Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Our Fiji family network

Nadogo Mataqali – Fijian family network

Nadogo means a mangrove tree. Veidogodogo means a mangrove forest and Dogo vere refers to the complicated thick intertwined mangroves. This is a metaphor for the way Fijian families create a large network through marriage with each new generation.

For example my mataqali (clan) is called Nadogo and my father’s relatives are from Naseakula (Labasa) Wailevu, Matana, and Mouta, all in the Macuata province. My mother’s relatives were from Mali Island, Cikobia Is and Taveuni Is. The map on the central part of Vanua Levu has a mistake. Naseakula is marked where Walevu village is.

In the next generation of my sisters and brothers the network grew through marriage to the people of Gau Is in Lomaiviti, Tavea Is in Bua, Swan Hill town in Australia, Qeleni village in Taveuni, Nokonoko village in Ra, Mali Is., and Nakama near Labasa. In the map of Fiji you can see that the family is extending to a wider geographical area such as places in Viti Levu.

In the next generation – our children and their cousins – the family widened the network even further and included Savusavu, Sasa (Naduri) Wailevu in Cakaudrove, Mali Is. Kadavu, Savusavu, Taveuni, Bua, Navuso village in Naitisiri, Moala Is. In Lau, Yacata. Is.in Lau, Gau Is. Somosomo, Taveuni, and Nawaka village near Nadi.

This view of Fijian family networks mean responsibility such as assistance in times of need as with a funeral, helping with school fees, informally adopting children, hospitality, and there are huge responsibilities involved in being part of such a wide extended family. With a money economy and a trend towards individualism this network is challenged very much.

Pio Manoa, a Fiji poet wrote about the Fiji connections in this way:

My home, it’s not just this house we live in. It’s that house next door and the next and the next. My home is this entire village and not this village. It’s also the next one and the next, and even those other ones across the sea. Home can be a spread of islands.

The land’s bounty and human toil, the fruits of earth, the gifts of earth, we bring our gifts of time and labour. We work together to secure a place in the life cycle. The energies of the community meet and blend and are renewed in ceremony and ritual. Each one knows his place and function. The forms, the gifts of age, the collective wisdom of the old, the calm, the dignity, the depth, touch the living chord of our history.

The life chord is woven into this piece of earth. It is part of us as we are part of it. Touch this common pulse in us. Touch our living history. We will change as time directs the river to carry these hills down to the sea.
This was written maybe over twenty years ago and is true about the inter-relationships of Fijians, like the metaphor I used above about the intertwining of the mangrove trees and roots. We need to preserve this view of Fijian networks but today we need to apply this also to include the stranger, visitor, people from other ethnic groups because our world is much more complex and is multiracial, multicultural.

1 comment:

Pandabonium said...

These relationships are important to maintain, as you say. The analogy of the mangroves is a good one. In many places this has been lost during "prosperous" times - a mis-nomer in my opinion for what is lost is of far deeper value than the "prosperity" that replaces it.

In Hawaiian communities it is much the same as Fiji. Here in Japan, we have local organizations. Our neighborhood collects funds from each family to pay for local expenses of the rubbish collections, community center, etc. and we are all expected to take turns helping with recycling, clean up of roads, maintaining the local shrine, and funerals. It makes for much stronger communities I think.