Katafa, Lakena 2004


This remembrance was written by Tangisia's daughter Lily Tangisia Faavae in April 2020. Thanks to Ikumata Tangisia Kilei for providing some of these photos of his father

Tangisia Kilei was born on 19 January, 1943 at Nanumea Island, one of nine children of Kilei Tepuu and Sepoima Paulu. He attended primary school in Nanumea and then King George V High School in the Gilbert Islands. After high school Tagisia returned to Nanumea and worked as a primary school teacher for a short period. He was only 19 years old when he married to Huao Henele of Nanumea (Huao was also known as Huao Laiti). They had six children, the eldest Kalahati, then Skeeter, Kisei, Lilipeti /Lily, Etita and Tepuu (now known as Ikumata).

In 1967 Tangisia began working for the Nauru Phosphate Corporation in Nauru, and later as a radio operator working in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony headquarters in Tarawa until Tuvalu’s separation from The Gilbert Islands/Kiribati. On his return to Tuvalu in 1977 Tangisia continued to work as radio operator, serving in the islands of Nukufetau, Nanumaga, Niutao, Nui, Nanumea and Funafuti from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

When the Telecommunication department was corporatised in the early 1990s, Tangisia became the Operations Manager in Funafuti for what is now the Tuvalu Telecommunications Corporation. In his private life Tangisia devoted most of his time in serving the community of Nanumea and the church (Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu, the Tuvalu Christian Church).

As a member of the Fakaifou congregation, Tangisia contributed significantly to the construction of the Fakaifou church (now the Mainaga Fou Chapel). He hand-carved most of the decorations and paintings inside the chapel and was always willing to offer his services carrying out small maintenance works on the church building as well as the residence of the Fakaifou pastor, without charge. He served as a deacon of the Fakaifou church.

For several years Tangisia was the elected leader of the Nanumea Island community in Funafuti (Nanufuti). Under his leadership he was able to unite most of the Nanumea people on Funafuti around common interests and goals.

He held a special place in his heart for the rich and unique cultural traditions of Nanumea, and in his later years he worked hard to write down these traditions, documenting them as a heritage for future Nanumea generations. In times of rapid change, he believed these would enable younger Nanumeans to learn, be inspired, and to value their Nanumea island heritage.

Tangisia was always supportive of his home island, and, though he lived in Funafuti, always made his annual contribution (tautino) to the development fund run by Nanumea. Tangisia lived his beliefs, and even in his fifties he continued to use traditional skills to provide for his family, cutting toddy, fishing with his net on the reef (titii) or in the lagoon on his small Nanumea made canoe besides raising pigs. He continued to miss his taro and pulaka pits at Nanumea, which remained far away after he and Huao had settled their family in Funafuti, after a long career in public service which required them to move from island to island.

Tangisia was a man of character and strong will, who would not tolerate corruption and nonsense. He was a very organised person, balancing his time between his public and private life. He paid attention to even very small details in all his projects, whether big or small, to ensure perfection as much as possible. A principled man of love, fairness and honesty, he was well respected in his family, community and church. His uprightness could sometimes cause discomfort to people who did not understand him.

Tangisia passed away in June 2007 in Funafuti at the young age of 64, leaving behind his wife Huao, their six grown children, and several grandchildren. His legacy of love, fairness, boldness and honesty have lived on in all his children.

Photos of Tangisia. We are hoping others might contribute additional photos -- if you have some you'd like to see here, please email Kiti mo Ane -- anekiti@gmail.com

Tagisia and Anne at work - Tuu mo Iloga
Tangisia and Anne Chambers working on faiga mo iloga project, Funafuti, late 2003

Tagisia, Taiafiafi, Amasone, Keith
Tangisia, Taiafiafi, Amasone and Keith, 15 December 2003, Funafuti

With co-workers at the Telecommunications headquarters

Can you contribute your memories, thoughts about feelings about Tangisia? We would like to post comments and memories of his life here. Tuhituhi mai faka taatou, pau katoa!
Email and let us know --->> anekiti@gmail.com

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