Cultures of the Pacific celebrate Lomu

By Harata Brown

South Auckland has gathered to remember and celebrate the life of All Black great Jonah Lomu. In a blend of cultural protocols, Māori and Pacific communities played various roles to help uplift the family in the time of grief.

Rugby legend Jonah Lomu has returned to the cradle that nurtured him.

"The idea of bringing him here, well this is where it all started, you know in the South Side and he's coming home" says Melino Maka, from the Tongan Advisory Council.

The South Auckland community conducted a traditional Māori welcome for the party that accompanied Lomu's body for a Tongan and Samoan mourning ceremony known as Te Aho Faka Famili.

According to kaumatua Bobby Newson their customs are similar to Māori, “They like to give their best wishes, sing to their dearly beloved and also the custom of gifting” says Newson.

Tongan cultural advisor Melino Maka says there are unique roles to play in the ceremony, “The way the mats, the tapa cloth, and all those things, if you look at it in a way, it is layer upon layer, but there is a reason for it, all those things is the responsibility of the mother."

Lomu suffered from kidney problems and died at age 40.  His former rugby colleagues Michael Jones, Tana Umaga and others paid their condolences.

Among them was the Governor General Jerry Mateparae who says his skill is a talent the military admire, "In the British Army they use that video of Jonah vs Mike Cat to demonstrate Manuvour warfare.”

A public memorial will be held to remember Lomu on Monday at Eden Park.