Saturday, 6 June 2015

Tribal Harmony – The Way of the Fijian

Eighteen degrees South of the equator in the East Pacific ocean lie the three hundred and thirty three island nation of Fiji.

The Fijians are different from other Pacific nations in that they are the only Pacific people descended from Africa.  They are renowned for their navigational skills till today which makes sense when you think of the incredible distance they had to travel by boat in ancient times to get to Fiji from Tanganyika (the modern Tanzania). The legend of their mysterious journey is another story for another day because for now, I would like to tell you about their inherent synchronicity with nature.

A tribal people who still own their land, the Fijians live simply, surrounded by immaculate gardens of coconut palms, hibiscus and banana trees in tidy traditional huts devoid of clutter. The traditional ‘sulu’ or sarong is still worn by everyone and they will greet you with a friendly and open ‘bula’ smile which represents a welcoming peace and harmony. 

Kava ceremony

 Originally used only by the Chief, it has become an almost every day occasion or at least every weekend on the mainland.  On the outer, more remote islands, it is more traditional and just as often. Joining our tribe at a Kava ceremony we present a ‘sevu sevu’ - an authentic Kava root to the honorable Chief.

Most late afternoons, one can hear the sound of the Kava root being pounded with a large metal pestle and mortar type apparatus, a friendly clanging sound in the distance. The powdered root is squeezed with water in a cloth and poured into a Kava bowl, carved from the Wesi tree.

We are all invited to sit in a circle on a natural woven mat. The ‘bilo’ (coconut shell)  is filled, low-tide, high-tide or tsunami and is passed around.
The diluted, powdered root tastes like bark. Our tongues instantly go numb. A few members play the ukulele between rounds. The laughter comes as naturally as the deep blue waves in the nearby lagoon. The kava ceremony exudes a certain tranquility and everyone is free to tease, to laugh out loud and everyone does, for hours and hours.

We laugh from our bellies, a deep, loud, satisfying laugh, full of substance (excuse the pun). We giggle, chuckle, fall down laughing. We laugh at each other’s shortcomings and make fun of each other’s mistakes. It is an intelligent laugh, a knowing laugh, a kind laugh, a laugh that symbolizes acceptance and respect for the natural world.

In spite of the many hardships around their daily existence, the Fijian demonstrate a certain grace. Their attitude and way of life is to be admired and their ancient traditions to be cherished. We can learn a great deal from these gentle and strong people and should grant them the utmost respect.

To make things all the more intriguing, to be angry in Fijian culture is taboo. Imagine that………to be angry is taboo. This is the way of the tribal Fijian.

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By Maiyan Karidi @

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