The argument about the continuation of Fijian traditional customs for weddings and funerals (and Methodist conferences and big soli occasions I suppose) has once again surfaced with the argument about the extra-ordinary financial burdens. Here is an article from today's Fiji paper about it. A civic education workshop at the Pacific Theological College in Suva, yesterday looked at the continuation of Fijian customs.
Traditions at crossroad
By SAMUELA LOANAKADAVU
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
A CALL by the Fijian Affairs Board for Fijians to abandon some of their cultural and traditional practices is a good idea, says the Soqosoqo Vakamarama. General secretary Adi Finau Tabakaucoro said "it will be good to reduce the amount of time and money we spend during the funerals of our relatives and weddings because they are not suited to the present economic climate that we are facing in the country".
"However, it is totally up to the individuals what they want to do because the proposal is only an advisory for the people on something they might want to consider," said Adi Finau. She said the Soqosoqo Vakamarama, the biggest women's organisation in the country, has hosted a number of Fijian weddings and funerals at its headquarters in Nabua and has seen that a lot of people still prefer the best to satisfy their traditional requirements.
Naitasiri chief, the Turaga na Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata said the idea would only benefit Fijian people. "I support the changes because it helps us to minimise some of the economic difficulties that we have been facing on a daily basis," Ratu Inoke said. "Times are changing and we must change the way we do things to suit the economic climate we are in. In the past, our forefathers practised two-night, 10-night and the 100-night after funerals because they had the means to do it. Now, we want to do the same even when we cannot afford it."
Ratu Inoke had earlier made a presentation on the need for such changes in Naitasiri province and according to him, many people of Naitasiri have abandoned some old practices.
The FAB believes that many of the Fijian rituals practised during funerals, weddings and the birth of a new child should be done away with so that we can save more money.
My two bob's worth (from a vavalagi perspective).
The gathering of relatives for a few days is a wonderful thing, for mutual support, for an affirmation of identity, for sharing grief or joy. In the olden days, the burden of supplying food and mats and hospitality, etc. came from resources that were available. In the present day, the resources required often mean a loan, extensive requests to members of the family who do have a cheque coming in. I know of weddings that were simple, as well as funerals that were basically over in a day, good sense prevailing. But I also know of rites of passage that have caused a great deal of anxiety and debt because the hosts want to be seen as hospitable. It is a shameful thing to be called mamaqi. (frugal, selfish)
I remember reading a story, quite a long time ago, by Naca Rika, about the situation when he had to abandon sitting a university examination to go to a family rite of passage which was considered the priority.
So there is difficulty for Fijian people in making a decision about the continuation of Fijian traditions that can become a financial burden. It is an important topic to think about. But I did disagree with a vavalagi fellow who had a raging argument a few days ago (here in Geelong) about yaqona. Enough said. I wanted to throw him out of my house as he was so rude about Fijian customs! And he was mamaqi too!
But, it is not up those who are not Pacific Islanders to have the last word about traditions!