'Epeli Hau'ofa

Epeli Hau'ofa
Territory of Papua, New Guinea
Died11 January 2009(2009-01-11) (aged 69)
Suva, Fiji
Resting placeWainadoi, Fiji
Occupationnovelist, social anthropologist
LanguageEnglish, Tongan, Fijian
EducationPhD in Social Anthropology
Alma materLelean Memorial School
University of New England
McGill University
Australian National University
Genrefiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry, social, essays
Subjectmodernisation, development. south pacific islanders
Notable worksMekeo: Inequality and Ambivalence in a Village Society,
Tales of the Tikongs,
We Are the Ocean: Selected Works
SpouseBarbara Hau'ofa
ChildrenEpeli Si'i Hau'ofa

Epeli Hauʻofa (7 December 1939 – 11 January 2009)[1][2] was a Tongan and Fijian writer and anthropologist born of Tongan missionary parents in the Territory of Papua. He lived in Fiji and taught at the University of the South Pacific (USP).[3] He was the founder of the Oceania Centre for Arts at the USP.[3]


Hauʻofa was born of Tongan missionary parents working in Papua New Guinea.[2] At his death, he was a citizen of Fiji, living in Wainadoi, Fiji.[4][5] He went to school in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji (Lelean Memorial School), and attended the University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales; McGill University, Montreal; and the Australian National University, Canberra, where he gained a PhD in social anthropology, published in 1981 with the title Mekeo: Inequality and Ambivalence in a Village Society.[3][6] He taught as a tutor at the University of Papua New Guinea,[3] and was a research fellow at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. From 1978 to 1981 he was Deputy Private Secretary to His Majesty the King of Tonga, serving as the keeper of palace records.[7] During his time in Tonga, Hauʻofa co-produced the literary magazine Faikara with his wife Barbara. In early 1981 he re-joined the University of the South Pacific as the first director of the newly created Rural Development Centre based in Tonga.[6]

He subsequently taught sociology at the University of the South Pacific[2] and, in 1983, he became Head of the Department of Sociology at the University's main campus in Suva.[7][8] In 1997, Hauʻofa became the founder and director of the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at the USP in Suva.[3][4][7]


He was the author of Mekeo: Inequality and Ambivalence in a Village Society;[9] Tales of the Tikongs,[10] which deals (through fiction) with indigenous South Pacific Islander responses to the changes and challenges brought by modernisation and development; Kisses in the Nederends,[8] a novel; and, more recently, We Are the Ocean,[11] a selection of earlier works, including fiction, poetry and essays. Tales of the Tikongs was translated into Danish in 2002 by John Allan Pedersen (as Stillehavsfortællinger, ISBN 87-7514-076-4)

The BBC History magazine writes that Hauʻofa provided a "reconceptualisation of the Pacific": In his "influential essay Our Sea of Islands", he argued that Pacific Islanders "were connected rather than separated by the sea. Far from being sea-locked peoples marooned on coral or volcanic tips of land, islanders formed an oceanic community based on voyaging."[12]

The essay Our Sea of Islands was published in A New Oceania : Rediscovering our Sea of Islands, co-ed by Hauʻofa, Vijay Naidu and Eric Waddell, published in 1993.[13]


Hauʻofa died at the Suva Private Hospital in Suva at 7 AM on 11 January 2009 at the age of sixty-nine.[14] He was survived by his wife, Barbara, and son, Epeli Si'i.[14] A funeral service was held at the University of the South Pacific campus in Suva on 15 January 2009.[7] He was buried at his residence in Wainadoi, Fiji.[7][15][5]

External links[]


  1. ^ "Writer Epeli Hau'ofa dies in Suva" Archived 27 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Matangi Tonga, 13 January 2009
  2. ^ a b c "Epeli Hau'Ofa" Archived 17 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Libraire Ombres blanches
  3. ^ a b c d e Kessler, Kim Andreas (2021). "Anthropology at the University of the South Pacific: From past dynamics to present perceptions". The Australian Journal of Anthropology. 32 (1): 33–53. doi:10.1111/taja.12388. ISSN 1757-6547.
  4. ^ a b About Epeli Hauʻofa, University of California, Irvine
  5. ^ a b "Fiji Directory". Fiji White Pages. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b Obituary, The Age, 11 February 2009
  7. ^ a b c d e "USP Professor and Oceania Centre Founder Passes Away". Solomon Times. 14 January 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  8. ^ a b Hauʻofa, Epeli, Kisses in the Nederends, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-8248-1685-8
  9. ^ Hauʻofa, Epeli, Mekeo: Inequality and ambivalence in a village society, 1981, ISBN 978-0-7081-1360-8
  10. ^ Hauʻofa, Epeli, Tales of the Tikongs, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-8248-1594-3
  11. ^ Hauʻofa, Epeli, We Are the Ocean: Selected Works, University of Hawaii Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8248-3173-8
  12. ^ "Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire", BBC History
  13. ^ E. Hauʻofa, V. Naidu & E. Waddell (eds.), A New Oceania : Rediscovering our Sea of Islands, Suva : University of the South Pacific, in association with Beake House, 1993, ISBN 982-01-0200-6
  14. ^ a b "Writer Epeli Hau'ofa dies in Suva". Matangi Tonga. 13 January 2009. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  15. ^ Tavola, Ema. "RIP Epeli Hau'ofa". Colour Me Fiji. Retrieved 1 July 2015.