Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mali Island Fiji

From Peceli
It is easy to pronounce M-a-l-i. In the western side of Viti Levu their dialogue 'mali' means to laugh or to smile. A visitor from an African country I met in the State League athletics in Melbourne wore a badge 'Mali' and she said to me they are from the big Mali in Africa. I had not known there was another Mali!

Mali Island is well known in some of the Fiji folk songs "Rau tivari rau tivari cina livaliva o Vesi O Mali". It means electricity had been used there, although it hadn't! It is a song of the 1950s. Mali Island is close to the Port of Malau where the sugar boats come and go. Half of the Mali population these days live outside Mali in order to get wages, such as in the timber mill at Malau, in Labasa, Suva, Lautoka and even Australia.

Mali has three main villages Vesi, Nakawaqa and Ligaulevu which is in the centre with Primary School up to class 8 and the Resident Methodist minister. My mother comes from Vesi and we are related to the chiefly family. People live a subsistence economy and the women are known of their good crafts and mat making. In village life young men are trained to be fisherman by their elders catching turtles and big fish for traditional uses. The reefs and sandbars nearby are rich in food resources.

My most recent visit to Mali was to attend the funeral of Penioni Taluva who was in his mid sixties, a traditional elder fisherman in Mali and Kia Island. He had a stroke for six months because of deep sea diving without proper equipment. After the funeral they took me to see the latest development in Vorovoro Island just off the west side of Mali. Two grass and bamboo huts had been built for backpackers or day picnics for the people of the Labasa area. That day the people had just caught hundreds of daniva, a type of sardines, with nets, so we ate that for lunch and also for tea.

Vorovoro means broken into pieces. Our tradition tells us that it refers to when the Kaunitoni canoe of our ancestor, Lutunasobasoba and his tribe came here, the shell tied in front of the canoe was broken. The captain stayed on in Mali and his descendants live there today.

Vorovoro Island is on the tourist map because for many years backpackers have found their way to Vorovoro beach to camp, with the generosity of the landowner, the Tui Mali, the chief. Now there is a new possibility of large-scale development as the Native Land Trust Board have a tourism section and have promoted Vorovoro for any interested investors.

A Fijian Village

A Fijian Village
From Peceli and Wendy
The word Vatuadova means a stony place of the shellfish and is the name of a small river that is rich in food resources such as oysters, crabs, prawns. The river runs into the sea. Many women in the Labasa come and ask permission of our clan to gather shellfish and crabs.
Our family reserve land is at Vatuadova, beside the main road to Savusavu and is an area of rolling hills, mainly covered in sugar-cane with small Indian settlements of about ten to twenty acres. In the early 60s there was no village there, only a sugar-cane field. Then only one family built a small house beside the narrow, shallow river: my youngest brother's family (who had lived in Lautoka) then my sister's family, moved there and built a small bure and house. But we were allocated Vatuadova as our true land. At that time all 2000 acres were leased out to about sixty Indian cane-farmers so the 13 acres of reserve land was given back to our family by the 1960s. We were living in Lautoka at the time, very busy as a Methodist minister and clergyman's wife.
The Indian cane-farmers pay small annual fees for their leases. The fees go to the Native Land Trust Board who used to take a fee of 25% then give the rest back to the Fijian clan and today their cut is about 15%. There are on-going difficulties about land in Fiji.
As the Vatuadova homestead settlement grew with more relatives moving in and houses built, it has become a village rather than a sugar-cane farm. Several Ezy-built timber houses, mostly three-bedroom, have been built and a bore provides clean piped water for about fifty people. Electricity has been put on in recent years. In 1998 the family decided to build a church and the blue and cream paint was still wet for the opening and dedication prior to the marriage of our eldest son there.
From January 1972 to January 1975 we lived either at the Vatuadova cane-farm or beside the beach at nearby Nukutatava where we built three bamboo and thatch cottages. We had three children by this time, our youngest son born in Labasa hospital. In many ways that time was an idealistic life of family sharing, networking, mutual help, living off the land and sea as well as starting development projects for the extended family.
Though Vatuadova is our family base, but it was not always so. Prior to the 1940s there was a village there but it was abandoned when Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna and his group mapped the whole of Fijian land. Those villagers relocated to Tabia and Wailevu villages. Our family, including my father, born in 1896 and my mother and six of us brothers and sisters lived in the Labasa town area in the 30s and early 40s. After my father died in 1944 my mother returned to Mali Island with three children, and the three of us went to live in Naseakula village with a great-aunt and great-uncle. Some of my father's land was given to the Anglican church for the building of the St Mary's hostel and all our town land was lost to us.

So Vatuadova is our family base now and it is always a home-coming when we go there as this is our yavu, our homestead.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Introducing Peceli and Wendy

Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. The nearest town is Labasa and the main industries are sugar-cane, fishing and timber-logging. Our little village is Vatuadova with about sixty relatives and the beach is Nukutatava. We are part of Wailevu Fijian tribe with close relatives in Mali Island and Naseakula village on the outskirts of Labasa town. Peceli was born in Labasa and Wendy is an Australian and today we live in Geelong in Victoria, Australia.
The purpose of this blog is to keep a diary, to share thoughts and passions about Fiji, as well as poetry and short stories.