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Steeped In Tradition

Success Stories 4 Oct 2018

Ancient Tonga is a family-run enterprise that is owned by Ofa Simiki and managed by her daughter, Jessica Afeaki. Jessica shares with PCF her love and passion for her Tongan heritage and how she has manifested it into a living that allows her to share her passion with others.

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Nuku’alofa – Tonga, Ancient Tonga is a place tourists and locals consider ‘the epicentre’ of Tonga’s customs and traditions.

“Ancient Tonga provides a ‘window’ for visitors to gain an insight into the Tongan culture,” says Jessica Afeaki.

“From traditional food preparation to weaving, tapa making, kava tasting and medicinal tasting, we cater for visitors wanting that authentic cultural experience all in one location.

“The tours are very hands-on, and we encourage visitors to interact with the tour guides so that they learn on a personal level the lives of Tongan people.”

Like many other businesses in the Pacific region, Jessica explains the downside that comes with setting up

“When Ancient Tonga first opened, it couldn’t operate from Monday to Sunday as there wasn’t enough capital to do so.”

The company then experienced a very bad break with Cyclone Gita.

“All of our traditional fale and our garden in the compound were destroyed so most of the business and family capital went into rebuilding. It was a very stressful time,” she recalls.

But through sheer determination, Ancient Tonga managed to rebuild, and the business has flourished.

“We now operate everyday and have included culture nights with buffets. We also offer private dance classes for kids.”

As well as running Ancient Tonga Jessica, a woman of many talents, is also responsible for a range of beauty products, which she infuses with her signature style of blending tradition and modern methods.

In 2013, Jessica and her sister Karen Fonua co-founded Kenani Estate Co. Ltd, specialising in virgin coconut oil. From there on they established Kakala o ‘Tonga Skincare products.

Inspired by their grandmother Kaloni Kakala, whom the skincare range is named after, Jessica and Karen have created five fragrant varieties of coconut body oil, sugar scrubs and moisturisers.

“Making the virgin coconut oil was just a hobby at first, but it’s become a brand that has been well supported and loved by our Tongan people here and abroad.”

The Kakala Skincare range is available at the Sei Oriana Gift Shop in Mangere, Auckland.

Seeing her products on New Zealand shelves has motivated Jessica to promote it in other international markets.

“We’ve now employed Tongan youth to make the oils and this enables us to have more time to develop the product range even further.”

Although Jessica is well on her way to becoming a powerhouse in Tongan business, her main priorities are her family and children.

“I have three children, whereas Karen has four, so it’s always going to be challenging.

“Especially being a mother of young children and trying to manage logistics of supplies to Tonga and dealing with changes in the economy and government policies.”

However, Jessica says the support of her family has gotten them through all the highs and lows.

“We hope that working in Tonga will inspire others and especially inspire our kids and contribute to Tonga’s economy.”