Friday, September 05, 2014

The name 'Fijian'

from w
Here is another good letter in the Fiji Times Saturday September 6th, this time about the word 'Fijian' because there's a disquiet over the way the current regime has defined the word 'Fijian' as for everyone in Fiji!

What's in a name
FOR the hundredth time, the word "Fijian" has been misused and abused by either misinformed and uninformed individuals who seek to pursue unfulfilled political agendas by misrepresenting and misappropriating the term.
I believe the term Fijian is not an English term snatched out of thin air by an English sailor as is commonly believed.
Its root word is "Fiji", which is the anglicisation of the Fijian vernacular word "Viti", a term one of the first missionary anthropologists to Fiji had heard in Tonga when he asked about the islands Captain Cook had mentioned, to the Tongans. The Tongans referring to Fiji as "Fisi."
The term Viti means to break or clear away obstacles with the intention of making a pathway or clearing where none previously existed.
This though is a literal definition but also implies a host of other related concepts. Viti also depicts how the first people to Fiji, arrived and cleared pathways as they dispersed and began to inhabit this previously uninhabited islands. Example Viti Levu.
Over the ensuing years the term Fijian has been wholly traditionally used to refer to a certain ethnic group by anyone who wanted to refer to Fiji's indigenous population, even before the arrival of other racial groups.
Although it is an anglicised native word, I believe the indigenous have over time identified with and become emotionally attached to it as if it were a word of their own vernacular.
To the indigenous the direct translation of the term Fijian is kai viti who can never be anyone else
But an iTaukei, some-one who is an inherently innate proprietor, possessor of land and its resources by reason of being its original inhabitant. ie. not through sale transfer etc.
Thus to the indigenous, the word, Fijian, kai viti, iTaukei all have the same meaning and are often used interchangeably whether the context is original, historical or traditional.
Overnight the use of this term has been forcibly usurped and redefined coldly discarding its actual, established, accepted, conventional and time honoured use.
According to the imposed 2013 Constitution, it now means all Fiji passport holders and citizens, a mockery of the term that has so much history and meaning to those it used to refer to.To use the term "Fijian" to connote equal citizenry without considering the sensitivities and controversies that come with it is not only imprudent but naively unwise.
A more cautious and mindful attempt should have been made to choose a word to signify a common identity instead of using a pre-existing word that specifically referred to the indigenous people.
What is so unsound about using "Fiji Islander?"
Not only does it encapsulate the common identity irrespective of race, colour, creed etc, but is not controversial, contentious, provocative and gives a sense of belonging
I hope common sense will prevail on the issue.
Joji Naulu

No comments: