Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When vavalagis dance the meke



the pics are from http://www.flickr.com/groups/tribewanted/pool/
from w
Certainly this is a first - a group of vavalagi visitors to Fiji perform mekes at a Fijian traditional gathering such as Macuata Day in Naduri! Way to go - instead of tourists sitting down watching the locals perform their dances. Shows there is a good cultural exchange and a patience to learn the dances, to dress up, go the distance.

from the Tribewanted website:
Macuata Day
Community → David Randall's blog
By Kai Viti, ,
Posted 4 days ago
Bula sia tribe.

Last week was a full on cultural week for the tribe here on Vorovoro. All the tribal chief’s of the Macuata region were having a four day meeting in Nadori. On the Monday we had the Sevu Sevu so Tui Mali could leave for Nadori early Tuesday morning. We were to meet up with him on the following Friday to perform meke for the chiefs on their day of celebration, Macuata day.

So the week begun with the tribe eager to learn and perfect the meke for our performance on Friday. It is a great honour to be invited to a gathering of chiefs and to perform a traditional Fijian dance to them. So the tribe were all very excited and determined to get the meke well and truly ingrained into their psyche. We split into men and women so the girls could do a fan meke and the boys would do the vuikimalua and the katuba nivucu, commonly known to us as the 1 to 6. The moves are easy but there are a lot of intricacies that make it frustrating to learn. [Moves can be very similar but have very different endings which is a tad confusing. ] The girls were taught by Va until she had to leave on Wednesday and then by Anna. The boys were taught by captain culture himself, Savé.

On Thursday afternoon we had a ceremony to welcome in Tui Mali’s new boat. This was a great opportunity for a dress rehearsal for Friday’s big event. I was dressed up in tapa and a huge piece of cloth that was carried by most of the tribe. Having 12 girls in my costume was really nice I have to say. I had to walk very slowing into the Fijian village so that my entourage would keep up. Movement is a tad restrictive when you’re attached to 12 girls.

Earlier that day we had gone on a mission to find materials for our costumes. We used leaves from the duva vine. Savé took us on a rummage through the jungle to find some and then we all got to tie them up to be used around the wrists for the men and around the waist for the women. We got to wear them later that day as part of the boat ceremony we did for Tui Mali’s new boat. The ceremony consisted of drinking grog (now there’s a surprise) until the boat came and we made our way to the beach. While the boat was coming into the shore 3 guys jumped off the boat and swum the last 50 metres or so. We then covered the boat in the huge piece of cloth that I had been wearing earlier. Tevita then offered some grog and Puasa accepted on behalf of Tui Mali and much was said in Fijian in a very fast and loud way by Tevita. We then made our way to outside Tui Mali’s house. His veranda had been done up by Tevita earlier and looked really amazing. We drunk more grog with the boat captain who had come all the way from Suva and Puasa’s son. Then I was invited on to the veranda to watch the guys perform the meke. I hadn’t seen it from such a vantage point before. The girls one looked great as did the boys although there was much room for improvement on the last meke for the boys. We then ate and carried on the grog session. I left after a few hours but team Fiji kept drinking until the wee small hours.

The next morning we had an early breakfast and all got on boats and headed for Malau. There we boarded a bus which took us to Nadori. The bus journey was fun, if a bit dusty, and everyone was in a jovial mood even though team Fiji had very little sleep. They don’t seem to need much. I was excited as I didn’t know what to expect although I knew everyone would be extremely welcoming. When we got to Nadori we were shown to our area. Each district had it’s own covered area with matts and a tanoa. We had our own section as Mali district’s area was full. Almost as soon as we sat down a group of women came over with massive amounts of tea and cake. No one else seemed to be offered any and I’m not sure if that’s because everyone else had eaten already, we were a tad late, or Fijians only offer tea and cake to foreigners. We seemed to be given heaps of tea and cake everywhere we go but I rarely see Fijians eat it themselves. I’ve never eaten so much cake in all my life until I came here.

After tea the meke started. We watched one and then when behind a building to get ready for our performance. I again got a special bit of tapa to wear as chief but it was very minimal compared to the previous day. The girls performed their meke first and the crowd absolutely loved it. You can judge how much they like what you do by the amount of cloth that is given during your performance. Collectively we came away with a huge amount of cloth even after giving loads to other groups. When it came to the boys performance I was really calm and looking forward to it. When you are performing in front of people who just want you to do well and are really happy that you are embracing their culture then you can’t go wrong. Of course you want to do your best but I felt no pressure from the audience. We were warmly received and I felt it was over far too quickly, I loved it. Performing Fijian dance to Fijians is a wonderful way to show your appreciation and love of this beautiful country and people. I felt such an honour to be there. It was a very special day. When the mekes were done, and there were some amazing ones, especially the last group of ladies, the band started playing and people started dancing. Many Fijians would come to us and ask us for a dance, another way of showing their appreciation.

The journey back was great as team Fiji sung their appreciation of the day. When we got back I was very tired and very dusty from the bus trip and everyone had a swim and wash in the sea before getting ready for Roger and Franklin’s leaving party. Macuata day was a day that will live with me for many years to come.
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Meanwhile Tui Mali, Apenisa, relaxes!

3 comments:

meg said...

Cool! But is it a first? Here at Treasure Island the kids club children perform meke dances in costume twice a week in the restaurant in the evenings for the diners! The adults are always so amazed the first time they see it! But we haven't really made a group of adults learn the dances...

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Meg,
Oh yep, I sometimes exaggerate or get it wrong. Yes, people of a different group do join in mekes at tmes. I think the first time I met Peceli I was in the middle of a group of Rotuman girls, dancing, at a youth gig!
w.

meg said...

you would've looked a bit like my eldest daughter does at her school!

I loved those old photos you posted this week too...