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The lively Asena

Matilda Simmons
Friday, December 08, 2017

SHE caught our attention with her English language. Asena Saumaisue was sitting by herself at one of the stalls of the Lomaiviti Carnival celebrations at Furnival Park in Toorak when we passed by.

The sixty-year-old was speaking on the phone. We didn't know whether she was trying to draw our attention or just practising her English but when we stopped to see her, she gave a big smile before she hurriedly turned off her mobile phone.

"She's got skills," remarked my photographer collegue who hs from Macuata.

The Nawaikama, Gau villager smiled broadly as she worked on a garland in front of her.

"This type of garland is mostly used by Tongans," she said before we even began our interview. "From what I was told by the elders, the garland was done by women from Narocake as they have blood links to Matuku in the Lau Group."

"Then how come the women of Nawaikama are doing the garland from Tonga?" asked my colleage.

"Maybe because of climate change, aye," the grandmother replied without missing a beat. "Whatever they do in Tonga, we'll follow it over here."

Just by chatting with Mrs Saumaisue, one could tell this spirited lady loves to joke and enjoy a laugh.

She came all the way from the village to be part of the carnival.

"I came just to showcase some of my handicraft items including the garlands which we are now famous for," she said with a wink. "Something to earn a bit of money on the side."

Asena says she picked up on her English skills from her education days in Suva in the 1970s.

"I had my education in Suva; I attended Dudley High School. But I couldn't continue my education as my parents couldn't afford it. Then I came back to the islands, got married and had six kids. I have 22 grandchildren!" she said proudly.

Asena is with several groups of women from the Lomaiviti Province who are taking part at their one-week carnival which ends tomorrow.

"I would like to say thanks to the Ministry of Women for doing a great job in helping rural women like us make an income. They pay for our fares to come over and take part in handicraft expos. It helps us find better markets and made better deals," she said with a smile.

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