Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Fijian Legend

A favorite pastime for Fijians is to tell stories of legends and superstitions. I have a great memory of my grandma telling my sister and I stories of the Fijian Gods. I wanted to share a legend and found one about the shark god.


Dakuwaqa the Shark God

One of the best known gods in Fijian legends is the fierce sea-monster Dakuwaqa. He was the guardian of the reef entrance of the islands, fearless, headstrong and jealous. He frequently changed himself into the form of a shark and traveled around the islands fighting all the other reef guardians.

One day he set out for the Lomaiviti group and after emerging victorious from this area he decided to set out for Suva. The guardian of the reef here challenged Dakuwaqa and a great struggle took place. There was such a disturbance that great waves went rolling into the mouth of the Rewa River causing valleys to be flooded for many miles inland.

Dakuwaqa once more emerged as victor and proceeded on his way. Near the island of Beqa his old friend Masilaca, another shark god, told him of the great strength of the gods guarding Kadavu island and slyly asked Dakuwaqa whether he would be afraid to meet them. Like a shot Dakuwaqa sped off towards Kadavu and, on nearing the reef, found a giant octopus guarding the passage. The octopus had four of its tentacles securely gripping the coral and the other four were held aloft. Rushing furiously in, Dakuwaqa soon found that he was being almost squeezed to death as the octopus had coiled its tentacles around him. Realizing his danger Dakuwaqa begged for mercy and told the octopus that if his life was spared he would never harm any people from Kadavu wherever they may be in any part of Fiji waters.

So the octopus released him and Dakuwaqa kept his promise, and the people of Kadavu have no fear of sharks when out fishing or swimming.

Even today when local fishermen go out for a night's fishing they reverently pour a bowl of yaqona into the sea for Dakuwaqa.

The high chiefs of Cakaudrove are considered the direct descendants of Dakuwaqa and their totem shark will appear to the reigning chief on occasions when momentous news is about to the announced.

For more fun Fijian legends click here for the South Pacific Holidays website.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Must have Fijian souvenir

Fijian Tapa (Handmade paper)
If you visit Fiji you’ll want to bring back souvenirs from your trip. I would suggest purchasing Fijian Tapa (Masi cloth) which is hand made paper with designs that are typically stenciled, stamped, or smoked onto the fabric. My grandma brought back this beautiful art and I loved it. There are many Tapa pieces to choose from including handbags, clothing, and décor.

As you may have already read in an earlier post Tapa (Masi cloth) is used in traditional Fijian dress. The cloth is used in many of traditional ceremonies and celebrations including Meke, marriage, death, worship and death.

According to the website of the Matangi Island Resort Fiji Islands Tapa is created using the following method:

The bark of young trees is stripped, and the bark and inner layer soaked and worked by scraping with a shell and pounding on a large log with a special tool to flatten and widen the material. Women generally do the pounding, and you frequently can hear them working in the villages.

After the material is initially beaten and worked, it is beaten again onto another piece of bark, or it is dried and glued onto another sheet. It is then dried and the patterns are stenciled onto the newly prepared fabric. Current-day patterns include bures, canoes, flowers and turtles.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fijian dress

Bula!

I found a great website which talks about the traditional and modern day dress for the Fijian Natives. You can visit it at http://www.fiji.resortspacific.com/tourism/culture.cfm

The following details can be found at the website:

In the past, the dress of Fijians consisted mainly of either loin cloths (for the men) and grass skirts for the women. In general it was the men (particularly the chiefs) who were more flamboyant in their dress - from their elaborate hairstyles to the clothing they wore. For the women, the length of the grass skirt depended on their marital status - short for single women and long for married women. Girls then wore virgin locks up until their marriage and usually had tattooes covering their lower regions (seen as a sign of beauty).

Today, women dress more conservatively - usually wearing masi or tapa cloth for mekes or weddings. In most cases, a cotton or silk or satin blouse is worn as a top with two or three layers of masi as a skirt. In most mekes, women often wear a specially made cotton blouse, a long sulu (called sulu I ra) and either a masi skirt or a tapa print shorter skirt worn over the sulu. Or in special occasions, a tapa top or sheath is worn across the chest (instead of a blouse) with two or three layers of masi as a skirt. On other occasions, women often wear a dress with a sulu I ra or a chamba which is a specially made top and long sulu.

The men either wear grass skirts for mekes and tapa for special occasions. On other occasions the men wear a sulu vaka taga (a sulu - what many mistake as a skirt) with a shirt - the common attire for church, functions and work. Different parts of Fiji also have distinctive types of dress. People from the village of Dama in Bua, Vanua Levu, don't wear tapa as their traditional dress. Their traditional costumes consists of pieces of finely woven mat called kuta - a type of reed. Kuta is the most highly possession among the people of Dama and Bua (and is called yau vakamareqti). Special adornments added to the dress also signify status. Chiefs or a person of high rank usually wear a piece of brown coloured masi (called masi kuvui) around their arms or tied around their waist as a sign of their chiefly status. Sandalwood dust on the hair is also a sign of chiefly status.

