THE HITORY OF LEVUKA

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Last week the nation and particularly the vanua vakaturaga o Nabukebuke bid farewell to their beloved chief the turaga na Tui Levuka Ratu Kolinio Rokotuinaceva.

In our last article we talked about how his late father Ratu Etonia Seru set adrift his yaqona cup on the beaches of Levuka to find a wife for him.

He was actually repeating history.

The first settler of Levuka was Rovarovaivalu, a son of Rokomoutu the first Koya Na Ratu Mai Verata, who actually set foot on Vuma soil before moving to the present Levuka Village. People who attended the funeral in Levuka were told of the close links between the two households.

We tell you this week just how close.

Verata historian Ratu Kitione Vesikula stated in the 1970s that Rovarovaivalu was also the father of Tui Vanuakula, whose senior descendants were the Koya Na Ratu Mai Verata, including the last Ratu - Ratu Ilisoni Qionibaravi Ravoka or Komai Sobasoba.

Ratu Ilisoni's children include Adi Emi Vatea Ravoka Toga, Ratu Ifereimi Baleiwaituitui Ravoka, Ratu Kitione Tuibua Ravoka (former national sevens coach), Ratu Ilisoni Qionibaravi Ravoka, Adi Avisaki Salauca Ravoka Bakaniceva, Ratu Savenaca Ravoka, Ratu Kolinio Rokotuinaceva.

The Levuka settlement is believed to have happened after the great race on the beaches of Walu in Verata for the right to the title of Koya Na Ratu as Rokomoutu was ageing. Ratu Kiti, the legendary national rugby coach and descendant of Tui Vanuakula, won an international race of sevens in Hong Kong becoming the first international coach to win the title three years in a row (1990-1992).

As Rokomoutu's sons and grandson Tui Vanuakula prepared for the race an eighth - his grandson Vuetiverata begged and was allowed the right to race.

To this day Verata custom, and many Fijian customs that followed, use the words Vaka Vitu when they conduct the ulivi ni vosa vakavanua (equivalent to a vote of thanks and agreement) and the response from the vanua would be (vakawalu) or the correction that there were in fact eight in recognition of the eighth favourite grandson.

He later volunteered to take on the twins Cirinakaumoli and Nakausabaria at Narauyaba in the Nakauvadra Range when he used the Ratu's sigalavalava weapon to cut open the legendary vines of waka ni vugayali and win the war.

All the participants of the race including Vuetiverata were given a Tawake (special pennant or flag) as a sign of nobility from Verata at the time.

Ratu Kitione said the winner of that race was Tui Vanuakula and not Vuetiverata as was popular belief.

Vuetiverata was another favourite grandson of Rokomoutu and Bau's first Roko Tui Bau.

Ratu Kitione said Tui Vanuakula travelled to Matuku, Nayau and as far as Tonga where he received the name Kolomafu before he returned to other parts of Fiji before returning to Verata.

Legends have it that after settling in Vuma, Tui Vanuakula's father Rovarovaivalu returned to Ucunivanua to find his own wife.

So how that bowl that the Tui Levuka Ratu Etonia Seru set adrift many years later found its way back to those ancient origins that his founding ancestor Rovarovaivalu first followed to find his own wife is no myth.

As if endorsing the origins and sau that came with it the bowl went to the right holder.

Teresia Lewanavanua writes that Ratu Etonia was 40 when he married Adi Kula, Ratu Ilisoni's only sister.

There are other tales of settlement in Ovalau and one is of Rakavono the son of Nakumilevu who had settled in Naigani after leaving Verata to look for lands.

After a falling out with his father, Rakavono swam from Naigani to Ovalau, Lewanavanua relates in legends of Levuka.

"Ovalau was named as such by Rakavono to commemorate his safe arrival - Ova meaning to swim and lau to signify his feet striking land," she states.

Rakavono's descendants were the fierce Lovoni hill tribes believed to have reached Ovalau before Rovarovaivalu.

