Matanitu Tu Vaka i koya ko Viti



 FIJI ETHNOLOGY   FIJI MUSIC      Fiji legends    Traditional Fiji Kava Ceremony



If there is one thing every visitor remembers about Fiji, it's the enormous friendliness of the Fijian people. You will see why as soon as you get off the plane, clear Customs and Immigration, and are greeted by a procession of smiling faces, all of them exclaiming an enthusiastic "Bula!" that one word - "health" in Fijian - expresses the warmest and most heartfelt welcome you'll receive anywhere. The relatively large and diverse country's great variety will also be immediately evident, for the taxi drivers who whisk you to your hotel are not Fijians of Melanesian heritage, but Indians whose ancestors migrated to Fiji to escape the shackles of poverty in places like Calcutta and Madras. now slightly less than half the population, these "Fiji Indians" have played major roles in making their country the most prosperous of the independent south Pacific island nations.

The great variety continues to impress as you go around the islands, for in addition to Fiji's cultural mix, you'll find gorgeous white-sand beaches bordered by curving coconut palms, azure lagoons and colorful reefs offering some of the world's best scuba diving and snorkeling, green mountains sweeping to the sea, and a warm climate in which to enjoy it all. for budget-conscious travelers, Fiji is an affordable paradise. Its wide variety of accommodations ranges from deluxe resorts nestled in tropical gardens beside the beach to down-to-basics hostels catering to the young and the young-at-heart. It has a number of charming and inexpensive small hostels and the largest and finest collection of remote, Robinson Crusoe-like offshore resorts in the entire South Pacific - if not the world. Regardless of where you stay, you are in for a memorable time. The Fijians will see to that.


The Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sighted some of the Fiji Islands in 1642 and 1643, and Captain James cook visited one of the southernmost islands in 1774, but Captain William Bligh was the first European to sail through and plot the group. After the mutiny on the bounty in April 1789, Bligh and his loyal crew sailed their longboat through Fiji on their way to safety in Indonesia. They passed Ovalau and sailed between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Large Fijian druas (speedy war canoes) gave chase near the Yasawas, but with some furious paddling, the help of a fortuitous squall, and the good luck to pass through a break in the Great Sea Reef, Bligh and his ship escaped to the open ocean. The druas turned back. Bligh's rough handmade charts were amazingly accurate and shed the first European light on Fiji. For a while, Fiji was known as the Bligh Islands, and the passage between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu still is named Bligh Water.

The Tongans warned the Europeans who made their way west across the south Pacific about Fiji's ferocious cannibals, and the reports by Bligh and others of reef-strewn waters only added to the dangerous reputation of the islands. consequently, European penetration into Fiji was limited for many years to beach bums and convicts who escaped from the British penal colonies in Australia. There was a sandalwood rush between 1804 and 1813. Other traders arrived in the 1820s in search of beche-de-mer (sea cucumber). this trade continued until the 1850s and had a lasting impact on Fiji, since along with the traders came guns and whisky.



The traders and settlers established the first European-style town in Fiji at Levuka on Ovalau in the early 1820s, but for many years the real power lay on Bau, a tiny island just off the east coast of Viti Levu (you'll fly over it between Suva and Levuka). With the help of Swedish mercenary Charlie Savage, who supplied guns, High Chief Tanoa of Bau defeated several much larger confederations and extended his control over most of western Fiji. Bau's influence grew even more under Tanoa's son and successor, Cakobau. Monopolizing the beche-de-mer trade and waging almost constant war against his rivals, this devious chief rose to the height of power during the 1840s. He never did control all the islands, however, for Enele Ma'afu, a member of Tonga's royal family, moved to the Lau Group in 1848 and quickly exerted Tongan control over eastern Fiji. Ma'afu brought along Wesleyan missionaries from Tonga and gave them a foothold in Fiji.
Although Cakobau ruled much of western Fiji as a virtual despot, the chiefs under him continued to be powerful enough at the local level to make his control tenuous. The lesser chiefs, especially those in the mountains, also saw the Wesleyan missionaries as a threat to their power, and most of them refused to convert or even to allow the missionaries to establish outposts in their villages. (The Reverend Thomas Baker was killed and eaten during an attempt to convert the Viti Levu highlanders in 1867.)


Cakobau's slide from power is usually dated from the Fourth of July 1849, when John Brown Williams, the American consul, celebrated the birth of his own nation. A cannon went off and started a fire that burned William's house. The Fijians retrieved his belongings from the burning building and kept them. Williams blamed Cakobau and demanded $5,000 in damages. Within 2 years an American warship showed up and demanded that Cakobau pay up. Other incidents followed, and American claims against the chief totaled more than 440,000 by 1855. Another American man-of-war arrived that year and claimed several islands in lieu of payments; the U.S. never followed up, but the ship forced Cakobau to sign a promissory note due in 2 years. In the late 1850s, with Ma'afu and his confederation of chiefs gaining power, and disorder growing in western Fiji, Cakobu offered to cede the islands to Great Britain if Queen Victoria would pay the Americans. the British pondered his offer for 4 years before turning him down.

Cakobau worked a better deal when the Polynesia Company, an Australian planting and commercial enterprise, came to Fiji looking for suitable land after the price of cotton skyrocketed during the American civil War. Instead of offering his entire kingdom, Cakobau this time tendered only 200,000 acres of it. The Polynesia company accepted, paid off the American claims, and in 1870 landed Australian settlers on 23,000 acres of its land on Viti Levu, near a Fijian village known as Suva. The land was unsuitable for cotton and the climate too wet for sugar, so the speculators sold their property to the government, which moved the capital there from Levuka in 1882.


The Polynesia Company's settlers were just a few of the several thousands of European planters who came to Fiji in the 1860s, and early 1870s. They bought land for plantation from the Fijians, sometimes fraudulently and often for whiskey and guns. claims and counterclaims to land ownership followed, and with no legal mechanism to settle the disputes, Fiji was swept to the brink of race war. some Europeans living in Levuka clamored for a national government; others advocated turning the islands over to a colonial power. things came to a head in 1870, when the bottom fell out of cotton prices, hurricanes destroyed the crops, and anarchy threatened. Within a year the Europeans established a national government at Levuka and named Cakobau king of Fiji. the situation continued to deteriorate, however, and 3 years later Cakobau was forced to cede the islands to great Britain. this time there was no price tag attached, and the British accepted. the deed of cession was signed on October 10, 1874, at Nasovi village near Levuka.

Britain sent Sir Arthur Gordon as the new colony's first governor. As the Americans were later to do in their part of Samoa, he allowed the Fijian chiefs to govern their villages and districts as they had done before (they were not, however, allowed to engage in tribal warfare) and to advise him through a Great council of Chiefs. He declared that native Fijian lands could not be sold, only leased. that decision has to this day helped to protect the Fijians, their land, and their customs, but it has led to bitter animosity on the part of the land-deprived Indians.

