Every weekend, Pakilau Manase Lua attends his village kalapu faikava in Onehunga.
This is all changed when New Zealand reached alert level four in its response to the COVID-19 situation and a four-week lockdown was enforced.
It presented a dilemma for Manase, and many Auckland-based Pacific men – mostly Tongans - who attend kava club weekly to raise funds, socialise and drink kava.
The Tongan-born, New Zealand raised Manase is the National Manager Kanorau for Te Pou - the National Workforce Centre for Disability, Mental Health and Addiction for New Zealand.
He explains kava clubs are used to enhance social cohesion among Tongans from their respective villages, Old Boys networks for schools like Toloa and Atele to fundraise and support their communities.
“There are over one hundred kalapu faikava in Auckland and many community projects, funerals, visiting groups from Tonga have been supported financially through the Kalapu Kava Tonga networks.”
Tongan men enjoy the peaceful and harmonious atmosphere of the Kalapu Kava Tonga because unlike social gatherings involving alcohol, there is never any violence or fights – it is forbidden in most Kalapu Kava Tonga for anyone under the influence of alcohol to enter the club, he adds.
It is an important social outlet for Tongan men to talanoa and share information and transmit cultural knowledge and history in a peaceful and non-antagonistic way.
“When you enter the door of a kava club, you hang your position, title, PhD, status and ego at the door, and everyone is equal.”
Refusing to let the pandemic destroy the social fabric of faikava club, Manase decided to host the Inasi World Wide online kava club on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, from 9pm to late.
It is no different to a normal faikava club, apart from the fact it is online via Zoom or Skype, Manase says.
“All people need is kava, and the only rule is to be respectful of each other.
“The moderator or host determines the topics and plays music, invites songs to be song by people or a DJ can play music during breaks.
“Usual etiquette applies but the only difference is each person is in their own home and their own bubble.”
The first session last week (pictured left) was a great success, with 37 people joining in, including people from the United States, Australia, Tonga and Fiji and up to 10 people every other night.
“A special highlight was having the founder of Kava Bowl Online (1995) the very first Pacific chat room online Taholo Kami join us one evening.
“Topics of discussion ranged from our experiences in the lockdown for COVID-19 to sports, MMT, history, myths and legends, ancient martial arts, navigation, inasi concept for modern times, politics, community issues, RSE scheme and so on.
“We even had some frontline clinicians join us on their break while serving at the hospital.”
Technology is so advanced now, it allows us to communicate as if we are face to face, Manase says.
“Sometimes, all people need in these troubled times, is a safe place, free from judgement and completely open and inclusive.”
If people are keen to join the online kava club, visit Pakilau Manase Lua’s Facebook page and click on the Zoom link every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, starting at 9pm.