Ratu Kolinio's mother Adi Kula, was 15 at the time, her household from Sobasoba, relate.

Adi Kula was raised a bit more by the women of Vuma before she was presented to the Tui Levuka.

Ratu Penioni had given half of the sau and powers of Verata to his daughter as a token of his love, though painful it may have been for him.

But yes the two chiefly households of Verata Ucunivanua and Nabukebuke were in mourning since the day he died.

Levuka villagers say the instant Ratu Kolinio passed away a strong wind came and shook their homes violently cracking the louvres in some homes.

Electricity went off for about a week in Verata and the clouds that hung over Ovalau that week stayed that way until the day Adi Kula's tribes returned to Levuka to bury their vasu, her son Ratu Kolinio.

Ratu Ifereimi, the present Komai Sobasoba, led the tribes of Qalibure comprising Roko Tui Yasa, Roko Tui Colo and the Roko Takala with the reguregu and presentation of the vanua and family to Levuka.

His son Ratu Tevita Bolakivei said, "It was pouring heavily as we set foot on Levuka."

"We made our presentation and as soon as we had finished the rain stopped.

"The next day the sun came out as other vanua arrived."

The chiefly sau tabu is itself located in Vuma where Rovarovaivalu first settled.

Being strong warriors the Tui Levuka and his men were to fight many a battle alongside his Verata cousins, including Vuetiverata.

They were to form the fiercesome fighting force called the Vuakaloa or Black Boar with warriors drafted from Verata, Bau and Nakorotubu in Ra.

Members of the Levuka tribes settled in Tubou in Lakeba, after differences with the Roko Tui Bau, but they were rewarded in Lakeba for bringing back a long lost princes Adi Sinetalagi to her father in Lakeba.

AC Reid wrote in the book Tovata, that as long as the state of Verata hung onto its premier position it hung on to its ties with the central mass of Vanua Levu with expeditions periodically from the Verata/Ra coast.

The expeditions included then Vunivalu of Bau, Banuve and his son Naulivou, Reid writes.

He states that Adi Sinetalagi appealed to the Levuka people after her father was assassinated, and they in turn sought help in the area they had come from - Viti Levu - most likely Verata.

"A force of mercenaries was recruited from the Ra coast and joined by other adventurers including Banuve who commanded the expedition," Reid states.

"In Lakeba the expedition has been known as the Vuakaloa war at Kedekede."

The Tui Levuka as host of the signing of the Deed of Cession was an important figure in the shaping of Fiji's history.

One of Ratu Kolinio's last functions was to handover one of the original documents of cession to the Provincial Administrator in Levuka.

History was again repeating itself - he was treading where his ancestors had been.

After the first signing, the Vunivalu Ratu Seru Cakobau and his two sons had returned from Sydney with the deadly measles, which had no cure at the time.

Returning to Levuka they met with the signatories of the paper, including the unwilling Ritova of Macuata and other chiefs. An estimated 40,000 Fijian villagers died in the outbreak.

Kim Gravelle states in his book Fiji's heritage that five of the chiefs who had signed the Deed, including Ritova and the then Tui Levuka Ratu Samuela Macedru - died.

He was the last Tui Levuka to be installed before Ratu Kolinio, Lewanavanua states.

His grandfather and namesake Ratu Kolinio, his father Ratu Etonia and his sister Adi Asenaca were not installed during their leadership.

Ratu Kitione also notes the common names of Nabukebuke shared by the Levuka and Namosi tribes as places where Rovarovaivalu visited also. Lewanavanua states that Levuka's warrior chief Salusaluivalu settled at Verata from Nakauvadra then went on to Levuka and then in Namosi.

But for one day the descendants of Rovarovaivalu and his son Tui Vanuakula returned to Levuka where he first set foot, to not only bury a chief but strengthen close family ties.

May they all rest in peace.

Ni sa moce saka.

Fiji Times