In order to protect the native Fijians from being exploited, Gordon prohibited their being used as laborers (not that many of them had the slightest inclination to work for someone else). When the planters decided in the early 1870s to switch from profiles cotton to sugarcane, he convinced them to import indentured servants from India. The first 463 East Indians arrived on May 14, 1879 (see "Fiji's Indians," below).



1500 B.C.


Polynesians arrive from the west.

500 B.C.


Melanesians settle in Fiji, push Polynesians eastward.

A.D. 1300-1600


Polynesians, especially Tongans, invade from the east.



Abel Tasman sights some islands in Fiji.



Captain James Cook visits Vatoa.



After mutiny on the bounty Captain William Bligh navigates his long-boat through Fiji, is nearly captured by a war canoe.



Sandalwood rush begins on Vanua Levu.



Swedish mercenary Charlie Savage arrives at Bau, supplies guns to Chief Tanoa in successful wars to conquer western Fiji.



Charlie Savage is killed; sandalwood era ends.



European settlement begins at Levuka.



Methodist missionaries settle on Lekeba in Lau Group.



United States Exploring Expedition under Captain John Wilkes explores Fiji and charts waters.



Prince Enele Ma'afu exerts Tongan control over eastern Fiji from outpost in Lau Group.



U.S. Consul John Brown Williams' home burned and looted during July 4th celebrations; he blames Cakobau.



American warship arrives, demands Cakobau pay $5,000 for Williams' losses.



Cakobau installed as high chief of Bau, highest post in fiji.



Cakobau converts to Christianity.



American claims against Cakobau grow to $40,000; U.S. warship arrives, claims some islands as mortgage.



Cakobau offers to cede Fiji to Brtain for $40,000.



John Brown Williams dies, his claims still unsettled.



Britain rejects Cakobau's offer.



Unrest grows; Europeans crowns Cakobau as King of Bau; Reverend Thomas Baker eaten.



Polynesia Company buys Suva in exchange for paying Cakobau's debts.



Europeans form central government at Levuka, make Cakobau king of Fiji.



Cakobau's government collapses; he and other chiefs cede Fiji to Britain without price tag.



Measles kills one-fourth of all Fijians; Sir Arthur Gordon becomes first governor.



First Indians arrive as indentured laborers.



Capital moved from Levuka to Suva.



Recruitment of indentured Indians ends.



German Raider Count Felix von Lockner captured at Wakaya.



Fijian soldiers support Allies in world War I.



Fijians serve as scouts with Allied units in World War II; failure of Indians to volunteer angers Fijians.



First Legislative Council established with Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna as speaker.



Fijian-dominated Alliance Party wins first elections.



Key compromises pave way for constitution and independence. Provision guarantees Fijian land ownership.



Fiji becomes independent; Alliance party leader Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara chosen first prime minister.



Fijian-Indian coalition wins majority, names Dr. Timoci Bavadra as prime minister with Indian-majority cabinet; Col Sitiveni Rabuka leads two bloodless military coups, installs interim government. Most Sunday activities banned outside hotels.



New constitution guaranteeing Fijian majority is promulgated. Sunday ban eased.



Rabuka's party wins election, he becomes prime minister.



Second election cuts Rabuka's majority; he retains power in coalition with mixed race general electors.



Rabuka appoints constitutional review commission.



Sunday ban repealed.



Parliament adopts new constitution with 25 "open" seats holding balance of power.



labor union leader Mahendra Chaudhry is elected as Fiji's first Indian prime minister.






Following Gordon's example the British governed "Fiji for the Fijians" - and the European planters, of course - leaving the Indians to struggle for their civil rights. The government exercised jurisdiction over all Europeans in the colony and assigned district officers (the "D.O.s" of British colonial lore) to administer various geographic areas. As usual there was a large gulf between the appointed civil servants sent from Britain and the locals. An example occurred in 1917 when Count Felix von Luckner arrived at Wakaya Island of eastern Viti Levu in search of a replacement for his infamous world War I German raider, the Seeadler, which had gone aground in the cook Islands. A local constable became suspicious of the armed foreigners and notified the district police inspector. Only Europeans - not Fijians or Indians - could use firearms, so the inspector took a band of unarmed Fijians to Wakaya in a small cattle trading boat. Thinking he was up against a much larger armed force, von Luckner unwillingly surrendered.


One of the highest-ranking Fijian chiefs, Ratu Sir Lala Kukuna, rose to prominence after World War I. (Like tui in Polynesian, ratu means "chief" in Fijian.) Born of the chiefly lineage of both Bau and the Lau islands in eastern Fiji, Ratu Sukuna was educated at Oxford, served in world War I, and worked his way up through the colonial bureaucracy to the post of chairman of the Native Land Trust Board. Although dealing in that position primarily with disputes over land and chiefly titles, he used it as a platform to educate his people and to lay the foundation for the independent state of Fiji. As much as anyone, he was the father of modern, independent Fiji.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor began the Pacific war in 1941, the Allies first rushed to Fiji's defense in the face of the Japanese advance across the Pacific, then turned the islands into a vast training base. The airstrip at Nadi was built during this period, and several coastal gun emplacements can still be seen. Heeding Ratu Sukuna's call to arms (and more than a little prodding from their village chiefs), thousands of Fijians volunteered to fight and did so with great distinction as scouts and infantrymen in the Solomon Islands campaigns. Their knowledge of tropical jungles and their skill at the ambush made them much feared by the Japanese. The Fijians were, said one war correspondent, "death with velvet gloves."

The war also had an unfortunate side: Although many Indians at first volunteered to join, they also demanded pay equal to the European members of the Fiji Military Forces. When the colonial administrators refused, the Indians disbanded their platoon. their military contribution was one officer and 70 enlisted men of a reserve transport section, and they were promised they would not have to go overseas. Many Fijians to this day begrudge the Indians for not doing more to aid the war effort.


Ratu Sukuna continued to push the colony toward independence until his death in 1958, and although Fiji made halting steps in that direction during the 1960s, the road was rocky. The Indians by then were highly organized, in both political parties and trade unions, and they objected to a constitution that would institutionalize Fijian control of the government and Fijian ownership of most of the new nation's land. Key compromises were made in 1969, however, and on October 10, 1970 - exactly 96 years after Cakobau signed the Deed of Cession - the Dominion of Fijhi became an independent member of the British commonwealth of Nations. Under the 1970 constitution, Fiji had a Westminster-style Parliament consisting of an elected House of Representatives and a Senate composed of Fijian chiefs. For the first 17 years of independence, the Fijians maintained a majority - albeit a tenuous one - in the House of Representatives and control of the government under the leadership of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the country's prime minister.


