Friday, June 30, 2006

Re.Tagimaucia story from Taveuni

Thank you to Pandamonium for posting the story of the tagimaucia flower from Taveuni.
Here's a pic I have from a tourist brochure I kept because I used the tagimaucia story as a prompt for something I was writing. Someone said it does grow in the mountains of Vanua Levu as well as Taveuni, but of course the Taveuni people dispute that. There is a string-band song about the flower and I'll try and find the words. Tepola plays it a lot on Saturdays 3 p.m. Fijian program on SBS radio in Australia.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The floating island near Labasa

A house guest, Pita from Sydney, told me a story today about the floating island in Macuata. Pita is from Vunivutu village, east of Labasa. He said that it is within the village of Nubu, over an hour’s bus drive from Labasa, going east, there is a small lake with a floating island about the size of a large house. It is made of thick tangled reeds such as kuta and is called Nawaqakuta which means the Kuta reed boat. Kuta is a type of reed. The island is so-named because it moves like a boat. Pita said that a traditional priest, a bete, chants beside the lake and the island moves. Eventually it stops and sits beside the hard land. The people don't go swimming in this lake and it is rather shallow.

The only references I found to a floating island in a lake in this area is named as Nakelikoso, which is a village not far from Nubu. Today a road goes to Nubu. Before, access was by boat and river. The local people do not go near the lake because they are a bit frightened about it, Pita said. But when the priest performs his chant a group of people can stand on the floating island.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fiji Sugar Cane Story and "Tears in Paradise"

Other people can more eloquently tell the painful story of the early years of the sugar industry in Fiji because aspects of it have been called 'a crime against humanity' in the treatment of the girmit workers who were indentured from India in those early days. Rajendra Prasad writes the story in 'Tears in Paradise' based on his family history in the Ba area of Fiji. The website about the book is informative with excerpts, a letter to the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. and recommendations.

Cane cutting has started in Fiji

The cousins and nephews and nieces inform us that they have started cutting the sugarcane at Labasa for this season. Gangs of youths from Mali Island stay at Vatuadova for the season and work as one of the cane-cutting gangs. The lads get about $1 an hour I reckon and the family feeds them. Though most of the sugar in Fiji is grown by Indian farmers, there is now a considerable number of Fijian cane farmers and their youths work in cane-cutting gangs during the season.

The four mills in Fiji are Lautoka, Rarawai at Ba, Penang at Rakiraki and Labasa. There are sometimes glitches when there is a mechanical breakdown or a strike by truck-drivers etc.

The Labasa Mill commenced operations in 1895, but earlier there were mills in odd places for growing sugar such as Nausori, Suva and Navua - on the wetter side of Viti Levu. The very early Suva attempt was rather a failure and the cane was planted from the Nabukulou Creek down to where Government House stands!

One of the pics here is of flowering sugar-cane, and that season gives me the sneezes!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tinned fish or real fish?

The fish in the Labasa market are excellent, but more often than not, people buy tinned mackerel to make curries, etc. At one time we used to joke about the Mali fishermen who would bring their catch into the Labasa market, sell the fish, then turn around and spend the money in a supermarket and buy a crate of tinned fish to take back! At least mackerel is good for you - so they say. I can cook it in about six ways, (curry, kedgeree, with lolo and baigan,with pasta and cheese, toasted sandwich,) but sometimes the guys just open the tin, chop up some onions and eat it like that.

Labasa Chinese man turns 100

Longest surviving Asian in Fiji turns 100
Tuesday June 27, 2006, adapted from Fijilive.

Harry Yee Foong Gau believes he can live for another decade after celebrating his 100th birth at the weekend in Suva. He said the secret of his long life was being cautious with his life. "I have a normal meal three times a day but I’m cautious and very particular with what I eat. I eat almost everything, but it’s the quantity I take," he said. "I have a glass or two of whisky every day. I take a walk every morning, exercise every day and I always try and go out for swimming to make my blood veins moving. If I have a chance and I walk to the grocery shop every day to open it. I drink a little bit of grog but I hardly smoke. The secret is eat on time and sleep on time. I have been doing it in the last 50 years and the rate I’m in I can live for another 10 years,’’ he said.

He is from the village of Mewkong, district of Tai Peng in the province of Canton, which is located in the south of mainland China. Yee Foong had been in school for seven years in China before coming to Fiji in 1927.

He knew Fiji through one of his uncles, who had a big vegetable farm in Tamavua.
The trip to Fiji took a month, travelling first to Hong Kong, then to the Philippines, Sydney and then to Suva.

He was one of the first students to be enrolled at the then St Paul Chinese School now Yat-Sen School to learn English. He said the school was set up by Anglican Priests for Chinese children who wanted to learn the English language.

To his understanding there were already 2000 Chinese people living in Fiji when he set foot here. His first job was at a bakery in Toorak, before working with other Chinese businesses in Suva for nine months.

He then went to Labasa in 1929, becoming the first Chinese immigrant in the North. He set up a small grocery shop in the town’s main street and named it Yuen Hing Store, which is now run by his youngest son Robert Keith Yee.

He has three daughters and a son. The eldest daughter lives in China and is 68 years old with three children. Another daughter lives in Canada while he lives with his only son in Labasa.

He has been to China four times and last visited his village in China in 1990. His wife, Tong Chinyan, died at the age of 85 two years ago. Yee Foong has 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, two of whom live in mainland China.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Why do people blog?

from Wendy

Because it's there!
Peceli and I started this blog at the suggestion of a relative, then Peceli took off to play golf four days a week!

