairs. His knowledge in family matters made him the leader and spokesman of the extended family, a task he relished.
But it wasn’t all responsibilities and work; when it was time to celebrate, this was a man who knew how to do just that, often missing the bus home altogether. He wasn’t much of a singer but his dexterity on an eight-string ukulele was above average. In the past few years though, when his wife Sifa was suffering ill-health, he adjusted his calendar and commitments so he could spend more time at home. At any social event, Kuso would share a few drinks with family and friends then he would excuse himself, pick up his plate of food and headed off home to share with Sifa.
His loyalty to his family and his village was legendary. Woe betide anyone who dared to criticise either. His love for Avatele led him to share his knowledge with visitors by organising a village tour. It is only fitting therefore that on Wednesday morning the people he has served so well over his lifetime, will bear him to their village church one last time and pay tribute this man of mana, Hon Aokuso Sasalu Pavihi.
Rest easy my brother, you have fulfilled your promise.
Ko e maveheaga ma i tuai
Fakamolemole ua fakatikai
Tumau ke leveki puipui a Oneonepata.
— Avatele Village Song, October 2018
Hima Takelesi, Wellington.