Within little more than a month of the decision, members of the predominantly Fijian army stormed into Parliament and arrested Dr. Bavadra and his cabinet. It was the South Pacific's first military coup, and although peaceful, it took nearly everyone by complete surprise. The coup leader was Col. Sitiveni Rabuka (pronounced "Rambuka"), whom local wags quickly nicknamed Rambo. A Sandhurst-trained career soldier, the 38-year-old Rabuka was third in command of the army. A Fijian of non-chiefly lineage and a lay preacher in the Methodist church, he immediately became a hero to his "commoner" fellow Fijians, who saw him as saving them from the Indians and preserving their land rights from a government dominated by Indians, who at the time slightly outnumbered the Fijians.

Rabuka at first installed a caretaker government, retaining Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau as governor-general and Ratu Mara as prime minister. In Septebmer 1987, after the British Commonwealth suspended Fiji's membership, he staged another bloodless coup. A few weeks later he abrogated the 1970 constitution, declared Fiji an independent republic, and set up a new interim government with Ratu Ganilau as president, Ratu Mara as prime minister, and himself as minister of home affairs and army commander. At the urging of Methodist ministers, who are a powerful political force here, he also instituted a tough ban on all Sunday business except at the country's hotels (it was quickly relaxed so taxis and buses could take Fijians to church). The government instituted pay cuts and price hikes in 1987 after the Fijian dollar fell shar0ly on world currency markets. Coupled with the coups, the economic problems led to thousands of Indians - especially professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and schoolteachers - fleeing the country.

Dr. Bavadra was released shortly after the coups. he died of natural causes in 1989. Ratu Ganilau died in 1994 and was succeeded as president by Ratu Mara. Rabuka's interim government ruled until 1990, when it promulgated a new constitution guaranteeing Fijians a parliamentary majority - and rankling the Indians. His pro-Fijian party won the initial election, but he barely hung onto power in fresh elections in 1994 by forming a coalition with the European, Chinese, and mixed-race general-elector parliamentarians. Although some of his more conservative backers advocated sending all Fiji Indians back to India, Rabuka took a more moderate stance. Despite opposition by the preachers, for example, he got parliament to lift the Sunday ban in 1996.


Rabuka also appointed a three-person Constitutional Review commission, which proposed a new constitution, which parliament adopted in 1998. It created a parliamentary house of 65 seats, with 19 held by Fijians, 17 by Indians, 3 by general-electors, 1 by a Rotuman, and 25 open to all races. A year later, with support from many Fijians who were disgruntled with their own leaders because of the country's poor economy, rising crime, and deteriorating roads, labor union leader Mahendra Chaudhry's party won an outright majority of parliament, and he become Fiji's first Indian prime minister. Chaudhry had been minister of finance in the Bavadra government toppled by Rabuka's coup in 1987.  Chaudhry quickly appointed several well-known Fijians to his cabinet, including president Mara's daughter as minister of tourism. For his part, the revered Ratu Mara encouraged his fellow Fijians to support the new administration.


Fiji's population officially was 775,077 in 1996, the last time a census was taken. Indigenous Fijians made up 51&, Indians 43%, and other races - mostly Chinese, Polynesians, and Europeans - the other 6%. Although the overall population has been rising slightly, thanks to a high Fijian birth rate, the country has lost about 5,000 Indians annually since the 1987 military coups. It is difficult to imagine peoples of two more contrasting cultures living side by side. "Fijians generally perceive Indians as mean and stingy, crafty and demanding to the extent of being considered greedy, inconsiderate and grasping, uncooperative, egotistic, and calculating," writes Professor Asesela Ravuvu of the University of the South Pacific. On the other hand, he says Indians see Fijians as "jungalis," still living on the land, which they will not sell, poor, backward, naive, and foolish.

Given that these attitudes are not likely to change, any time soon, it is remarkable that Fijians and Indians actually manage to coexist. Politically correct Americans ma take offense at some things they could hear said in Fiji, since racial distinction are a fact of life here. From a visitor's standpoint, the famously friendly Fijians give the country its laidback south Seas charm while at the same time providing relatively good service at the hotels. although a few of the industrious Indians can be aggravating at times, they make Fiji an easy country to visit by providing excellent maintenance of facilities and efficient and inexpensive services, such as transportation. Regardless of his or her race, the 1998 constitution officially makes everyone here a "Fiji Islander."


When meeting and talking to the smiling Fijians, it's difficult to imagine that less than a century ago their ancestors were among the world's most ferocious cannibals. Today the only vestiges of this past are the four-pronged wooden cannibal forks sold in any handcraft shop (they make interesting conversation pieces when used at home to serve hors d'oeuvres). yet in the early 1800s, the Fijians were of fierce that Europeans were slow to settle in the islands for fear of literally being turned into a meal - perhaps even being eaten alive. More than 100 white-skinned individuals ended up with their skulls smashed and their bodies baked in an earth oven. "One man actually stood by my side and ate the very eyes out of a roasted skull he had, saying, 'Venaca, venaca,' that is, very good," wrote William Speiden, the purser on the U.S. exploring expedition that charted Fiji in 1840.

Cannibalism was an important ritualistic institution among the early Fijians, the indigenous Melanesian people who came from the west and began settling in Fiji around 500 B.C. Over time they replaced the Polynesians, whose ancestors had arrived some 1,000 years beforehand, but not before adopting much of Polynesian culture and intermarrying enough to give many Fijians lighter skin than that of most other Melanesians, especially in the islands of eastern Fiji near the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga. (this is less the case in the west and among the hill dwellers, whose ancestors had less contact with Polynesians in ancient times.) Similar differences occur in terms of culture. for example, while Melanesians traditionally pick their chiefs by popular consensus, Fijian chiefs hold titles by heredity, in the Polynesian fashion.


Ancient Fijian society was organized by tribes, each with its won language, and subdivided into clans of specialists, such as canoe builders, fishermen, and farmers. Powerful chiefs ruled each tribe and constantly warred with their neighbors, usually with brutal vengeance. Captured enemy children were hung by the feet from the rigging of the winners' canoes, and new buildings sometimes were consecrated by burying live adult prisoners in holes dug for the support posts. The ultimate insult, however, was to eat the enemy's flesh. Victorious chiefs were even said to cook and nibble on the fingers or tongues of the vanquished, relishing each bite while the victims watched in agony.

Fijians wouldn't dream of doing anything like that today, of course, but they have managed to retain much of their old lifestyle and customs, including their hereditary system of chiefs and social status. Most Fijians still live in small villages along the coast and riverbanks or in the hills, and you will see many traditional thatch bures, or houses, scattered in the countryside away from the main roads. Members of each tribe cultivate and grow food crops in small "bush gardens" on plots of communally owned native land assigned to their families. more than 89% of the land in Fiji is owned by Fijians.  A majority of Fijians are Methodists today, their forebears having been converted by puritanical Wesleyan missionaries who came to the islands in the 19th century. A backer of Prime Minister Rabuka and a strong advocate of Fiji's Sunday Ban, the Methodist Church is a powerful political force in the country.