Anyway I read some other bloggers' reasons about why they blog and I've picked out random lines from their comments about blogging. The first five lines are from me of course!

Blogging is like skating on thin ice at times
Forgetting Google’s binoculars
That will post and repost mistaken ideas
Foolish one-liners
Never forget your ‘real’ name.

I love collecting things and clippings are all over the place in different notebooks and books, and blogging just adds to this mania for collecting because blogs can be an organizer of thoughts, insights, crazy moments.

The tools are easy, easier than setting up a website. It is a diary for friends, relatives, strangers or finding an audience when no-one else will listen. The connections not local, but global and it can be a meeting of minds, different, argumentative.

We live in the age of memoir and confession. Anything goes and everyone's an audience. You don’t need to be a celebrity or a world leader to be worth listening to any more.

We have a growing sense of our own mortality. Baby boomers in mid-life are beginning to sum up, to think about what we’ve learned from life, and interested in sharing what we find. We need to make our own mark, to stand out from the crowd.
and there is a lot of tumult and anxiety.

We are looking for answers and perspective.The Pope or the mullahs or the Christian Right do not provide adequate answers I can relate to. Slowing down and meditating on the moment brings me peace and balance.

The age of the misunderstood garret dweller is over. There are others - tens of thousands or more - who are traveling the same road, asking the same questions.

We create a more richly textured and friendlier world when we connect.

It gives me a way to make sense of me and my surroundings. It acts as my spiritual practice, a kind of meditation, where I can communicate without judgement or without my inner critic taking over. Not that my inner critic doesn't have a voice.
speak through images, photographs stolen from other websites.

A way of purging and reflection, the more we see the truth, a way to release pressure, create beauty and put in concrete form, some of the things that rattle around inside me. Modern life is bruising and so fast.

I occasionally suffer from information overload and have to disconnect for awhile.
A way to parse my crazy world, to make some sense of it.

It is a marketing tool too.

We are all voyeurs. You have to have a real talent to do them, though. Not to go into the morbid details of your daily toilettes. Know when to stop.

Needing to vent about some crappy situation in my life. Bemoaning some relationship issue or now mostly, just my private thoughts about various people, places, work, books read, etc. complete strangers out in the ether.

But then, who would want to read about my mundanities and/or profundities?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Some pics related to Labasa and babasiga

I found a few pics by other people of Labasa and babasiga land to remind us that this blog is supposed to be about Labasa! They are of the Savusavu-Labasa road, a floating island, snake rock Indian temple, Labasa River, a logging truck going down the main street of Labasa and the bus station.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Whalers in the South Pacific, early 19th century

From Wendy

When we make judgments about Japan's concern to increase whaling, we ought to remember the past stories as some of our kin have not been blameless and righteous in caring for animals and our environment.

I was searching for information about whaling in the Pacific but could not find any direct references to whaling in the Fiji area, though no doubt this was part of the story, together with the foreigners coming to Fiji to exploit the resources of sandalwood and beche-de-mer. Some of the crew of whalers most certainly found themselves shipwrecked in Fiji waters and were the ancestors of many Fiji nationals today.

Alan Moorehead's book The Fatal Impact, an account of the invasion of the South Pacific 1767-1840, was published in 1966 and has some stories about whaling.

Whalers came from Le Havre in France, Hull in England, New Bedford and Nantucket in America and the main whaling stations were in Hawaii, Tahiti, Bay of Islands in New Zealand, eastern coast of Australia at Sydney and the Derwent Estuary in Hobart. It is hard to believe that the whaling ships from Nantucket were owned by Quakers! Why? It was for the money as whale-oil was worth a lot. They could hardly justify their passion for whaling just to get corset -bones or umbrella spikes!

Conditions on board were appalling with minimal pay, rotten food, rats, cockroaches, continual dampness, sickness, danger and death. Perhaps a lad wanting adventure so signed up. Others wanted to escape a situation, even from the penal colonies in Australia. Melville referred to Australia when he wrote 'The whaleship is the true mother of that now mighty colony' saving settlers from starvation with the gift of ships biscuits! Omoo and of course Moby Dick reveal the sordidness of life on whaling ships.

Once the South Pacific was decimated of whales through the indiscriminate harpooning of males, females and young, the fisheries collapsed until about fifty years later when steam-driven whalers broke through the ice of Antarctica and the slaughter continued. By the 1930s up to 37,000 whales were killed every year.

It is only in very recent years that people have been concerned about a whale sanctuary and a moratorium on killing these beautiful creatures.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

when tourists wed in Fiji - Weddings Inc

from Wendy
Sometimes I write short fiction, so here is one based on observations concerning weddings in Fiji where tourist couples decide to tie the knot in an 'exotic' location. I've written mainly from the viewpoint of a Fijian girl working at a resort.

Weddings Inc.

Ana wipes four lipstick hearts smeared over a mirror as she cleans a guest villa 3 at the Vakawati Resort, vacated by Craig and Natalie from Sydney. Mynah birds screech from the nearby breadfruit tree waiting to pounce on food scraps and Ana also scratches and gleans what she can to supplement her $1.80 an hour.

Some tourists hand over gifts directly to her with a smile, perhaps an ugly dress that even Aunt Rosi would not wear. Toothpaste, suntan lotion, not that this was needed, sometimes Mills and Boons paperback novels in easy English.

Natalie and Craig had just flown away after six days. ‘Two hot natives in paradise,’ the white woman had screeched, joking about her husband and herself.
A page torn from a newspaper headed Travel Section lies on the floor. Ana picks it up and reads the article headed ‘Getting hitched abroad’ and a paragraph is circled with a feltpen, reporting on weddings on Vatulele and Sheraton. The writer does not mention Vakawati. Craig and Natalie told Ana they had found out about Vakawati from their travel agent in Sydney.

