This time with Save - here's another tribewanted interview in Vorovoro Island. Another babasiga kid's story.
Posted 3 days ago
Reaching out to the north, east, south and west… all the people around the world breathing oxygen and farting methane, welcome to Hammock Society FM. We’re coming in live from utopia, from the blessed hammocks of Vorovoro and today we’re gonna have an education with the teacher of all things Fijian, ladies and gentlemen introducing Captain Culture, the man called Save.
Well here we are at long last, the teacher and the student. For those of you who haven’t seen Save… he has a very big afro which is in proportion to his brain. How big are you going to grow your ‘fro?
Like before, no one cut their hair small because they didn’t have anything to cut their hair with so they grew it big… that was a symbol of Fijians, big hair and big beard, all covered in one piece.
Even the woman!?
Hahahaha…no, the ladies just the big hair.
I’ve seen ladies with beards in some of the local villages, one wanted to marry me.
What did you say?...
Moce (good bye).
Who has the biggest hair in the village?
Warriors, strong men used to have the biggest hair. People say that they work with supernatural powers and they have that gift in them.
What gift do you have?
I have the healing powers of fracture, not sprain… but fractured bones. I use massage to heal. The length of time it takes to heal depends on your amount of power, it depends on how much pain you can take, how much muscle is in your body… but Fijians believe in this kind of medicine.
Where does it come from?
It comes from my mother’s side, my grandfather massaged a man with a broken shin for one month two weeks… he was healed, all fixed and cutting sugar-cane again…. hahahahahahaha.
If you have children, will they inherit your power?
Uhmmmm…. they have to accept, it’s in them already… they have to accept it.
How do you increase your power?
By massaging, by practicing…. because it can be with you but you’re not practicing it.
Wow! That’s some pretty far out stuff… punk rocker wizards in Fiji.
When tribe members arrive here on the island, they bring some kava as their sevusevu which is presented to Tui Mali on Tuesdays. It can be a bit nerve wracking but you’re here to explain the meaning and the process…
Sevusevu also means greeting, like just because the first thing you’re coming here, not to the people but to the land so that is the greeting done to the vanua… the village is just a village, vanua is the trees, everything in that area, the land, the sea, the fish, the people, the people who are alive, the people who are dead. For us, the greeting is different, it’s not just personal to humans… it also ties us to the village… the village will know why you are here and the village will give you freedom, not getting hurt. Once the sevusevu is done, when the wingman holds the kava… he accepts the kava on behalf of Tui Mali, he hopes that you come and enjoy, this is a small place but it is you who is making it big and you are welcome, this is your home, it is your sevusevu. But when Tui Mali takes the kava, what he is saying is like… here may the people of Mali, there’s another kava here in front of me which is a sevusevu, people are coming here to come and live in this place and I hope you could hear this even though you are not here. Then he will turn to us and say to us that you are my eyes on this island… and you are my ears… I’m not here every day so whatever you do here, whatever you see you are doing it to me. He will say one verse from the bible which says whatever you do to your friends, you’re doing it to God always. Sometimes you see him pointing up hahahahahaha…
I’m gonna get a diploma in culture after this interview.
Hahahahaha… I think we should record the next sevusevu and will try to translate it in one culture class… maybe we turn it into a play… that’s what I was thinking.
Sounds like a great idea, let’s do it instead of the meke one day… you must of taught hundreds of people the meke by now?
The meke is the traditional Fijian dance, it is something strange about our culture… you could also say it’s our bible, that’s where we keep our writings of our past and the future. It’s all in the meke, once we know everything we will try to arrange it in words, lyrics and do the meke, after that… it is performed. That is done to keep the traditional way, so everything was kept in the meke.
We got sevusevu classes, meke classes… and then there’s the art of spear fishing….
I use the pole spear, walk along the beach and hunt that way, no swimming. For us, we can see the fish easily than tribe members. Seeing the fish is the difficult thing, spearing fish is easy, seeing the fish is the most important thing. So we just see the waves… how the ripple goes… and the fish will make the waves different so you will know there’s a fish there right. Then you look through the sea to see the fish. To spear a fish in the sea depends… because as soon as the sun rays go through the water it bends right, so I’m used to that.
Do big fish come in that close, surely not?
During the month of October, I was in class seven, about twelve/thirteen years… I come back from school and I went out fishing, this was like a hobby for me every afternoon because there was nothing to do… our house was isolated right on the end… I go out fishing in the mangroves… I see this swordfish coming, it’s about six feet long coming straight to me… the fish knew there was danger in the mangroves and it turned away. I threw the spear at the head but it bounced off, it was really a big one… I don’t know how! Then it turned to me, I started running for the mangroves… I was like half wading through water… as soon as I jumped up on one of the mangroves the swordfish came up, left the sea and dived trying to hit me! But it hit one of the mangroves, it was there… stuck!
