Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cibi, i bole, meke wesi

from w, I am treading on eggshells here being a woman and not a rugby follower even, (though I guess rugby is a good way for men to let off steam!). The discussion about the Fiji team's use of the cibi is something to talk about. My expertise (questionable) was my Masters study on Labasa music so I have done some research about Fijian music and dance but now I know that I don't know much about it really. Just as the performance of the cibi, or i bole (challenge) or a meke wesi (spear dance) in the context of a tourist/resort entertainment is not to be taken too seriously, as it might be in a vanua (cultural) context, the cibi is a great way for Fijian rugby players to set up a challenge at the commencement of a match. It's entertainment and enjoyed by the crowd. The haka from New Zealand of course fits this. The performance is out of the context of the tribal past, but fits in very well with a new culture of 'fighting' in competitive sports.

Here are some of the articles from Fiji's media during the past weeks.
Fiji Times, etc.
God, cibi and satan
Alisi Daurewa
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
With on going discussions over whether our Fijian rugby players should perform the 'cibi' or not as a challenge, let us at least get the name right.

I recall some years back, one of the local newspapers quoted a Fijian gentleman who blamed rugby losses at that time to our confusion over the use of the word 'cibi' and the time of its performance before a rugby match. He claimed that the 'cibi' was a dance in celebration of an achievement, particularly when a battle is won. Dr Paul Geraghty recently wrote a letter to the Editor of one of our local newspapers with a similar view to the Fijian gentleman. Dr Geraghty referred his findings to documented evidence. That is, the 'cibi' comes after and not before the battle.

However, one of the descriptions of the 'cibi' by The Fijian Dictionary compiled by A. Capell, is " dance before going to war" I suspect the Fijian Dictionary may have based its version on the rugby 'cibi' as it is used today, as a challenge, and not a celebration. It would be interesting to find the Fijian Dictionary's source for this particular translation.

These differing views of the timing of the 'cibi' performance only add to what seems to be an already concocted story of Fijian origin and some tradition. So, did our forefathers challenge their enemy before a fight? Yes, if I can speak for my clan. 'I Bole' is a verbal challenge led by a warrior chief to his enemy and is usually accompanied by physical gestures which can even be sexual.

Some in the form of a dance as in the present day 'cibi', some otherwise. The 'I vakacaucau ni ravu' is a formal announcement in the form of a chant to confirm the actual kill.

For us, the words of our ancestral chant are not something we like to repeat. For it is believed that repeated use of the chant will not only summon the spirit of our ancestors but a whole legion of non-saintly spirits. As our forebears would have said when they accepted Christianity, "..biuji kera na bulu me ra bulu tu ga?"
Let the buried stay buried.

For the clan, the 'I bole' and 'I vakacaucau ni ravu' were strategies used to psyche them and to debase the enemy.

The 'I cibi' involved merry-making after the battle and devouring of the human meat which would have been tendered at Gagabokola, a place where our ancestors soaked their captured enemies.

It should also be noted that Fijians waged war differently. Dr Paul Geraghty I think alluded to this. Some were confrontational, similar to our Tongan cousins and some were subtle like our Melanesian heritage. If I may just digress, I do not know how many of us actually realise that our ancestors used strategic plans for their development whether in war or every day survival. Some of our customary practices confirm this.

Furthermore, the concept of the modern day strategic development plans were actually borrowed from war strategies. Wasn't it the Japanese who discovered this?

So, is the 'cibi' in the context of present day rugby match satanic? Of course not!
The problem is, we become so self-righteous, particularly with our Christianity that we insult God by bringing him down to our own level of ignorance and arrogance. I am certainly guilty of this.

I am not an expert in theology nor do I claim to be deeply religious but the book of Job in the Old Testament and the Gospels in the New Testament confirm that God is bigger than Satan. That He does allow evil to exist for His own purpose.

Just as the concept of the modern day strategic development plans was borrowed from war strategies of the past, the 'cibi' is a Fijian creation, initiated by one of our high chiefs in modern day Christian era.

For the very reasons expressed by rugby experts in the papers, we should..'wari nai karoh' because the words are far from satanic.

We might, however, like to confirm whether 'cibi' is the appropriate common Fijian terminology, and if not, may I suggest, 'I bole' which would harmonise with the spirit of our Charter for Building a Better Fiji in truth and peace.

* These are the personal views of the author and not of her clan nor the organisations she is involved with.
Fiji to amend cibi: Gavoka
The Fiji Times - Friday, November 20, 2009 5:13 PM

The Fiji Rugby Union may be open to an amended form of cibi or the war cry its national rugby teams had become renowed for, often compared to the concept of 'haka' by the All Blacks.

