[Picture borrowed from Color Me Fiji's Blog.
I discovered 'Epeli's writings at a very critical time in my academic career when I was trying to make sense of writings by non-Tongan scholars about Tongans. At the time I couldn't fully articulate why their writings never really spoke to me and I had a hard time identifying with their analysis of the experiences of my Tongan people.
Then I came across 'Epeli's words which boldly spoke to me that "human reality is human creation, if we fail to create our own reality someone else will do it for us"...I decided then that I was going to work in constructing my own reality and in creating a platform for us to retell our own stories and reclaim our legacy as Pacific people!
It was 'Epeli who put forth the idea that the Ocean is in Us that we are not just Islands in the Sea but rather that we are a Sea of Islands and that the Ocean doesn't divide us as Pacific people but rather it connects us!
He stressed that the terms Pacific Islander/Polynesian were all terms made up arbitrarily during the time of colonization to conquer and divide the Pacific. Before those terms were invented by outsiders to describe us, we were always the Moana people--the people of the ocean!
"there are no more suitable people on earth to be the custodians of the oceans than those for whom the sea is home...we seem to have forgotten that we are such a people...our roots...our origins are embedded in the sea...our ancestors were brought here by the sea...the sea is our pathway to each other and to everyone else, the sea is our endless saga, the sea is our most powerful metaphor...the Ocean is in Us..."
Farewell Dr. Ha'uofa! Thank you for inspiring even those of us who have lived away from the Ocean for so long...that even we could carry on the legacy of the Moana people!!! 'Ofa lahi atu!!!