Fearlessly creative thanks to a strong sense of Community in culture

Malianive was born in Tonga but grew up in regional Australia after her family migrated to the country in 1994. Now an English teacher for international university students, she’s got a flair for language (fluent in English, knows Tongan and Japanese and speaks German and Indonesian to varying degree), plus takes a beautiful photograph and loves to sketch.

( We also love it when she sings in her soft tones on her IG stories ... shhh!)

Nive, as she’s known, took some time out from her day to share with us what a connection to Island culture means to her…

“I am Tongan. My connection doesn’t have a start and finish... it’s woven into me. I’m always connected, I’m always Tongan."

Malianive, a gorgeous Tonganese girl, poses in three different positions wearing a batik inspired matching shorts and top set from the Boom Shankar summer Alofa collection

How does it show up in your daily life?

“My Tongan-ness really pronounces itself to me every day when I’m doing my hair, when I can hear my mum cracking up on the phone to one of my aunties, and I am forever craving island food!

“When I open the fridge, I frequently wish there was some ‘ota ika with ‘ufi (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk with yam) or tukumisi with manioke (sea urchin with cassava) waiting there for me.”

What’s it been like growing up in a Tongan home in regional Queensland? 

“So good.  Growing up, we were one of only a handful of Tongan families in Toowoomba and so home always felt different to that of the other kids around us.

“That came with its little struggles but otherwise it’s been pretty beautiful.

“There’s usually a lot of family around – and when I’m talking family I mean fāmili: my siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunties and uncles. When we get together, everybody’s chipping in to cook, tidy up, watch the kids... It’s always been a teamwork make the dream work situation.”

Do you have a favourite Tongan saying?

“Ta ‘oku sai which means “That’s good.”  It’s my favourite because my mum whips it out after I finish telling her a long story that she didn’t really care about hahaha!”

Is there an aspect of Island culture that you love the most? If so, what is it and why?

“I am very into language. Anyone familiar with more than one language will tell you that there are certain words in a language that you just can’t translate accurately in another tongue – the translation can never really produce the same meaning, the same feeling and the same life to it.

“There are whole new cosmologies we can uncover in language; whole new ways of looking at the world.  Even though the Tongan language is used by only a small percentage of the world, it is rich and has so much to offer.”

How do you think your connection to Island Culture informs your creativity?

“The convoluted answer is that maybe because I have a strong sense of belonging to my culture, or was/am nurtured well within my culture and by my fāmili, I am grounded.

“When I feel secure and whole like that, I feel free with my imagination - to capture photos in the way that I want, to sketch things how I want to sketch them, to write how I want to write and put it out into the world without being afraid.

“And I think I am not afraid because I have a strong sense of who I am and I like who I am, so the scary world opinions won’t rearrange me. So the short answer?

“My connection is strong and grounding, which makes me feel free and fearless to express myself creatively.”

What does it mean to you to live a big, beautiful life?

“Living a big and beautiful life is probably about loving a lot and learning a lot and for sure laughing a lot,”


The beautoful Tonganese Mailianive, poses in three different positions, in her garden, wearing the Boom Shankar Sitar Dress in the Rose Quartz design

Malianive wears in the top 3 photos our 'Solomon' inspired Farah Top & Java Shorts, in a cotton/rayon blend ~ BUY Farah Top NOW! + BUY Java Shorts NOW!

Malianive wears in the bottom 3 photos our gorgeous Sitar Dress in the 'Rose Quartz' blockprint ~ BUY NOW!

Follow Malianive on INSTAGRAM!