The Tabua The highest symbol of respect among Fijians is the tooth of the sperm whale, known as a tabua (pronounced "tambua"). Like large mother-of-pearl shells used in other parts of Melanesia, tabuas in ancient times played a role similar to money in modern society and still have various ceremonial uses. They are presented to chiefs as a sign of respect, given as gifts to arrange marriages, offered to friends to show sympathy after the death of a family member, and used as a means to seal a contract or other agreement. The value of each tabua is judged by its thickness and length, and some of the older ones are smooth with wear. It is illegal to export a tabua out of Fiji, and even if you did, the international conventions on endangered species make it illegal to bring them into the U.S. and most other Western countries.

Fire Walking Legend sys that a Fijian god once repaid a favor to a warrior on Beqa Island by giving him the ability to walk unharmed on fire. His descendants, all members of the Sawau tribe on Beqa, still walk across stones heated to white-hot by a bonfire - but usually for the entertainment of tourists at the hotels rather than for a particular religious purpose. Traditionally, the participants - all male - had to abstain from women and coconuts for 2 weeks before the ceremony. If they partook of either, they would suffer burns to their feet. Naturall a priest (some would call him a "witch doctor") would recite certain incantations to make sure the coals were hot and the gods were at bay and not angry enough to scorch the soles.

Today's fire walking is a bit touristy but still worth seeing. If you don't believe the stones are hot, go ahead and touch one of them - but do it gingerly. some Indians in Fiji engage in fire walking, but it's strictly for religious purposes.  Etiquette Fijian villages are easy to visit, but remember that to the people who live in them, the entire village is home, not just the individual houses. In your native land, you wouldn't walk into a stranger's living room without being invited, so find someone and ask permission before traipsing into a Fijian village. The Fijians are highly accommodating people, and it's unlikely they will say no; in fact, they may ask you to stay for a meal or perhaps stage a small yaqona ceremony in your honor. they are very tied to tradition, however, so do your part and ask first. If you are invited to stay or eat in the village, a small gift to the chief's appropriate. The gift shouldbe given to the chief or highest-ranking person present to accept it. sometimes it helps to explain that it is a gift to the village and not payment for services rendered, especially if it is money you are giving.

Only chiefs are allowed to wear hats and sunglasses in Fijian villages, so it is good manners for visitors to take theirs off. Shoulders are covered at all time. Fijian go barefoot and walk slightly stooped in their bures. Men sit cross-legged on the floor; women sit with their legs to the side. They don't point at one another with hands, fingers, or feet, nor do they touch each other's heads or hair. They greet each other and strangers with a big smile and a sincere "Bula."


The Fiji Indians' version of America's Mayflower was the Leonidas, a labor transport ship that arrived at Levuka from Calcutta on May 14, 1879, and landed 463 indentured servants destined to work the sugarcane fields. As more than 60,000 Indians would do over the next 37 years, these first immigrants signed agreements (girmits, they called them) requiring that they work in Fiji for 5 years; they would be free to return to India after 5 more years. Most of them labored in the cane fields for the initial term of their girmits, living in "coolie lines" of squalid shacks hardly better than the poverty-stricken conditions most left behind in India. After the initial 5 years, however, they were free to seek work on their own. Many leased small plots of land from the Fijians and began planting sugarcane or raising cattle on their own. to this day most of Fiji's sugar crop, the country's most important agricultural export, is produced on small leased plots rather than on large plantations. Other Indians went into business in the growing cities and towns and, joined in the early 1900s by an influx of business-oriented Indians, thereby founded Fiji's modern merchant and professional classes.

Of the immigrants who came from India between 1879 and 1916, when the indenturing system ended, some 85% were Hindus, 14% were Muslims, and the remaining 1% were Sikhs and Christians. Fiji offered these adventurers far more opportunities than they would have had in cast-controlled India. In fact, the caste system was scrapped very quickly by the Hindus in Fiji, and, for the most part, the violent relations between Hindus and Muslims that racked India were put aside on the islands. Life for the Indians was so much better in Fiji than it would have been in India that only a small minority of them went home after their girmits expired. They tended then - as now - to live in the towns and villages and in the "Sugar Belt" along the north and west coasts of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Hindu and Sikh temples and Muslim mosques abound in these areas, and places such as Ba and Tavua look like small towns on the Indian subcontinent On the southern coasts and in the mountains, however, the population is overwhelmingly Fijian.


From their strategic position in the southwestern Pacific some 3,200 miles southwest of Honolulu and 1,960 miles northeast of Sydney, Fiji is the transportation and economic hub of the South Pacific islands. Nadi International Airport is the main connection point for flights going to the other island countries, and Fiji's capital city, Suva, is one of the region's prime shipping ports. The archipelago forms a horseshoe around the reef-strewn Koro Sea, a body of water shallow enough for much of it to have been dry land during the last Ice Age some 18,000 years ago. thee are more than 300 bits of land ranging in size from Viti Levu ("Big Fiji"), which is 10 times the size of Tahiti, to tiny atolls that barely break the surface of the sea. with a total land area of 7,022 square miles, Fiji is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. viti Levu has 4,171 of those square miles, giving it more dry land than all the islands of French Polynesia put together.

Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, the second largest island, lie on the western edge of Fiji. The Great Sea Reef arches offshore, between them and encloses a huge lagoon dotted with beautiful islands. Many scuba divers think of the coral reefs in this lagoon, the Astrolabe Reef south of Viti Levu, and the Rainbow Reef between Vanua Levu, and Taveuni as the closest places on earth - or below it - as paradise.

GOVERNMENT When the British granted independence to its former colony in 1970, they left Fiji with a constitution which set up a parliamentary democracy and left control of most land with the majority Fijians, while giving the Indians a chance to gain political power. Indians outnumbered the indigenous Fijians by the mid-1980s, however, and in coalition with some of the more liberal Fijians, they gained the upper political hand in parliamentary elections of 1987. Their new government lasted just 1 month until the Fijian-dominated army stormed into parliament and staged the region's first military coup. When the commonwealth suspended Fiji's membership, the Fijian-led interim government declared the country to be the officially independent Republic of the Fiji Islands. In 1990 it promulgated a constitution giving the country a Fijian president and a parliament. This arrangement lasted until 1998, when the country adopted a new fairer constitution which created a 65-mmber parliament made up of 19 Fijian, 17 Indian, 3 general electors (anyone who's not a Fijian or Indian), 1 Rotuman, and 25 open seats. This led the way to the country's first Indian prime minister being elected in 1999 (see "History" above).

THE ECONOMY Fiji is the most self-sufficient of the south Pacific island countries. Tourism is its largest and most profitable industry; in fact, Fiji is the tourism Goliath among South Pacific island nations, getting twice as many visitors each year as French Polynesia, its nearest rival.

