'Epeli Hau'ofa Si'i
Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, bestows posthumous award to Pacific trailblazer.
Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean – Professor ‘Epeli Hau’ofa (1939-2009)
Tongan poet, writer, and academic renowned for transforming indigenous scholarship – Professor ‘Epeli Hau’ofa – has received a posthumous honorary doctorate in literature from Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.
In a stirring celebration at Fale Pasifika attended by family, community, and university staff, Hau’ofa’s son ‘Epeli Hau’ofa Si’I travelled from Suva to accept the degree of Honorary Doctor of Literature on his father’s behalf.
Born in Papua New Guinea to Tongan missionary parents, the experience shaped his childhood with an academic career that involved studying in New South Wales, Canberra and Montreal. He gained a PhD in Social Anthropology at the Australian National University.
Hau’ofa went on to teach at the University of Papua New Guinea and held influential roles at the University of the South Pacific. Notably, in 1997 he became founder and director of the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at USP, Suva which under his leadership became a world class centre for showcasing and disseminating Pacific artistic expression.
An inspiration to Pacific academics worldwide Hau’ofa’s seminal works live on through his family and the ongoing research and development of scholars who have followed in his footsteps.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific, Associate Professor Jemaima Tiatia-Siau said that ‘Epeli Hau’ofa’s 1994 essay ‘Our Sea of Islands’ was particularly ground-breaking.
“Epeli was transformative in that he reshaped the way people viewed the Pacific; he opened up opportunities for Pacific peoples and reindigenised Pacific scholarship.”
Hau’ofa’s family representative Sione Tu’itahi noted the importance of the honorary doctorate to all of Tonga.
“His ideas were transformative; they were about empowering people. He changed our worldview in that we are guardians of the biggest continent and not defined by our smallness.”
University of Auckland Tongan performance group
We are the Ocean: Selected Works by 'Epeli Hau'ofa can be ordered here.