Friday, September 22, 2006

Two Fiji wood engravings

Though photography was used in Fiji in these years, here are two wood engravings. There's not much information but they do say something about status, culture, and the putting on of the cloth when people join the lotu -church. The man in front with an umbrella has a higher status than the others. The liku - little grass skirt denotes the old ways or a bit of both. The gifts are for a church function? When people in Fiji criticize the donations in money/kind/hospitality do they realize that this is an old tradition in Fiji - to present gifts? The early missionaries just carried on from that tradition and called it vakavisioneri but it was not new at all.

I do not like the implication in the picture about diving for coins to amuse the vavalagi visitors/tourists. That is so patronising. Does it still happen?

The pictures are in the Melbourne library.

Date(s) of creation: March 20, 1878.
print : wood engraving.
Reproduction rights owned by the State Library of Victoria

Date(s) of creation: July 12, 1875.
print : wood engraving.
Reproduction rights owned by the State Library of Victoria
edited by w. 25 Sept.


tooners said...

these are nice. how do you like living in fiji? it sounds wonderful... i've heard that the island is gorgeous.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hi Tooners! We don't actually live in Fiji - but in Geelong, Australia, but we come and go, come and go. Fiji landscape is dramatic and beautiful as it is tropical. The people are mostly kind and hospitable, but sometimes long-suffering as they are not usually rich.

I lived there for 13 years and nowadays just come and go. Lots of our family are in Fiji including our grandchildren.

There is occasionally disquiet with polical stuff and coups which has caused some distrust between people, so it is not a tropical paradise, but is complex and contradictory.

Anonymous said...

The picture reminds me of the fijian tradition of 'veisolevuti'. This means the showering of 'gifts' in the way of food items and traditional'goods' such as the 'tabua', fijian mats and other prized items depending on where you come from in Fiji.

In Macuata for instance, Caumatalevu women present the 'kuta'(finely woven mat from a water-reed) at these occasions. You can exchange these 'kuta' mats for a few 'lalaga's of gatu from Tongan women. For Fijian men, the tabua is the most prized.It is presented to seal negotiations, request forgiveness and reconciliation or to show one's appreciation for what is accorded them in any traditional ceremony.

Today the 'veisolevuti' is no longer the'gifted' affair it once was, because our traditionally prized items do not freely circulate as they should.People are hoarding these items and selling them to 'Pawn Shops' in exchange for cash!

I remember how my Dad used to always ensure that a few 'masarau's'(word for tabua in my dialect) were ready as an exchange for receipt of others being presented by the opposite entourage. Even to this day, he continues that the proper Macuata way is to always exchange a 'tabua' for another. Macuata does not present 'yaqona' in exchange for a 'tabua'.This way our 'tabua's', are circulated continuously. Sadly, not every Fijian is doing this.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Yes you are right about the tabua - it should not be pawned, but kept respectfully in the household to await another occasion. I read a lovely little book one time on the adventures of a tabua - a book about a hundred years old - that showed the various occasions when a tabua was used. I would like to rewrite that kind of story some time.
Hey, I have read your posting because I got a notification in my email about comments! Okay, I delete stuff too at times - such as when I took the bait about Survivor and Fiji.
Well, you do have a point about clothes of course, but it's hardly a dog's anxiety don't you think? Actually the Fijian sulu on guys looks very nice, but the muumuu type of dress - though okay for grandmas like me, are not so flattering for the young gals.

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