Sugar is still a close second to tourism. Grown primarily by Indian farmers, the cane is milled by the Fiji Sugar Company, a government-owned corporation. The cane is harvested between June and November and processed at five sugar mills, one each in Lautoka, Ba, Tavua, Rakiraki, and Labana. The one at Lautoka is the largest crushing mill in the Southern Hemisphere. The Rakiraki mill produces for domestic consumption; the rest is exported. Thee is no refining mill here, as most of the sugar served in Fiji is brown, not white. The Emperor Gold Mine on northern Viti Levu makes an important contribution as do copra, timber, garments, furniture, coffee (You'll get a rich, strong brew throughout the country), and other consumer goods produced by small manufacturers (the Colgate toothpaste you buy in Fiji is made here). Fiji also is a major transhipment point for goods destined for to her South Pacific island countries.

Despite its relative prosperity, however, Fiji has a persistent problem with unemployment. More than half the population is under the age of 25, and thee just aren't enough jobs being created for the youngsters coming into the work force. A marked increase in burglaries and other property crimes has been linked to this lack of jobs. Fiji also saw corruption grow during the post-coup years, with the National Bank of Fiji almost failing because of bad loans made to political cronies, among others. The country's foreign reserves dropped precipitously, forcing a devaluation of the Fiji dollar to about US50cents (it had been on a virtual par with the U.S. dollar prior to the 1987 coups).




In the Fiji Islands, which stand at the farthest end of the Melanesian chain, a somewhat detached link as it were, lying towards Tonga and Samoa, one would expect to find considerable Polynesian influence, both in race and culture. Undoubtedly these influences have separated, especially in the eastern islands of the group nevertheless, the Melanesian physical type prevails.

The inland hill tribes of Fiji lived in small, independent village communities; but elsewhere there were larger tribes, as well as considerable territorial federations, the result of conquest and diplomatic alliances. Because of their direct descent from celebrated hero-ancestors, the tribal chiefs acquired a priestly sacredness, almost a divinity, which in course of time became so deeply imbued, that they stood aloof from secular administration and appointed their brothers or other relatives as executives and active war leaders. Customary appointments in time became inherited rights, and distinct hereditary septs of royal priests and of executive leaders arose.

Underlying this veneration for male descended chiefs, on which the social organisation rests, there is a remnant of totemism and matrilineal descent. This is seen in the possession here and there, of isolated patches of waste land - that is, "sacred land" - which is inherited matrilineally and whose natural plants and animals are tapu to the inheritors. Fijian religion is further complicated by a belief in nature spirits (of the sea and sky) and in gods hunting, fishing and war.

There is an agreeable orderliness without formality in "village-planning" in Fiji, the large, strongly-thatched houses, each on a low stone platform, being usually built around a close-cult village green shaded by fruit trees and palms.

As the usual tropical fruits and garden produce are at command, with fish in abundance. Juvenile fishermen, armed with four-pronged darts and arrows, spend long halcyon days among the shoals of sprats near the shore, acquiring that skill which will later enable them unerringly to spear the swift sea fish from their canoes or from the rocks. All the coastal people construct extensive fish fences, which lead the fish following the ebb tide into enclosures, where they are speared at low water. Some tribes are specialist fishermen, who barter their catch for vegetables instead of cultivating gardens. Turtle-fishers are, or were, members of the household establishment of a chief, who alone might eat turtle. They usually cast their long coconut-fibre nets from canoes, though a few master-turtlers were amazingly adept at the game of diving below a turtle, flipping it upside-down, and bringing it to the surface.

Cooking was done in the earth oven, and in some districts in earthenware bowls as well; pottery, however, usually took the form of large water vessels (sometimes in the shape of coconuts fastened together) and open basin. Food bowls were carved in a variety of shapes: sometimes in the form of a bird, a fish, or a turtle, which may have represented the formal offering of the totem animal as ceremonial food. Small, flat dishes held coconut oil for rubbing into the skin; but for the oil wherewith a priest would anoint his body, the dish had a somewhat curiously carved stand or pedestal.

The Fijians gave place to no other South Sea people in hospitality, or in their observance of ceremonial feasts, for which enormous supplies of food were prepared for pre-prandial display on racks like the Maori food-stages. As soon as the guests were assembled and the gathering had been called to order, the distribution of the food was made in strict accordance with recognised rank and precedence. One may be sure the proceedings were closely followed for the Fijians were as jealous of social status as Melanesians and Polynesians anywhere. Unintentional slights, nursed as grievances became magnified into deliberately planned insults, and not infrequently found their ultimate outlet in fierce and ruthless fighting.

In warfare the Fijian laid his plans carefully, and exploited an artful diplomacy to foment discord among his enemies and fasten allies to his own side. For all that he was heavily armed, he employed stratagem and skirmish rather than direct attack. The favourite wife was "the net"; the attackers broke and fled, leading their heedless pursuers into ambushes - a simple ruse, that succeeded surprisingly often.

Although fighting was constant in the early days, the aggregation of tribes by conquest and alliance did not produce large federations until European times, when the early acquisition of muskets gave the district of Mbasu an initial advantage. But as other tribes became armed and effected other alliances, a long period of almost universal war and rebellion of Mbau, was the result of his enlisting the aid of Tongans, who, having long harried the coasts of Fiji in the manner of the Scandinavian vikings, had become firmly established in the Lakemba group, or "Windward Islands," which lie some 200 miles to the eastward. The Tongan plan of expansion, however, was always to support the weaker side, and ere long their leader, Maafu, was raiding the territory of Mbau. Thakombau was at this time also embarrassed by pressure for the repayment of a debt to America, and he finally sought British sovereignty (effected 1874), under which to retain his "kingship" and his royal prestige among the Fijians.

Few people had as heavy or as finely-carved clubs as the Fijians, and their variety and unusual shapes are always of interest, particularly if one endeavours to ascertain their origin or derivation. The formally designed clubs derived from natural root-stocks are easy to identify; but careful study has been required to trace such characteristic forms as the "pineapple" club stone-head club origin. Bows and arrows, short, round-headed throwing clubs (ula), and long, wooden spears with splendidly-rendered decorative barbs, were also part of the Fijian's arms and equipment.

The carved wooden head-rests served vanity rather than repose. The Fijians are proud of their long, fuzzy locks, and devote much time to oiling, combing, and, sometimes, lining them to impart a chestnut hue. The literally outstanding results were not to be undone during negligent slumber, hence the wooden "pillows."
For further ornament the Fijian had chief recourse to pearl shell and to the teeth of the sperm whale. The breast-plates of pearl shell, covered with thin plates of whale ivory, were badges of chiefly rank, and possibly only men of some standing would have been able to acquire the handsome necklaces of slender ivory pendants wrought to a long, curved point and carefully matched for gradation in size.

The undivided single whale tooth, or tambua was much more than an ornament; it was offered as a compliment between chiefs, and the presentation of a tambua was a necessary preliminary to the submission of a request for assistance or favour. In particular, it was presented with careful ceremony as a mark of homage to the ruler or overlord of a territorial federation. Not every official was entitled to be offered a tambua - a lesser mark of respect was a gift of a portion of the dried root of the pepper tree, from which the kava drink was made.

