Our old Samoana site featured forums and a separate photo gallery, where our Natives (site members) back then were encouraged to create albums and submit photos. As these were the days before Bebo and MySpace, our little online crowd was excited to share pictures of themselves and their families. It was a great way for us to get to know each other a little better.
One day in 2005, a Native named Shane Sitivi hit me up to ask if I could help him set up an album. He’d just returned from holiday in Samoa and wanted to post up some of the photos he’d taken. I emailed him back.. sure thing… and sent him some instructions.
When I stopped in the next day to check on his album, I was completely blown away by images he’d uploaded, seriously impressed by the quality of his photography. When I told him so, he shrugged it off like it was no biggie – just snapshots from his trip – and said something about how his photos were only a reflection of the breathtaking beauty of Samoa.
From the few posts he would drop in our forums plus his responses to the comments on his photos, I got the impression that Shane was a humble kind of guy, an adventurer at heart who was loving his exploration of Samoa and our culture.
I was very grateful when he generously allowed me to steal some of his images for graphics I was creating, and a year or so later, when I had to close that Old Samoana site, Shane’s was one of the few albums I made sure to store on my hard drive.
When One Samoana was born in 2008, I tried to find Shane again – to invite him to the new village and also just a little bit to see if I could still use his gorgeous photos :). When I didn’t hear back from him (I’d lost track of a lot of old Samoana people by then), I posted some of his photos up in my faleo’o album, hoping he’d eventually find his way to the ville and hit me up.
A few days ago I received some very sad news from a familiar new village Native. The guy we know as Overstayer (world famous in the ville for his ol’ school DJ mixes, thought-provoking village blog, and that one Ala Mai post about holding a grudge) informed me that he’s actually the brother of Shane Sitivi, who’d passed away unexpectedly, only a few short weeks ago.
Over the last few days, through his brother, I was privileged to learn more about the man behind the stunning images of Samoa that I love so much. Shane was a big man in stature and personality. He had a great sense of humour and is incredibly loved by his family and friends. He was just one of those people that you would show off, the kinda guy you were proud to say you knew.
Intelligent and hard working, he was a manager at the New Plymouth office of Vero insurance, and he put his many influential contacts to good use when he lead a city-wide effort to raise funds for the rebuilding of Samoa after last year’s earthquake / tsunami.
His love for his people and thirst for knowledge about the Fa’asamoa was rewarded early this year when he received the Tanuvasa title in a saofa’i held in Samoa. It was one of the many highlights of a life well spent, an honour that Shane cherished, a gift in the memory of those who love him.
Tanuvasa Shane Richard Sitivi was celebrated in an article posted on stuff.co.nz:
This loss is still painfully fresh, especially for his brother, who has turned Shane’s Facebook page (profile name: Overstayers) into a place where friends and family can stop by and pay their respects. It’s filled with photos, tributes, videos and the programme from Shane’s funeral.
I’ve taken the photos I had in my faleo’o album, stolen some more beautiful Samoa images from his Facebook page (you know how we do, bro 😀 ) and posted them in a gallery here:
I didn’t know Shane past a few messages online and my appreciation for the kind of person he must have been to have so lovingly captured Samoa at her most beautiful. It is out of gratitude for these images, his support for One Samoana and out of respect for his grieving brother that I wanted to help celebrate Shane’s life. My hope is that this small tribute will help his family to find some comfort in the knowledge that their son, brother, father, uncle, friend… is remembered.
Rest in Love, Shane.