The idea of tourist weddings in this area was the inspiration of Talatala Jeke Kalougata, Ana’s uncle. Lucky Jack, as the tourists called him, had noticed how much money overseas people had and he decided that he would build a new church with money raised from this venture. He had his own business cards made in a quick-copy machine and send a bundle to his cousin in Sydney to give out to travel agents. Rev Jeke Kalougata, Minister of Hearts, Marriages arranged in Fiji. Phone Nadi, etc.

Ana picks up a scrap of paper on which Craig had listed the costs of the holiday - 6 days $3005, wedding ceremony $1450, licence for marriage $15, air fares $1680, video of marriage $150. The ceremony allocation, Ana knows, has been divided between the choir, the chief, the resort owners, the men who mixed the yaqona, the men who dug the lovo, and Rev Jeke who will get $60 which is the same as a week’s wage.

Murti who made the video got his $150 though it cost him $6 for the tape. But as everyone knows, he is a better businessman than people like Uncle Jeke.

There have been many ups and down in planning these weddings for mainly Japanese and Australian couples.. One problem was the amount of food needed. Other tourists at the resort automatically were guests at the weddings. They ate very little, going mainly for the salads which are not really food at all, and leaving the dalo and yam. Jeke’s family, the chief’s family and the villagers wanted the left-overs as is the custom, but Gopal, the resort accountant said no. No food for the villagers, just put the leftovers back in the fridge.

‘That is not our way,’ shouted the chief’s spokesman, but in the end the Fijian elders had to give in. The resort owners are from overseas so it has to be accepted that their way is different.

Natalie and Craig were a typical tourist couple. Natalie had been pleasant enough but she had no manners when she walked along the beach arms wrapped around her tall, skinny man, kissing and touching in that peculiar vavalagi way, with no respect at all about who is watching. Even on Sunday morning, when the Fijians were at church. and Ana sat in the choir, she noticed the boys and young men laughing. Old Joeli poked the children with his long pole but they still kept on laughing. When Ana looked through the open window she saw Craig and Natalie walking along the beach. Natalie had taken off the top of her bathers and her tiny white breasts were lightly bouncing. Uncle Jeke had thundered on, unaware, his voice almost falsetto towards the end of the sermon.

Ana decided that overseas women were obsessed with their bodies, lying in the hot sun to brown their skins but they had white patches on their bottoms and breasts when the sun could not reach. Natalie was thin, her body ugly, even though she was wealthy enough to eat plenty of food. She was about the same age as Ana, 24, but Ana was well-built. However Ana had a tooth missing. It had happened in a netball game. Some tourists had commented that it spoilt her smile. One offered to pay for her to fix it up, gave her $30 but she had used it to pay school fees for Ilisoni her nephew who had been sent back to the village to get his fees.

At Natalie and Craig’s marriage ceremony, Ana had helped Aunt Suliana to dress the bride and groom in barkcloth, pale cream masi wrapped first, then the Tongan style of brown and cream, then a layer of black and white stencilled masi.. Now Natalie had more substance. Craig was wrapped also and he scratched himself as the masi ticked his soft skin. He grinned as Ana coated his limbs in coconut oil. The small bare feet of the two looked so quaint.

Uncle Jeke had performed a satisfactory ceremony for the couple in his stilted English, often confusing gender in the foreign language, mixing up ‘him’ and ‘her’, and ‘she and he’, but nevertheless the marriage was still legal. Ana was fairly fluent in English and has gone to Secondary School up to Form 4.

After the four day honeymoon, it was time for Craig and Natalie to leave by courtesy bus. The Vakawati staff had stood together on the beach, all smiling, and singing ‘Isa Lei’ the farewell song. The guitar players were off-key and tired after a grog-session the night before. The bus dropped off the ten tourists and picked up another lot, this time from Japan. Three more weddings were planned from within this group.

Craig had given a tip of $10 to Ana’s Uncle Jeke. So far, after fifteen weddings, Lucky Jack had collected enough money to buy a pile of cement blocks as a start to his new church. It would take longer than he thought but he was happy that Weddings Inc was going to be a success.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Vorovoro Island project - interview with Ulai

copied from Chief's blog, tribewanted website:
Thursday 15th June

Island View

Bengazi talks to Tui Mali’s nephew and tribewanted community representative, Ulai Baya, about life growing up on the island and the exciting prospect of his community working in partnership with tribewanted.

Bengazi: “Bula sia Ulai! First of all, what does this partnership between Tui Mali and tribewanted mean to you and the community?”

Ulai: “Bula sia Bengazi! The partnership between tribewanted and the Tui Mali’s yavusa is an unprecedented one. One founded on the implicit understanding between the founders of tribewanted and the landowning unit towards a common goal to ensure the sustainable development of the island community. There is no better opportunity to offer a small community the chance to develop in a collaborative way than tribewanted’s choice of Vorovoro as the Adventure Island. So much so given the varying ideas, the different cultural and technical backgrounds, who will visit and call the island home for the next three years. Some of these ideas will undoubtedly remain and become an integral part of the island in years to come. To this end, this partnership is of immense value given the sum total of its socio economic perspective on the island’s future. Through tribewanted, the island itself becomes a phenomenon of intellectual pieces coming together.

Ulai (right) with Joreti Dakuwaqa, Manager for the Native Land Trust Board in Northern Fiji, on their way ‘home’.

Bengazi: “How does the Mali community feel about this project?”