The drinking of kava, or yaqona as the Fijians call it, was invested with solemn formality. "Drinking in" was the essential part of the ceremony of installation of a chief, and a kava-drinking circle was the invariable form of deliberation in council or transaction of public business.

The large wooden yaqona bowl is placed before the chief, and the drink is prepared to the accompaniment of a ceremonial chant. The first cup is presented to the chief, those present steadily clapping during his libation, ceasing only when he spins the empty cup along the floor. Each member of the circle then receives his portion in turn, with the same jealous observance of precedence as in the apportionment and distribution of food at a feast.

The well-known fire-walking ceremony in Fiji is by no means a general practice. It is restricted to a certain social class on the island of Mbenga. It is not really "fire-walking," but "hot-stone-walking." The people who perform the ceremony understand that they are passing through an earth oven, and they have legend which records a remote ancestor's descent into the depths and rising up from an oven. The rite used to be performed when the Dracaena root was ripe, and preceded the cooking of the root in the oven. It was now considered to be a first-fruit rite, a kind of proprietary sacrifice and resurrection.

Fire-walking, Fiji.

Another restricted cult is that of the Nubuki, a secret initiation ceremony for youths, performed on a rock-walked platform area with a stone pyramid in the manner of a Polynesian marae. There were three degrees of initiation: youths, men, and priests, and the rite consisted essentially of the simulation of death and revival - a kind of ancestor worship. The formal ceremony was followed by an orgy, and recalls the similar licentiousness in the Tahitian areoi societies.

The Fijians today live well-ordered, contented lives, both in their native villages and in the European communities, where they find ready employment as clerks, carpenters, artisans and native police. Native doctors and native magistrates minister to the health and social well-being of their own people, and three chiefs present the natives on the Legislative Council.





The music of Fiji represents the indigenous tradition along with those of India, China, Europe and other Pacific islands. Fijian music styles and structures include and combine Polynesian and Melanesian music with the variation in style between one area and another.

Fijians play both indigenous instruments as well as the guitar, ukulele and mandolin. Several kinds of lali drums are the main indigenous instruments. They were formerly a means of communication, announcing events of social significance, such as wars, victories, births and deaths, each of which was announced by their own distinctive rhythmic patterns. Today, the large lali are used to call people to church or for calling them together. The lali are made of hardwood, shaped and hollowed out to produce a deep resonance, which can be heard of a distance of eight kilometres. A smaller type of lali, the lali ni meke is used to accompany chanting and dances. The lali ni meke is 75-100 cm long, and tapered at either end with a rectangular block cut out of the central portion. In addition, the derua (bamboo stamping tubes) of varying lengths are beaten on the ground or on mats. Sometimes, clapping is used to accompany the derua in providing the rhythmic basis of traditional Fijian music.

Many different genres in Fijian music are all part of the social fabric and are predominantly indigenous. Perhaps the most complex form of Fijian music is the meke in which voices and dance are combined. Different types of meke include the war dance, men's club dance, men's spear dance, as well as the men's or women's fan dance, women's standing dance and the sitting dance performed by men or women. All these meke are group dancers in which the overall appearance and group co-ordination are important. Men's dance movements are vigorous and virile while women's are controlled and graceful with lots of hand and body movements.

Methods of composition in Fiji vary greatly. Some music is composed in much the same way as western music. Composition in the traditional manner, however, follows certain ritual patterns. Only the dau ni vucu, who follow a priest like ritual are entitled to compose. The dau ni vucu, is the most important man in a meke. He is responsible for all aspects of the meke - music, poetry, dance, accompanying instruments and costumes - and for teaching all aspects of the meke.

The Fijian music featured on Pacific Islands Radio features traditional singing accompanied by lali and derua, clap sticks and the clapping of hollowed hands as well as occasional ukuleles. The music represents a mix of war songs, spear dances and some of the very gentle female meke, depicting ancient stories and folk songs.


      Fiji legends

      A Legend Of Degei The Snake God

Greatest of all Fijian gods was Degei, the Snake god. In the beginning he lived alone, without friends or companions, and the only living creature he knew was Turukawa the hawk. Although the hawk could not speak he was the constant companion of the god. Gne day Degei could not find his friend and looked everywhere for him. Days went by and at last one morning he spied the hawk sitting in some long grass. Gladly, he welcomed the bird but, to his consternation, she ignored Degei and commenced building a nest. Disappointed, he retired to his house and the next day went back to the nest and found two eggs. He then realised the hawk had found a mate and that he had lost her affection. So scooping up the eggs he took them into his own house and kept them warm with his own body. After several weeks of nurturing the eggs and wondering what would happen two shells broke and there were two tiny human bodies.

Degei built them a shelter in a vesi tree and fed them on scraps of food. They grew quickly, but there was nobody to teach them except Degei. He did not understand children but when they were hungry he fed them and to save himself work he planted banana trees and root crops close to them. He also talked to them and told them about the secrets of nature. Eventually the children were fully grown and all this time had been unaware of each other's presence as Degei had placed them on opposite sides of the tree.

One day the man left his shelter and as soon as he saw the maiden held out his arms to her and told her Degei had made them for each other and that their children would populate the earth. So Degei showed them how to cook the root vegetables in an earth oven.  Some time later they were blessed with a little baby and Degei also was very happy as he knew that because of loneliness men and women had come into the world and would worship him as their god.



Fire Walking On The Island Of Beqa

In accordance with the legendary tradition of the Sawau tribe of the island of Beqa, the firewalking ceremony is still performed on special occasions.
The firewalking skill is possessed by the Sawau tribesmen living in the four villages on the windward, or Southern side of the island of Beqa. In special cases, however, members of the other tribes who have been adopted by the Sawau tribe, have successfully performed the ceremony. the main village is know as Dakuibeqa where the chief of the tribe known as Tui Sawau lives. When the ceremony is to be performed several representatives are chosen from each village, the total number being usually from the immediate family of the Bete. For two weeks before the event, the participants segregate themselves from all females and have no contact with them whatsoever, also they must not eat any coconut. Failure to observe the tabu renders the culprit liable to severe burns during the ceremony.

A large circular pit is dug some twelve to fifteen feet in diameter three to four feet in depth. This pit is lined with large river stones twelve to fifteen inches in diameter and a huge log fire is built over them some six to eight hours before the ceremony. When the time arrives, the men of the village in gay regalia are led by the Bete to prepare the arena for the firewalkers. Armed with long green poles some of which have loops or strong green vines (walai) lashed to their ends, the young men clear the burning logs from the stones. As they heave on the vines, they chant in unison, "O-vulo-vulo"! A long tree-fern called Waqa-bala-bala said to contain the Spirit God is then laid across the pit at the direction of the Bete. A large vine some 1.5 inches in diameter is then dragged across the stones leveling them and preparing them for the firewalkers.

