In Memory of Lomi Paeniu

This Virtual Photography Exhibition commemorates the life and work of a young Tuvaluan Information Technology worker and photographer, Lomi Paeniu, who tragically died on Funafuti Atoll on Easter Sunday, 2007, just after his 26th birthday.

Son of Iefata and Malia Paeniu, born and educated in Tuvalu as well as in Suva, Lomi studied computing at the Eastern Institute of Technology (ETI), Hawkes Bay, in Napier, New Zealand, and was then employed by the Information Technology Office of the Tuvaluan Government – the ‘Real .TV’ (as opposed to all but one of the .TV sites on the Internet).

He was interested in photography as part of his IT work, but only while working in the USA on a twelve month Internship with the computer security company, Verisign, during 2005 and 2006 as part of the .TV leasing agreement between the company and the Tuvaluan Government, did he buy two high end Nikon digital cameras - a D70 and later a D200 -, and learned how to use them extremely well.

Returning to Funafuti in the middle of 2006, Lomi constantly practised his rapidly developing photography skills, taking many descriptive and artistic pictures of people and places around Funafuti Atoll, and Nukulaelae Atoll, the second most southerly island in the country, and his family’s Te Fenua (home island). He shared his photographs with friends, and with the world on photography sharing web sites, always seeking to improve his work, as well as document and share many views of Tuvalu and Tuvaluan life.

Lomi understood the synergistic connections involved in using IT and the doing of journalism in and on Tuvalu, and always supported the journalists at Radio Tuvalu as they sought to tell Tuvalu’s story within their country, and to the world, on their terms, rather than having their story being told by outsiders. His photographs are a major, and vivid, expression of that continuing project.

He is deeply missed by his extended family, and by his many Tuvaluan and Palagi (outsider) colleagues and friends.

This Virtual Exhibition of just some of Lomi Paeniu’s photographs of Tuvalu serves as a fitting, if inadequate, memorial to the so tragically now ended life and work of a beloved son, colleague, and friend. Lomi still speaks to us all with this wonderful legacy.

Notes and Captions by Dr Mark (Maleko) Hayes

Dr Mark Hayes is an Australian journalist and media educator based at the University of Queensland who has travelled to Tuvalu three times to work closely with Radio Tuvalu’s journalists and report on the continuing and escalating effects of global warming there. He was a friend of, and collaborator with, Lomi Paeniu, on their mutual projects. Maleko is the Tuvaluan rendering of Mark.