Ulai: “To the community of Mali, this is a proud moment. People all over the world through this partnership will come to know of Vorovoro, the needs of its people and possible ways of addressing them with solutions from all corners of the globe. To the people of Mali, Vorovoro is very dear and close to their hearts. Reference to it, imbues a sense of pride and a feeling of infinite connection to everything regarding it. It is about who you are and where you come from. It is therefore an immense honor to have the world’s attention drawn towards you whilst at the same time showing concerns about it in facilitating discussions towards its sustainable development. The opportunities that results from it would be priceless.”

Bengazi: “What are you looking forward to?”

Ulai: “I am excited about the arrival of the first tribe members given the different cultures, views and their reaction to everything on the island. The sheer interest and focus on the island with continuous arrival of members would take sometime to sink in. I guess it must be seen to be believed given that the island is sometimes home to two people.”

Bengazi: “You haven’t lived on the island for quite a few years now, but what do you remember from your childhood there?”

Ulai: “I remember one particular story well. Once, whilst on “tutelage attachment” with my grandfather, the batteries of our little transistor radio lived its full life. That radio was our only connection to the outside world. During that week we went about our daily chores; cutting copra and digging and preparing yam gardens. On Sunday we waded across, during low tide to the nearest village to attend church. To our surprise, kids from that village were nosily making their way towards Vorovoro with fishing spears equipped for a whole days expedition. After some concerning thoughts regarding Christian values and reverence shown towards the day of rest, we were abruptly informed that “Sunday was yesterday” Indeed, we had lost a day.

Bengazi: “Do you have a favourite part of the island?”

Ulai: “Yes, my favourite part of Vorovoro is turtle beach (the southern tip) because it used to have a small concrete contraption where we would collect water from a small cliff face for afternoon bath. Usually the approach is along the beach during sunset after a hard days work. There is no view so magnificent as such. To a young mind it has a lasting and indelible effect of having survived a day without a bother from the outside world.”

Bengazi: “What do you think is the most important aspect of this project for Tui Mali?”

Ulai: “For Tui Mali, it is the welfare of his people. It is about the involvement of the whole community on a eco-sustainable project with little or minimal affectation to the environment. That Vorovoro is fronted by the third largest continuous reef formation in the world (now with fishing moratorium) tribewantred is a perfect compliment in many ways. The commencement of this partnership will undoubtedly showcase northern Vanua Levu to the rest of Fiji and the world. It is about the world (through tribal members) concerning itself in the development of the community of Mali and its people that has for Tui Mali the most exciting potential.”

Tui Mali requests ‘country music’ on Bengazi’s i-pod. What were the chances?

Bengazi: “What do you think lies at the core of the tribewanted idea?”

Ulai: “Tribewanted is about a social exchange of invaluable proportion. There’s a sense of travel and the experience of a new social environment. There is also that sense of satisfaction from the intercultural co-existence. The sum total is interactive community development with utmost respect to community values and its people. It will be an amazing experience for all involved!”

Bengazi: “Ulai, vinaka vakelevu and see you in your back garden soon.”

Ulai: “Vinaka Chief and bula vinaka tribe – bring on September!”

Ulai has a professional background in Law with special interests in Natural Resource law and related policy issues. Having practiced in Australian native title jurisdiction looking after Aboriginal native title rights and interests in land and waters for indigenous Australians in the Central Queensland region, Ulai is well placed as the community representative in Fiji. For Ulai getting involved with tribewanted was “a chance to realize a dream in attracting world attention to the North and to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of what we can offer along the Macuata coast.”

MJ & Ben

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fiji Living Magazine

We've been reading the June/July issue of the new magazine launched in Fiji recently. Lots of good pics and articles, gutsy, relevant. Though the senior gentleman on the cover mightn't really attract the young people the magazine is intended for! The price of $2.99 is quite reasonable.

A review of the magazine is below:

By Erica Lee and Sukulu Rupeni

SUVA: (Wansolwara/Pacific Media Watch): A group of young journalists and designers have launched a new lifestyle publication, Fiji Living, that hit the stores in April. The magazine is the brainchild of editor Stanley Simpson, a University of the South Pacific journalism graduate.

A colourful, vibrant, and hip magazine, it has articles on local celebrities, cars, politics, health, the latest fashion tips, music and art, food, animal care, current affairs, crossword puzzles and the odd joke or two.

Simpson, founding editor of the USP journalism programme newspaper Wansolwara, has worked with NGOs since graduating in 1998. He said he had dreamed of returning to journalism. He took on the challenge of starting a new magazine because he wanted to do something adventurous.

He described Fiji Living as a family-based magazine that, - as the title suggests - is about life in Fiji."This magazine can be read and enjoyed by parents, teenagers and children. This is a magazine for the future," said Simpson.

A youthful and talented team of emerging writers and graphic artists are behind the venture. They include former Fiji TV reporter Imraz Iqbal, creative director Josua Toganivalu and graphic assistant Bilitaki Lovo. Contributing writers include former USP journalism student Angeline Lal.

The cover girl in the first issue is local Fiji TV personality, Irene Edwards, who hosts the locally produced TV comedy, P.I.P.E. Four pages are dedicated to profiling the 25-year-old who has been in television for the past 10 years. The magazine reports that her fame has brought her a very persistent stalker.

There is a piece on the famous coffee shop, Headworks, run by the Bulatiko siblings, a story on Mereoni Taginadavui’s struggle with cancer, a question and answer interview with local rapper Sammy G and recipes by Tracey Powell.

The magazine also has a serious side and highlights issues of national concern such as road safety, crime and health.