When the stones are finally in position, the Bete jumps on to them and takes a few trial steps to test their firmness and when satisfied, calls for bundles of leaves (drau-ni-ba) and bundles of long swamp grass (sila) these are placed around the edge of the pit. When all is ready, the position of the waqa-bala-bala is adjusted at the command of the Bete, and the base pointed in the direction from which the firewalkers will approach. The village men who have prepared the pit now surround the circle leaving only a gap for the entry of the firewalkers. The Bete looks around and when satisfied that the time has arrived gives a great shout of "Vuto-O" which is the signal for the firewalkers to burst from their place of concealment and in a single file at a brisk trot, approach the pit. The waqa-bala-bala is quickly removed and the firewalkers enter the pit and walk briskly in single file on the white hot stones round the circumference of the pit. They appear to suffer no harm from the heat. As the audience is hushed in silence, a sudden shout goes up, the bundles of grass and leaves are thrown on the stones and the group huddles in the centre of the pit chanting a song associated with the occasion.

Around the ankle of each is a band of tinder-dry tree fern leaves called drau-ni-bala-bala and it is significant although a handkerchief tossed on to the stones will burst into flames, this band of fern does not ignite. These bands are carefully taken off and buried in the oven together with four special baskets of roots called vasili which are said to take the place in the oven of the performers. The whole pit is then covered with earth, and left for a period of four days. After four days, the oven or lovo is opened by the firewalkers and the baked roots are taken out and are grounded and mixed with water. Dalo (taro) roots are then cooked in the liquid and eaten by the firewalkers.

Legend Of The Firewalkers Of Fiji

Many years ago on the island of Beqa (pronounced Mbengga), a tribe called Sawau lived on a mountain village called Navakeisese. In this village there lived a famous storyteller known as Dredre, who regularly entertained the members of the tribe with his stories. It was customary for the people of the village to bring gifts to Dredre in appreciation of his entertainment.  On one occasion when asked what gifts he would like, he requested each person of the audience to bring him the first things they would find while hunting the next day.

One of the warriors of Beqa called Tui-na-Iviqalita, went fishing for eels (rewai) in a mountain stream. The first thing he caught, felt like an eel, when he pulled it out of the mud, it assumed the shape of a Spirit God.  Tui was extremely pleased and set off to present his catch to Dredre, the storyteller. The Spirit God, however, pleaded for his life and offered all manner of gifts in exchange. These Tui refused until finally, the Spirit God offered to give him power over fire and this offer aroused his curiosity.

To prove his gift, a pit was dug and lined with stones, and a great fire was lit on the stones. When the stones were white with heat, the Spirit God leapt down on the stones and called Tui to jump in with him. Finally, he plucked up enough courage and was surprised that he did not feel any effect from the heat. The Spirit God then told him that he could be buried for four days in the oven without suffering any injury. However, Tui was afraid to do so, saying that he was quite satisfied to walk on the stones. To this day members of the Sawau tribes are able to walk on white hot stones and direct descendants of Tui-na-Iviqalita still act as Bete, or high priest, of the firewalkers of Fiji.

The Sacred Turtles Of Kadavu

On the island of Kadavu (pronounced Kandavu) one of the larger islands of the Fiji Group and some fifty miles by water from the capital city of Suva, is the Fijian village of Namuana. Namuana nestles at the foot of a beautiful bay adjacent to the Government Station in Vunisea Harbour. Here the island of Kadavu narrows down to a very isthmus and by climbing the hill behind Namuana village one can stand on the saddle and look out to the sea to the south and to the north. Legend says that in the days gone by the warriors of Kadavu slid their canoes on rollers up over the narrow neck of land to save the long journey around the east and west of Kadavu island.

Ohe women of Namuana village still preserve a very strange ritual, that of calling turtles from the sea. If you visit Namuana village to see the turtle calling, your schooner anchors in a beautiful bay right under the cliffs of a rocky headland. You land on the beach and then either sit on the rocks under the bluffs on the beach or climb a rocky tract to a point some 150 or 200 feet up the rock face. Here you have a splendid view and find assembled all the maidens of the village of Namuana singing a strange chant. As they chant, if you look very carefully down into the water of the bay, you will see giant turtles rise one by one to lie on the surface listening to the music.

This is not a fairy tale and actually does take place and the water in this area is forbidden for the fishing of turtles. Another interesting sideline to this performance is that if any member of the nearby village of Nabukelevu is present, then the turtles will not rise to the surface of the bay and turtle calling will have to be abandoned.
As is usually the case with such strange ceremonies and customs in Fiji, the turtle calling is based on an ancient legend still passed on from father to son among the Fijian people of Kadavu.

Many, many years ago in the beautiful village of Namuana on the island of Kadavu, lived a very lovely princess called Tinaicoboga who was the wife of the chief of Namuana village. Tinaicoboga had a charming daughter called Raudalice and the two women often went fishing on the reefs around their home.  In one particular occasion, Tinaicobaga and Raudalice went further afield than usual and waded out onto the submerged reefs which is just out from the rocky headline to the east of the bay on which Namuana village is situated.

They became so engrossed with their fishing that they did not notice the stealthy approach of a great war canoe filled with fishermen from the nearby village of Nabukelevu. This village is situated in the shadow of Mount Washington, the highest mountain on Kadavu island. Today, Mount Washington is well know to mariners because there is a splendid lighthouse there warning them of the dangers of the rocky coastline.  Suddenly the fishermen leapt from their canoe and seized the two women, bound their hands and feet with vine and tossed them into the bottom of the canoe and set off in great haste for home. Although they pleaded for their lives, the cruel warriors from Nabukelevu were deaf to their pleading and would not listen to their entreaties.

The Gods of the sea, however, were kind and soon a great storm arose and the canoe was tossed about by huge waves which almost swamped it. As the canoe was foundering in the sea the fishermen were astounded to notice that the two women lying in the water in the hold of the canoe had suddenly changed into turtles and to save their own lives, the men seized them and threw them into the sea.

As they slipped over the side of the canoe the weather changed and there were no more waves.  The Nabukelevu fishermen continued their journey back to their home village and the two women for Namuana who had been changed to turtles lived on in the water of the bay. It is their descendants today who rise when the maidens of their own village sing songs to them from the cliffs.  The translation of the strange song which is chanted on such occasions is as follows:

"The women of Namuana are all dressed in mourning
Each carries a sacred club each tattooed in a strange pattern
Do rise to the surface Raudalice so we may look at you
Do rise to the surface Tinaicoboga so we may also look at you."

You may doubt the truth of the legend, but you cannot doubt the fact that the chanting of this strange song does in fact lure the giant turtles to the surface of the blue waters of the bay near Namuana village on the island of Kadavu.  The strange power of calling these turtles is possessed only by the people of Namuana village and it is true that should a member of their traditional enemy tribe from the village of Nabukelevu further down the coast be present, then no turtles will rise.