I hope you enjoyed the background on the dress of Fiji. My favorite Fijian outfit is the sulu. It comes in many wonderful colors and designs. If you plan on visiting a village in Fiji (for an example, a welcoming ceremony) don't forget to get yourself a sulu. You can purchase a sulu at an online store that I found. It has many great items at http://www.fijishop.com/

Ni sa moce

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Any suggestions?

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying reading about the unique Fijian traditions. I am having a great time learning and exploring the interesting customs of the Fijian natives and Indians. Especially the Lovo and the Firewalking ceremonies.

Many of you may have heard of the Fiji Islands. Are there any other things you would like me to explore next? I would love to get suggestions or comments.

Be on the lookout for more fun things to come.

Also, check out the new links including Weather Pixie and Flickr Zeitgiest. Weather Pixie has the current weather in Fiji. Flickr Zeitgiest displays new pictures submitted for sharing. Many of the pictures I have posted were found at Flickr.com.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fiji Fire walking legend


The Natives and Indians practice the tradition of firewalking to purify themselves. Amazingly, the feet and ankles of the walker does not burn! For more information click here.

Check out the Ecology Photographic website for pictures of the entire ritual.

Speak Fijian

Learn how to say Fijian words and phrases at this website:
http://www.earthyfamily.com/FJ-words.htm

Ni sa moce.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fijian Food


The Fijian cuisine consists of food from the Natives and the Indians. Many of the foods prepared by the Natives and Indians share the same ingredients found on the island. These include taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, cassava, coconut, and fish.

It may be worthwhile to experience the traditional Fijian feast. To the left is a picture of a Lovo which is a feast cooked in the earth.
The Earthy Family website provides a great description of the Lovo feast:

"A communal village feast for special occasions such as weddings, festivals or the inauguration of a new chief. Lovo is prepared by digging a large pit and lining it with dry coconut husks. The husks are set on fire, then stones are heaped on top. When the flames from the coconut husks die down, the food is wrapped in banana leaves and lowered into the pit. Meat and fish are always put in first, and the vegetables are put on top. Everything is covered with more banana leaves and stones and left to cook for about 2 ½ hours. When it’s ready, it’s a feast for all!"

If you can't escape to Fiji for a Lovo you can make your very own. Just be prepared to dig a hole that is 2 feet deep in your backyard. Click here for instructions.

Cultural tension


Fiji has a great blend of cultures. The majority of the population is compromised of Melanesians (the Natives) and Indians. There are minority groups which include Europeans and Chinese.

My Indian ancestors came to the islands between the years of 1880 to 1916 to work as laborers for the British. In the past there has been great tension between the Natives and the Indians. In fact the election of the first Indian to become the Prime Minister resulted in a coup.

Many Indians are leaving the country. The future remains uncertain for the two groups. If you travel to Fiji you must be aware that there is instability in certain areas which have curfews.

The Fijian Art of Storytelling (Meke)


As you visit the villages of Fiji you will be exposed to great music and singing. Music is vital to the culture. The songs tell stories, legends, the spirit of the Fiji Islands. This is how legends are passed down.

The harmony is created with the orchestra (Vakatara) and the dancers (Matana). The orchestra typically chants or will use instruments such as gongs, bamboo tubes, beating sticks, and drums.

As you sit with your coconut cup of kava you will smell the scent of flowers from the garlands of the women dancers and smell coconut oil on the male performers dressed in warrior costume.

The above picture shows the Meke dance with women dancers and the orchestra in the background.

The Fijian Welcoming Ceremony


The Fijian natives are very friendly people. If you visit Fiji chances are that you will be invited to a village for the traditional welcoming ceremony. As the honored guest you are expected to respect the traditions of the ceremony.

It is required for one to please the host by bringing a present of kava (yaqona) to the chief of the village. Kava is the dried root of a pepper plant. The kava is made into a drink with the addition of water. Although it is non-alcoholic the drink will place one into a state of tranquility and will likely numb the lips and tongue of the drinker. Fiji is renowned for its relaxed and laid back reputation no wonder kava is the national drink.

In addition there are many other rules worth noting when attending the welcoming ceremony:

One must wear modest clothing, no hat or shoes.

Never touch the head of someone else.

Do not refuse the offering of the kava. Be prepared to gulp the entire cup of kava. It is very disrespectful if this isn't followed.

Relax and have a great time drinking kava while enjoying the music and singing.

For more tips on visiting a Fijian village click here.

Bula! Welcome to my blog.


Bula (boo-la meaning "life" or "good health") is a popular Fijian greeting. Fiji is a beautiful country composed of a very diverse culture with many amazing attractions and traditions. The country has a very laid-back environment in which there is no need to worry about which day it is or what time it is.

Recently the country has gained great popularity and has become a hotspot for celebrities having weddings, honeymoons, and their vacations. Most recently Tori Spelling wed Dean McDermott and Mrs. Federline (Britney Spears) enjoyed her honeymoon on the islands.

My family is orignally from the islands. I thought I would take the opportunity to learn more about the country I have yet to visit. Join me as I explore the Fiji Islands and get a taste of the people, the traditions, and the many attractions which are capturing many tourists and making Fiji one of the greatest places to escape to in the world.

Look at Links for photo galleries and to learn more about the Fiji Islands.