The first-issue editorial by Simpson describes Fiji as country of many contradictions."We can be as modern as Sydney, yet as backward as Sudan," he wrote."Fiji Living aims to showcase the best and the worst of both worlds in full colour, analysis and character," he added.

Simpson aims to use his background in journalism, history and politics and environmental activism to take the magazine to new heights.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Whaling and whales' teeth

From Wendy

In the light of this week’s voting on whaling with representatives from South Pacific small countries, I decided to post some comments about whaling and whales’ teeth in reference to Fiji. There are always two or three whales’ teeth in our household, one always hanging on the wall over a piece of Fijian barkcloth. They keep moving on though when there is a need for a ceremony. Also, we have a large photograph on our lounge room wall of a whale leaping, next to photograph of Michael Jordan also leaping!

The following notes are from cutting and pasting after a Google search.

The tabua

In Pacific Island society, some objects can have a 'spiritual' value that far outweighs their actual 'market' value. The tabua plays a similar role in Fijian society. Tabua are pierced and braided whales’ teeth, originally taken from the lower jaw of sperm whales found stranded on Fijian beaches. As whale strandings were relatively rare, so were whales' teeth more valued as a result.

Tabua are considered by Fijians as a 'chiefly thing'. Ceremonial tabua have holes drilled through the tip and the butt, and a braided sennit cord is attached. The teeth are polished and sometimes rubbed with coconut oil and turmeric to darken them.

While the tabua is a uniquely Fijian object, whales’ teeth are used in other societies. European sailors used to carve and colour whales' teeth in their spare time - this was called scrimshaw. They were also shaped into necklaces and other ornaments in many parts of the Pacific, including Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawai'i and the Marquesas Islands. Māori also used whales' teeth to make rei niho (whale tooth pendants) which were worn by people of high rank. However, nowhere else in the Pacific do whale teeth have the power or meaning of tabua in Fiji.

History of the tabua

Before the Europeans came to the South Pacific, the people of Fiji used a wooden token for various ceremonial purposes. Called the bua-ta, the token was a highly polished piece of wood carved from the bua tree. But, about one hundred fifty years ago, western whalers began to call at Fiji, offering whales' teeth in exchange for sandalwood and other resources. The natives were struck by the similarities between the whales' teeth and their ancient bua-ta and soon adopted them instead, naming them a tabua.

It is believed that the whale’s tooth, as an object of value, was first introduced to Fiji from Tonga at the end of the 18th century. However, long before the whale’s tooth, Fijians placed special value on other objects - such as rare shells for important presentations. Depending on the significance of the event, several hundred shells would sometimes change hands.

The tabua is an honorary bestowal, presented as a traditional welcome to important guests, when making a special request, to seal a betrothal, as a token of mourning and to solve disputes. Each presentation ceremony follows a rigid set of rules for occasions such as birth, marriage, death, the launching of a canoe, the welcoming of visitors, the installation of a new chief. It is also used as an exchange of apology after a disagreement. In modern Fiji, the tabua holds an indispensable place in the social and economic life of the Fijian people that far outweighs its intrinsic value.

Whalers in Rotuma - from "Voyage in the South Seas," etc., Captain Peter Dillon, 1829, vol. ii, p. 95.

(Rotuma) became a favourite resort for American whalers in the South Pacific, as many as nine being remembered at anchor at one time at Oinafa. From these were naturally many deserters, who came to live on the island. At first they were received with open arms by the natives and supplied with food, but in time their numbers became ~o great, and their behaviour was so bad, that they were left severely alone; from first to last it never went so far as to allow them to starve. Their number at one time cannot have been far short of 100, but fortunately they acquired no lands and few wives, so that they have, comparatively speaking, left little traces. Their children invariably remained on the island with their mothers, and were brought up just in the same way as a Rotuman child would be. It is recorded, to show their mode of life, that one beachcomber started from his house to make a circuit of the island. Of course he bad to stop and get drunk with each white man on his way, so that he was over three months (in getting home again.)
International politics and whaling

I don’t think whalers would get a welcome in Fiji these days, but I wonder how many South Pacific small nations have voted with Japan at St Kitts this week in favour of whaling? On the Inernational Whaling Commission website the following are listed: Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, but not Fiji. I heard that the Solomon islands delegate absteined from one or more of the votes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Let me take you by the hand and walk you...

through the streets of Suva....
Princess Anne is visiting Fiji next month. She is one of the few royals who does seem to spend time on social justice issues. Let's hope that the NGOs in Suva will take her by the hand and allow her to meet and greet street-kids, people with disability, and those who struggle in life, rather than her itiniery be filled with meeting bling-bling high society.

from Fiji Live today
Fiji tour for Princess Royal
Thursday June 15, 2006

Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, will pay a private four-day visit to Fiji next month. She will arrive on July 6 and departs the country on July 9.
Princess Anne will stop over on her way to New Zealand where she is deputising for her father, the Duke of Edinbrough Prince Philip, for the Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue (EPLD). Prince Philip is the patron of EPLD.

As in any visit by a member of the Royal Family, the Fiji Government will host Princess Anne at Borron House and accord her a State banquet at Government House a day before her departure.

A committee, including representatives from Foreign Affairs, the military and Fiji Police, has been formed to prepare for the visit.

She is also expected to open the soon-to-be-completed Great Council of Chiefs complex in Nasova.

While in Fiji Princess Anne will visit several NGO projects and the UNAIDS scheme. She is the patron of the International AIDS committee.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Australian soccer after 32 years of waiting

By Bren O’Brien in Kaiserslautern

The electricity of expectation in the crowd at the Fritz Walter Stadium was enough to power the city of Kaiserslautern. For the Australian fans, the tension of 32 years without a match on the world's biggest stage was about to be released, and it told in their mood. Always the professional first and a fan second, I was battling to contain myself.