That’s like something out of a cartoon, are you winding me up?
No, it’s true… it got stuck… then the nose broke and it swam off. When you’re a small you’ll go for any fish… you’re experimenting, trying to learn.
Do you like the taste of swordfish?
I don’t eat it. What we call tabu, like taboo… there are some fish, some trees, there’s some plant you’re not supposed to touch, to eat… you’re not suppose to go near it. Like me, my family, my area we’re not supposed to eat the saku, the swordfish… this identifies where you come from, like if you know you don’t eat this fish and you meet someone else who doesn’t eat this fish then somehow you are related to each other. It’s a tabu from our ancestors that practiced it.
What happens if you did eat it?
Like me, I ate it once… I didn’t know, it was a curry fish, mixed up and the swordfish was there… and I got ringworm, like a rash… so it’s there and it will always be there.
You obviously skilled at catching fish, I wonder who’s gonna catch your heart?
But Team Fiji tells me you’re already married… married to the grog!
Hahahahahahahaha… yeah, it’s true hahahahahahahahaha…
You’re often pounding the kava getting it ready for the mix. It sends a deep, thumping sound across the whole island… it reminds me the scene from Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is coming and all they can see is the cup of water rippling in-time to the thumps. This sound has become known as the Vorovoro heartbeat.
In other villages, you won’t find me pounding like this… you will find me drinking like this hahahahahahaha, but here I pound the kava.
It’s a heavy job, do you find it hard?
It get’s easier the more you drink, the more drunk you get. Kava makes everything easy hahahahahahaha….
How would you describe the effects of drinking loads?
Errrr… it’s really difficult to say… most of the time you’ll find your head becomes heavy like a small ant with a big bun on it’s head hahahahahaha… like… you’re focused, everything is OK but your body is not that way. It might make you go head over heels hahahahahaha. You can’t walk the normal way hahahahahahaha…
And around the grog mat, you’re serenading the tribe with your musical skills playing the ukulele and guitar upside down like Jimmy Hendrix…
Hahahahahahaha… when I was young, I would listen to music only because I couldn’t get a left handed guitar… so I didn’t want to step back and don’t do it… I thought I might as well do it and find my own chords. I started playing the guitar upside down when I was nineteen, my mum bought me the guitar and taught me only three chords. Just by seeing and listening I try to learn… it was really hard for me… so any chords I would pick and play and if it comes right I would know it’s a chord! So my listening skills was better than my singing at that time. It’s just matching up of strings hahahahahahahaha.
What sort of music do you enjoy?
I love all music hahahahahhahaha…. any music I’ll listen too because I’m trying to get the sound from it. It’s not the whole thing, just the small thing… so I listen to any type… that’s why I don’t know the name of any bands, I just listen to it hahahahaha…
A little hermit crab told me you used to be a bit of a Maradonna in your younger days?
Hahahahahaha… yeah, not really Maradonna, I was playing football for Fiji under 17 and 19… I went to New Zealand. They wanted me for under 21s but I said no, I was studying Architecture, I stepped out of the team. Football was not big at that time, not like now, so I thought I would study instead and then passed out from there and was teaching for five years.
Do you regret giving up the boots?
Yeah, now like… I tell my nephew… if you have that age of going to play I think you should do it because you can study your whole life. When I was teaching, I was also teaching how to play football… I even took a team to Nadi… that was the under 19s and I think I took one of the guys that plays for Fiji rugby sevens… William Ryder. He was my soccer player hahahahahahahaha…
Let’s bring the Fiji National Soccer team to Tanoa Park here on the island and get a match going, I’m sure you’re still got some skills in your toes… we’ll give you a spear too and then we’ll be unbeatable!
What would you say is the main difference between Fijian culture and other cultures from around the world?
OK, the main thing is the Fijian culture is when they know something is wrong they will hide it. They will carry the burden silently and then it’s going to be good after that. But sometimes it is too much hahahahahahaha… we are supposed to be like this… hahahahahahahaha.
Oh maaaaan, and here I am trying to lead a project in a culture that wont tell me something is wrong. Can you teach me telepathy?
Any last words of wisdom for the readers out there?
I didn’t know that traveling is learning, but now I know that people come here and learn so much, they come to learn, I thought they were just a tourist on holiday hahahahahahaha but if travelers are thinking that way, that’s a good thing. Most of them have come and really enjoyed this place, felt this place… it’s the culture we are trying to bring up here, we dig more into our own, it’s not just you learning, we’re also learning about us and you hahahahahahahaha… it’s hard to explain this place… you have to come here and feel, it can be hard to explain feelings, people should just come hahahahahahahaha…
Cool, let’s go pound some grog…
Is that against Hammock Society law?...
And remember readers… chill out, don’t work out! Go Hammocks!