Sunday, May 18, 2014

A good story from Malau

Those of us 'oldies' remember the old string band song 'Vorovoro, Malau, kei Vuo'  and Peceli sings it a lot because these are the people we know well, our relatives from Mali Island district.  Malau we known mainly as the port for the timber mill and for exporting sugar, but a hundred years ago it was a little town and even had a hospital which was replaced in about 1936 by the hospital at its present site above the Labasa River and opposite Labasa town.  Here's a story about Malau as told to a Fiji Times journalist.
And here's the song 'Vorovoro, Malau, kei Vuo'.

Vorovoro Malau kei Vuo
Vanua oqori eda dau domona lo
Nisa qai lutu mai na Buto 
Lelaleka tu na sala kei Vuo.

Cava cava tale me ganita
Na veiqaravi ena vale nei Rusila 
I Alumeci meda mai ciba 
Kua na kana vei Torika
O Tabeti Tavoi kei Sereima.

Vei boqi niu gadi ki vanua
kuvuraka tu nai boi ni salusalu 
Na vono salele e sa lele tu e baravi
Ciri yawa tu na vakanananu.

Kerekere noqu sere mera tini
O Malau nai kelekele ni Mere
Dua mada noqu kerekere
Kovana meu bau lele
O Kavetani e besebese sara ni tasere.

Heyday of Malau and Vuo

Luke Rawalai
Sunday, May 18, 2014
ON a hill known to the villagers of Vuo as delana (meaning "high") lie old government ruins; rubbles of concrete can be seen through bushes —remnants of the first government establishment that was to later move and develop into the present day Labasa Town.
Many of these villagers are either not originally from Vuo, nor know of the history of the village and the neighbouring port of Malau, of which its stories have nearly become the stuff of legends heard only in old iTaukei songs.
Losevati Ravunibaka is one of the few who remember some old tales of Malau and Vuo — most of which she recovered from her father, and those she experienced during her growing years. This is Losevati's account of Malau and Vuo:
Ancient Malau and Vuo
IT used to be known as the haunts of two female spirits known to the locals as the Marama ni momo (The ladies of Momo).
The two deities were known for their great beauty, often appearing in human form to seduce young men who they fancied.
According to some stories, the very behaviour of these two deities embodied the spirit of Malau and Vuo in their heyday.
The women of Malau and Vuo were known for their beauty which has been immortalised in songs such as Vorovoro Malau kei Vuo which mentions these social butterflies, among a few; Alumeci Taroicake, Tavoi, Sereima and Torika.
Vuo villager Losevati Ravunibaka said these were women of Wailevu, Kia and Mali who wielded the attention of men in the old days.
Lele mai na Adi Keva is another song that specifically mentions the beauty of Vuo and Malau back in the days. Adi Keva was a schooner which called into Malau port, bringing in sailors," she said.
"Lyrics for one of the songs reads: "Dua mada noqu ere'ere, Kovana meu bau lele, kavetani sa bese ni tasere" (I plead with the governor if I can return to my boat, as the captain has refused to give me leave)'.
"In the song, the sailors are pleading with the governor who is Alumeci Taroicake — a woman of beauty — if they can return to the schooner as she had refused to let the captain go."
Mrs Ravunibaka said that the berthing of a schooner or visiting ship meant one thing — a week of merrymaking, which extended into months at times.
Malau port
Mrs Ravunibaka said the lyrics also bore evidence to the fact that Malau used to be a port of call for the sailors back in the days putting the date to the early 1800s.
"I have heard of stories and used to have a photograph in my house (which I have since lost) of a sea plane that used to call in at Malau port and other schooners such as the Adi Keva and others," she said.
"Before the existence of the sugarcane industry which gave birth to the CSR mill in Labasa, Malau was a port of call as it housed a stone crusher and even had the hospital and the north's first ever agricultural station.
"I was told by my father that the government had opted for this location as it was close to the sea which was a major mode of transportation back then."
Mrs Ravunibaka said that the ruins of these early government station establishments could still be found a few yards above present day Vuo Village.
"Our elders used to refer to the place as delana meaning the hill as it was the only form of development that had ever touched Vanua Levu at the time.
"Early Vuo Village is located at the seashore towards the coast where the village currently stands and belonged to the Qaqaravu clan of Vuo within the Labasa district.
"It was later moved towards the road for easy transport access when vehicles came along the way and the roads began to be developed."
Report of Chinese traders
CHINESE traders began to set in from the heat of the sandalwood trade in Bua and Wainunu and came closer to Malau which was a bustling port of sorts as they settled beside the Labasa River.
Mrs Ravunibaka said later on, other small shops developed beside the Labasa River prompting the government to move its station to Labasa town which had become a shopping centre of sorts.
"I know of the Qatiotio clan who were landowners beside the Labasa River but were moved from their land in town by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna and resettled in Vuo village as major developments took place in their land."
"They were given the piece of land at Delana where the old government station stood and to this day we recognise as our own kinsmen as it was back in the days."
"Vuo has its own traditional links to the village of Naseakula in Nasea and Vuo has been a refuge to the chiefly Qomate family during the warring days."
Mrs Ravunibaka said growing up as a young girl she used to remember her grandparents and parents paid visits to Naseakula to offer the first fruits of their farms to the chiefs of the Nasea district
"Back then the roads were mostly gravelled and my elders used to carry food on their backs to offer them to the people at Naseakula," she said.
"We still have the Qomate clan foundation at the old village site where the family used to reside before they moved back to Naseakula Village."
"However the traditional links between the people of Naseakula, Vuo, and Mali have stood the test of time and we know our status during customary events."
ACCORDING to Mrs Ravunibaka while growing up as a young girl I remember the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining) mill that was already in operation at Vulovi just beside the infant Labasa Town.
Mrs Ravunibaka was in Class Three in 1963 when her father worked as a labourer at the mill.
"I went to school on Mali Island at my grandmother's village at Vesi and used to remember my father and other men in the village getting busy in Vuo during the crushing season," she said.
"They used to carry sugar bags to the waiting barge at Vulovi before these bags of sugar were transferred to the big sugar steamer ships that called in at Malau port.
"For us young children in Vesi village the arrival of the steamer ship signalled something — tea, tinned food and other niceties from the trading shops that had bloomed in Labasa and Malau and our predictions were never wrong."
Mrs Ravunibaka said that her parents would visit them at Vesi Village with these luxurious spoils every weekend.
"I remember the barges that my father used to travel in back in those days during his work and one was the Sharon Louise and Nanumi Au.
"This is what I know of the old government station and I consider myself lucky to know some of these colourful pieces of history about a place that I have called home for 59 years."
Labasa businessman Paul Jaduram said bags of crushed sugar would be transported from Vulovi to Vuo through barges that would wait along the Labasa River.
Mr Jaduram said one of these barges was the well known Sierra Leone and Nanumi Au.
A review of the past
MRS Ravunibaka said being the direct descendant of a kingmaker and the priesthood of Qaqaravu in Vuo she had seen a lot of changes happen in her lifetime.
"Most of the famed ladies like Alumeci Taroicake later became churchgoers in old age and the old lifestyle of Malau and Vuo simmered as development began to focus towards Labasa.
"The stone crusher later closed and the hospital and agricultural research station was no more.
"Back in my young days the area of Delana was a favourite to us young ones as it often contained many fruiting trees that were left behind after the agricultural centre moved."
Mrs Rabunibaka said that even though things had changed she would always remember those stories passed down to her by her forefathers about the colourful vibrant life that was once Malau kei Vuo na koro ni lasa (Malau and Vuo, places of merry making and fun).

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