Helped by the magnificence of the stadium, whose red and white seats were quickly being covered by spectators clad in blue (Japan) and yellow (Australia), the atmosphere was trapped beneath the perspex roof of the stands, giving the impression that much more than the 46,000 capacity had packed the ground.

By sheer numerical advantage, the Japanese fans were the louder of the two, but the Green and Gold Army were doing their best, if sometimes a little unsubtle. 'Who killed all the whales?'

Okay, Australia won, but only in the last five minutes. However there has been some excitement in Australia because the game of soccer is now on the agenda. Though Australian Rules Footie is still the REAL game over here, especially in Victoria where it originated.
Some rugby matches are on too of course and ask any Fijian and he'll know all about that game!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A legend from Macuata

From Wendy,
I collected this story from Jovilisi from Sueni village. It is a story of Toatagane's daughters and their adventures and travels in Macuata as told by Jo using the English language.

Toatagane was one of the chiefs or our place in our old ancestral village of Nabatini. He had two daughters, Adi Senibua who was younger, and Adi Wata who was older. They were cooking their breakfast one morning consisting of yams. The method of cooking was preserving the liquid in the pot which was a clay pot. Their father returned from planting in the garden and the food was ready. The table was prepared for breakfast with nicely cooked yam. But they had made a mistake. They had poured away the juice from the pot which was earthenware. It was usual to eat the cooked yam with the liquid. 'What have you done with the juice?' shouted Toatagane. He was furious, sad, and angry.

So he told his daughters to pack straight away, to take their belongings and go to a faraway place where his name was not know. They were downhearted and started to cry to be banished like that. They travelled down the track towards the sea because their village is on top of the mountains in Vanua Levu.

The first place where they rested was near a river with big stones, big rocks piled together. They started to wonder how that came about and one said to the other, the young one. 'Just look at the big rock all piled together'. In our dialect the older one replied, 'They are just sitting on top of each other.' From then till today that placed is called Vatuveitikoni which means rocks on top of one another.

Further down it started to rain. The girls were getting wet and cold and they came to a deserted house, probably deserted during the war. In the kitchen they saw a burning fire so then took two sticks of fire with them and travelled further on. The older one was holding them, blowing them, and the younger girl was warming herself. That place is called Nabukaraliga which means that she was holding the fire in the air and blowing them to warm the younger sister.

Then they moved on and saw an orange tree fully ripened and full of fruit. When the orange tree ripens the fruits get yellow and reddish. Adi Wata called out, 'There's a big orange tree over there.' This place is called Vunimoli which means the orange tree.

They left that place and had to cross a small creek. They could not jump across because it was a bit swampy so the older one went and got a fallen log of a sea tree and put the log across the creek to help them cross. Kawakawasea means the sea which was used to cross a swampy creek.

They left that place and went further down and came across another creek and there were many spots on the rocks and the younger girl was delighted at the sight before them. She wondered how this happened and they named the place Vatuboroboro which means a spotted rock.

Then they went further down to the place that today is the town of Labasa. There was a large sea tree. It is a very large tree grown in Fiji which usually bears fruit which is sweet when ripe but we don't usually eat them, only when we are really hungry. Most people just chew them. When the two girls reached there, there were many bats flying all over the tree eating the fruit. They named that place Nasea, the place of the Sea tree. This is where the town of Labasa is situated now.

They left there and went further down to a place where the village of Naseakula now stands. It was during low tide and because these girls were from the bush they were delighted to see seashells along the bank of that small creek. The younger girl was picking up the seashells on the bank, savulu. That is why the vanua of Labasa is called Wasavulu by its chiefly title until today. She stayed there and her sister went further on.

The place she came to is what is called today Tuatua. She sat down to wait for her younger sister and she was calling on top of her voice but the younger one answered back to Wata. 'I'm not going any further. You can go. I am staying. Go on' So the younger one 3was left there, Adi Senibua, and she became the chief of that place because she was good-looking, beautiful and now I heard about this very old story that she became the vu of that place which is called Madraibokola.

The elder girl Wata went further down to where the Wailevu village is situated. She was keen to see this wide river and she had to cross it so she swam across. She called this place Wailevu which means a very big river.

Further down she was getting cold and she came across a small river just two to three kilometres down from Wailevu and she was saying 'I have to swim across'. Qalo means swim and we call this place Qalowaqa which means a place to swim.

Then she left that place and went further down and then came across a village. The people were having lunch there, a pudding made out of tapioca and coconut cream. She came in from the bush not knowing this food. There was no tapioca from her home village. She liked the taste of the pudding and when she finished the first plate the ladies said, 'Have some more pudding' Me tavi na yabia? This referred toa the second serve of the pudding by calling the place Tabia.

Then she came upon a hill and on top of the hill looking down at the sea thre was a village down below. But there was an army of villagers just fighting there, burning down villages and when they saw this woman descending from the hill they thought that she was a spy. They tried to catch her and were yelling on top of their voices. 'Catch her. Yalava. Catch from there. Yalava is the place. Chase her from there.'

She left there and came further down and when she came down to the second village which is Korotubu and there were some people there. They were occupied and they threw stones and rocks at her. Tubua mai ina. That place is called Korotubu.

She left there and it was getting dark and she was getting tired also and needed a place to sleep on the way. There were a lot of coconuts and a big dilo tree on the beach. She brought two coconut leaves, the dried leaves called Sasa and spread them around. Sasa is the dried coconut leaf. That place is called Sasa.