FRU chairman Viliame Gavoka said that while the decision not to perform the cibi during this tour was a collective one taken by the players, he felt the issue did bring to the fore the need to discuss it. 'Going forward, we will need to relook at the cibi issue, mindful of the fact that the spiritual makeup of the boys today is different from their fathers, if you will,'' Gavoka told the Fiji Times. Gavoka described it as 'a delicate issue' that required a discussion at several different levels of both the FRU and even rugby fans. 'I don't rule out having a new cibi but we must talk about it,'' he said. 'We all care about our cultural practices but perhaps it is not in a context that is comfortable with the values that we have today. I appreciate how frank and honest the players have been and I agree we need to spend time on it, address it appropriately because we owe the players an honest consensus about it.'

Gavoka is also here to be part of the biannual International Rugby Board meeting where he hopes to 'network' and secure more opportunities like club collaborations. He believes that the Fiji brand of rugby is still unique, reflected in the continuing increase in requests for players and/or teams for participation in major rugby tournaments. Gavoka said on this tour alone, he has met people open to aligning their products or their clubs to Fiji rugby.

FRU technical director, Mike Brewer said he could not comment on the issue seeing that it was a very personal and 'Fijian thing'. 'The only thing I've said to them is that to never neglect or walk away from your history because that's where you've come from and it doesn't matter what that is, that is part of you as far as your ancestry is concerned,'' Brewer , who played for the All Blacks for ten years, said. 'If it was the All Blacks, I would have been very disappointed but that's a decision that they as a team and the FRU as a union have to decide on.'

The team will not perform the cibi in tomorrow's match; the decision stems from some of the players' reluctance to perform it anymore because it was a contradiction to aspects of their Christian faith.

Cibi is a must
25-Nov-2009 09:03 AM

THE Romanian public feels that they have been let down with the Flying Fijians not performing the ‘cibi’ before the two test matches against Scotland and Ireland in the last two weeks.

They say that with no ‘cibi’ was like having food with no salt and pepper.

The Romanian Rugby Union is hoping the tourists will decide to bring back the war dance and perform the famous war cry before their match at Bucharest this weekend.

They feel it gives a stronger purpose and meaning to the occasion.

“Whenever any Pacific Island team runs on to the field, we are always prepared to see their various war cries. Our rugby spectators are very fond of the so-called ‘haka or cibi’ that is done before every match. It is one of the most used phrases of rugby spectators in our country lately,” quoted the RRU website.

“As the November 28th test match with Fiji approaches, we are disappointed with the news that Fiji did not perform it against Scotland and Ireland. It’s really sad for us because we feel that they will also not do it against us,” the website further adds.

Fiji dropped the 70-year old tradition after the team leadership and management currently on tour in Europe saw it fit to do so.

The scrapping of the cibi has brought about missed reactions and row in Fiji, many of the former Internationals disagreeing with the decision.

The Flying Fijians have lost both their opening two matches. The side lost to Scotland 10-23 before being thumped by Irish 6-41 last weekend. Initially Fiji was due to face the United States but was replaced with Romania.

Fiji Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer had earlier stated that Romania would be tough as they are quickly establishing themselves as a force in Europe.

“I’m sure they will be formidable as well.”

The match at the Arcul de Triumf Stadium, Bucharest is expected to kick-off at 4pm Fiji Time on Saturday.

Meanwhile His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on Friday told members of the Fiji Sevens Rugby Team who will be representing the nation at the International Rugby Board 7’s series in Dubai to perform the cibi. In giving his blessings to members of the sevens team who presented their itatau at Government House, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said that the cibi has been Fiji’s sporting challenge and identity for over 70 years of playing international rugby.

“When you come to present your i-tatau, tradition begins at Government House and the cibi must be performed.

“It is simply a challenge of you get me or I get you” he said. He told the team that their performance entirely depends on their teamwork and their preparation. “Fiji expects nothing less from you, you have the publics support but it expects you to perform your best and more so on behalf of all the people of Fiji, prepare yourself well and go forth to represent the nation.”

The IRB sevens series begins on December 4th.
(article by Maika Kasami.)
Other questions can be raised such as - should young boys learn to do adult dances such as the meke wesi. I think so. I want my grandsons to be able to dance like this little tacker in the photo here! And I believe one of the grandsons was in a performance yesterday so I would have liked to see that!


Andrew Thornley said...

I am not a Fijian scholar but, according to Haxlewood's 1850 Dictionary, I Bole is a Challenge (similar to the Haka). I Cibi is the dance that followed the bringing back of the Bakolas (Dead Bodies) after war.

Maud said...

Quite useful info, thank you for the article.