The Tagimoucia Flower

In the high mountains of Taveuni, know as Fiji's Garden Island, there is a beautiful lake of considerable size. A flowering plant called Tagimoucia is found only on the shores of this lake and any attempt to transplant the vine has failed. The Tagimoucia is one of Fiji's most beautiful wild flowers, the bunches of red flowers have a small white centre.The legend of the Tagimoucia flower goes something like this.

In a hill above the shore lived a woman and her little daughter. One day the little girl was playing when she should have been working. Her mother kept asking her to get on with her work but she ignored her mother and kept on playing. Annoyed, the mother seized a bundle of sasas (mid-ribs of the coconut leaf) which she used as a broom, and spanked her daughter. "Go on, get out, you naughty girl. Go out and I don't want to see your face again."

The little girl was so upset that she sobbed and ran away. She kept on running not realising where she was going. Her tears blinded her and as she ran along she blundered into a large climbing plant that hung from a tree. It was a thick green vine with large green leaves but there was no flowers on it. The child became entangled with the vine and could not get free so she stayed there, crying bitterly.

As the tears rolled down her cheeks they changed from salt tear to tears of blood which fell on the stem of the vine and turned into lovely flowers.  At last the little girl stopped crying and managed to free herself from the vine and went back home. She was delighted to find out that her mother had forgotten her anger and so they lived happily together again

The Tame Fish Of Fiji

On the island of Nananu-i-ra, just off the North-east corner of Viti Levu, can be seen one of the strangest sights in the Pacific. Here Paul Miller who lives on the island keeps a school of tame sand cod. These fish are friendly and come to be fed every day by Paul.  Oen Cropp, one of Australia's best know underwater cameraman says the fish will do anything. It is quite safe to get in and swim with them. The fish, weighing up to 45lbs will take food from your fingers and will allow themselves to be petted and stroked. Ben and his wife Van have filmed many exciting and amazing sequences with these fish and they have particularly asked to try to have the waters round the island declared a fish sanctuary.

Legend Of Old Fiji

There is a legend "NANANU-I-RA" which goes something like this:- "Once upon a time there lived in the village of Nanukuloa (village of black sands) on Viti Levu (Queen of the sands). Adi fell in love with a handsome young chief from Bua, about twenty miles across the water. Bua was famous for its forests of beautiful sandalwood with a fragrant perfumed timber, and the people of Bua were great canoe sailors.  Adi's lover, being a skilled sailor, sailed his fast canoe across the intervening sea to visit her, bearing many gifts carved from the exotic sandalwood of Bua.  Unfortunately, however, the tribes of Bua and the tribes on Viti Levu were not friendly, and the suit of the young chieftain was rejected by Adi's father and the chief of Nanukuloa.  Undaunted, however, the two lovers were determined to meet secretly and this is what they did. Off the coast near Adi's village is the island of Nananu-i-Ra, meaning "Dreamland in the West" and it was here the lovers arranged to meet.

The Red Prawns Of Vatulele.

Long ago on the island of Vatulele there lived a very beautiful chief's daughter called "Yalewa-ni-Cagi-Bula" or Maiden-of-the-Fair-Wind. So beautiful was she that every eligible chief who visited Vatulele sought to take her as his bride. Yalewa-ni-Cagi-Bula however, was hard to please and on every occasion she scornfully refused to accept their approaches.

Not far away on the mainland of Viti Levu lived a very handsome and dashing chief's son who was heir to the throne of mainland tribes. He had heard of the beautiful daughter of the chief of Vatulele and decided that she was worthy to be his wife. Finally, after much preparation, our bold young chief set off, laden with gifts, to seek the favours of yalewa-ni-Cagi-Bula. He was well received by the chiefs of Vatulele, and confidently, he produced the special gift which he had personally carried from his mainland.

This gift consisted of the greatest delicacy known to Fiji Islands, a bundle of giant prawns from the coastal streams of Viti Levu, cooked to a tasty turn in coconut milk. Such a delicacy could be expected to melt the heart of any Fijian maiden - but not so on this occasion.  Her face clouded in anger and with flashing eyes she commanded ladies in waiting to seize him and take him to the highest cliff on the island above the "Caves of the Eagles" (known in Fiji as Ganilau) and cast him out into the sea. As he tumbled down the cliff to the sea his gift of bright red prawns fell from his hands into a rocky pool at the base of the cliff, and the leaves in which they were wrapped fell among the rocks around the pool. Our bold young chief survived the fall and returned sadly home to end his days pining for his lost love. Everyday he would go down to the sea and look towards the south where on a clear day, he could just make out on the horizon a dark line which was Vatulele. Legends tells us that on one occasion he even began to build a bridge of stone to span the sea between Vatulele and Viti Levu and the remains of this bridge can still be seen jutting out to sea near the village of Votualailai. The end of the story is as interesting as the beginning for where the red prawns fell into the rocky pool they came to life and to this day the pools under the cliffs on Vatulele are filled with bright scarlet prawns and in the crevices of the rocks grow the leaves in which they were wrapped. To the Fijians of Vatulele these bright scarlet prawns known as "URA-BUTA" or "cooked Prawns" are sacred and may not be harmed in any way.



        Traditional Fiji Kava Ceremony

In Fiji, the drink yaqona (kava) played an important part in public business and social life. The kava was mixed in large wooden bowls which were used for no other purpose and gained a bluish-grey glaze from contact with the kava. The drinking cups were made from coconut shells with the chiefs having their own cups which were tabu to anyone but themselves while the lesser men drank from a common cup.

Made from the dried roots of the shrub Piper methysticum, the kava root was cut into small pieces and was originally chewed but later grated to a pulp and steeped in water. The mixture was then strained, often through a bundle of hibiscus fibre, and was then ready for use. The tempo of the ceremony was governed by measured hand-clapping and the chanting of traditional songs. The mixing of the kava, the straining and the serving were all done with a high degree of skill and grace with every detail being watched by critical eyes.

Traditionally, the kava bowl was placed some distance from the chief. The chanting party was ranged on either side with the minor chiefs and ordinary people behind. When the kava was ready, a cup-bearer came forward, his cup was filled and he turned to face the chief. Holding the cup with arms fully extended, he slowly lowered his body until his knees were fully bent and every muscle was taut. At the appropriate point in the chant he would straighten up, approach the chief, stooping again he would fill the chief's cup and then squat before him. The chief drained the cup, and, amid hand-clapping and cries of maca! (empty!) spun it to the mat at which time the bearer returned for a fresh supply.

In drinking the kava, the right of chiefs to take precedence in order of rank was carefully observed; a high chief was followed by his herald (mata-ni-vanua) even if other chiefs were present. The details of the kava ceremony varied, however they were always occasions of ceremonial of which the yaqona vakaturaga (chiefly yaqona) and the yaqona meketaki were reserved for high occasions and very honoured guests.


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