She left Sasa and went further down to where the village of Naduri stands today. That army of warriors that were fighting along the coast had destroyed the village, burnt it down. Only the posts were left, all burning. She was unhappy because nobody was there. It was empty. 'All the place is burnt down. Only the posts are standing up' she thought. Naduri means burnt posts. So she was there alone and made up her mind not to go further but to find a place to stay for the time being. So she looked down towards the west and saw there was an island. She thought it might be safe if she went there.

So she turned herself into a bat and flew across to the island which we called today Macuata i wai. Nowadays in Naduri there are still people by the name of Tamaibeka, still using that word, (not nabeqa) some of the chiefs of Naduri. And she went and there was a wiriwiri tree. Boys came to the wiriwiri tree and saw this bat hanging up there and started to collect stones to throw at the bat. But she spoke to them. 'I'm not a bat. I'm not a flying fox. I'm a human being'. So she changed into a person and came down. They saw that she was a beautiful girl and took her home and then made her chief of Macuata i wai. She was staying there with the people feeling very safe and the people were very kind.

And one day when she was collecting seashells from the beach, her father, Toatagane back at Batini on top of the mountain was very lonely and he looked down. He saw her picking up the shells and in our dialect language he said, 'Ma cu o Wata ni vili mena vivili' which means Wata is picking up seashells. That is where the name Macuata derives from and from that time until now these two places where the young ladies stayed most of the time, they still have a very strong link with our place.

Up to the time when they signed the Deed of Cession there were two chiefs of Macuata who signed the Deed of Cession, one from Naduri and one from Nasekula. Katonivere from Naduri and Ritova from Naseakula, one from the older sister from Naduri, and the younger sister from Nasekula.

Jo said, This story was told by my grandfather to Ratu Sukuna in 1928 to the Native Lands Commission. This is written down. It is in the Native Lands Commission files.

Peceli said, Maybe it is in the category of ai tukutuku raraba. There are stories told, this is one of them.

Jo said, My grandfather's name is Tomasi Naceba. Ratu Sukuna was in Macuata. They held the first Native Land Commission in 1928 in Naduri. Ratu Sukuna was Commissioner of Lands. The people of Macuata could not make a history of about they originated from. There were too many stories and Ratu Sukuna could not be convinced so my grandfather came. A message was sent to my grandfather through the Tui Labasa of that time because the Tui Labasa is related to the people of the time. Their mother comes from Vuo which is bati to Labasa and he knew that their people though were not from Macuata but their mother's were. My grandfather went down to Naduri and told the story to Ratu Sukuna and this story convinced him that this was the real thing that had happened. He had been hearing this and that and couldn't believe it. After hearing this story Ratu Sukuna told the chiefs of Macuata ' I think you of the vanua of Macuata should by right owe their allegiance to Batini, the place they originated from.

A Canadian Indian poet writes of the girmits of Fiji

from Wendy
I came across a website about a Canadian writer,Kuldip Gill, who researched the lives of elderly Indian women in Fiji and I found one of her poems based on her interviews. Girmit refers to the indenture system, a shameful period of colonial history where labourers were treated like slaves to build up the sugar industry in countries such as Fiji. Many of the people in areas such as Labasa, Ba, Tavua, Lautoka, Nadi are descended from men and women whom were brought to Fiji under the indenture scheme.

Kuldip Gill writes:
A language can change due to migration, or as is the case in Fiji and other island nations, indenture or slavery. In Fiji, the name of the language spoken by North and South Indians has taken on its own flavour as the indentured group, an amalgam of very mixed ethnic, religious and caste groups, learned to speak a dialect formed on the islands based on the diversity of the indentured. These few lines from my sequential set of poems Fiji Ghazals, drawn from the lives of five old Indo-Fijian women, illustrate this point, as well as how I use another language in my poetry. Following convention for this form, it is un-named.
She swings to and fro: identity to icon, and back. Her lies.
She pumps her feet caste to caste blue skying with friends.
Girmitya, a noble mask of oneself, the collective memory.
The other portrait a tracery, the overseer’s whips’ lines: doubts, fears.
I was eleven when I got married and came here. In Nasavu, I stayed
for three or four years. Sometimes I liked it. Sometimes I did not.
I have to stay with my husband even if I have difficulties,
I rati, rati. I had a baby girl, a child—I had them every three years.
Language? the teacher says, “the lingua franca here is Fiji-Hindi
We try for a coherent discourse”. She says that. We call it Fiji-bat.
— Kuldip Gill

The Fiji Ghazals are based on interviews of five old women, children of indentured persons, during Kuldip Gill's doctoral fieldwork in Fiji from 1985-1986. The women had no idea where in India they were from or their caste.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Sea and Fiji and New York

Well, the Tui Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere is in New York to receive an Award for conservation. It is very pleasing that Fiji's wonderful reef resources are on the agenda as worth caring for. And the waves are good in Fiji too, but hard to find. The pic is at Namoto Island and by Warren Bolster.

from Fiji Times today: Top honours for Fijis reef project
Thursday, June 08, 2006

MACUATA chief Ratu Aisea Katonivere was in New York yesterday to receive the Global Ocean Conservation Award for mooting the protection of the third largest barrier reef in the world.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was also a recipient of the award for working in partnership with non-government organisations and villages.

Mr Qarase and the Tui Macuata were honoured for their partnership and commitment to ensuring that at least 30 per cent of Fijis inshore and offshore marine areas would be effectively managed and financed within a comprehensive, ecologically representative network of marine protected areas by the year 2020.

In a statement issued by the Conservation International yesterday, Mr Qarase said the Government, local communities and non-governmental organisations worked together in this stupendous partnership.

He said the Government was committed to develop a network of marine protected areas into a mainstay for national incomes, coastal livelihoods and traditional cultures.

He said the waters around Fiji could continue to be a source of beauty and biodiversity as much as sustenance and income for the future generations.

Ratu Aisea said he was proud to be a conservation convert.

He said he would encourage the Great Council of Chiefs to renew their commitment to marine conservation. Ratu Aisea has persuaded four other chiefs to join him in establishing the Macuata Marine Protected Area Network and management plan.

Visual Arts in Fiji an untapped resource

from Wendy

As far as I know the only courses in Fiji in Visual Arts are at the Nasinu Training college and at FIT. This is an untapped resource in Fiji as it could become part of a lucrative industry related to tourism. Already screen printing has developed to a high standard (and at the lower end of the scale, some of the sulus tourists purchase are not well-designed).

Tomorrow is Open Day at the FIT in Suva. To my way of thinking, technical education at a tertiary level can be much more useful than theoretical studies at a university.

I have heard that they offer a music course now at FIT as well. In the future - Script-writing and Acting - so that gives young people even more options for careers. Even working as an Extra can be lucrative. Peceli did a voiceover for Pacific Blue and got $500 for an hour's work! Though usually an Extra in Oz might get about $100 a day. I wonder what the Fiji actors get when movies are made in the Pacific Harbour region?

And best of all is the artwork produced at the Oceania Centre at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. The Red Wave catalogue takes a while to download but it gives examples of wonderful South Pacific paintings. (Code doesn't work properly for me but a google search should find it.)

FIT Gears up for Open Day
From Fiji Village June 7th
The school of Hair Dressing and Visual Arts will be one of the features at the Fiji Institute of Technology open day tomorrow. Director Kolinio Meo said the two new fields will be in demand in the future and they want to let people know what Hair Dressing and Visual Arts is all about.
He also adds that another new course is script writing and acting to cater for the booming movie industry in Fiji.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Students check quality of Qawa River

The Labasa Sugar Mill has been reprimanded a few times about pollution of the Labasa rivers, particularly the Qawa River. Students of the nearby school, All Sasints Secondary School monitor the water quality. I wonder if the mill has done anything about the problem since they were awarded a black mark award a couple of years ago!

The following information is from project notes.

The River Care Project has been successful in Fiji, where it is active with 16-18 year olds in 80 Fijian schools. The project involves a research and monitoring component, which is then used to mobilise community action. For example, students at the All Saints Secondary School at Labasa found that after 12 weeks of sampling and investigations, the Qawa River was highly contaminated. This was due to discharges from the sugar mill and the power station, and that furthermore almost every individual living near the river had contributed to its contamination. The students had conveyed their findings to the officials at the sugar mill and to local authorities and they had made a presentation during one of the Small Islands Voice Community Outreach 'Open Days' organised by the University of the South Pacific.

The River Care project in Fiji works closely with the Curriculum Development Unit of the Ministry of Education. There is a River Care newsletter - 'Ripples'.

Following a Sandwatch training workshop in Fiji in December 2005, Live and Learn has received funding from Vodaphone to expand their River Care project over a three-year period (2006-2008) and to start Sandwatch activities with several coastal groups - schools and communities - in Fiji.

'The Land has Eyes' now on Oz TV

The movie 'The Land has Eyes' will be screened on our Australian TV tonight (Tuesday) 11 p.m. SBS. It's about life in Rotuma, a Polynesian island which is part of the Fiji group, a people with their own language and culture.

Vilisoni Hereniko is a writer and academic and was the artistic mind behind the production of this movie. He says, "It is my hope that audiences everywhere will not only be entertained by this story, but will walk away with a precious sense about Rotuma, its culture and its people. More than ever before, may we all recognize that we need the wisdom of our ancestors. With this film, I want to express the ancient Rotuman belief that:
the land has eyes
the land has teeth
and knows the truth.

May justice prevail, not just in film, but also in real life.'

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Update on Vorovoro - Tribewanted?

from Wendy
Vorovoro Island - the tribewanted scheme

I've been checking out the tribewanted on the net and notice that though they've got lots of media coverage and plenty of hype, they are not getting the 5000 they want so far. They hope to start September 1st.

It sounds a great idea - kind of back-packing plus work-camp, plus a TV documentary series I guess. Now my point of view - not a spin - is what trade-off will the Fijians get from leasing out Vorovoro Island for three years? Tui Mali is closely related to my husband and he lived with us at one stage when we lived in Rakiraki, in fact when our first son was born and it's his birthday today!

I've been to Vorovoro and Mali Island dozens of times, especially when we lived at Nukutatava Beach - out of Labasa.

It's okay if the young people joining up are eco-conscious, culture conscious and will be respectful towards the indigenous people over there. Tui Mali is a lovely guy and the Mali Islanders are all our relatives! We don't want people trashing the place. There's talk of catching and eating sharks. Not on! That is the totem of the area. What about Sunday and tabu? The local Fijians are strict Methodists so will the tribeswanted respect the use of Sunday etc.?

Okay I'm a pessimist and a whinger but I've been told stories that some vavalagi volunteers in Fiji do not do a day's work for their keep. Let's hope this scheme goes ahead and that there are ethnical standards in relating to the local people so that they are not exploited. The pics show the beach, a rocky headland, a kid from Mali Island and Apenisa, the Tui Mali.


Babasiga came up as a blank? Why?