Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fiji - the Final Word

It's time to say ni sa moce to Fiji - I've really enjoyed learning about this South Pacific nation and the thoughts of visiting Fiji have kept me warm during a dark European November!

A summary of the themes

During the month or so that I've been blogging about Fiji, I learned about the different parts of Oceania, I learned about the Indo-Fijian minority and the Gods of War.  I learned how to open a coconut and make the Pacific favourite, Palu Sami.  I also did some research into Cannibalism and Obeyesekere's theory on Cannibal Talk.

Tools for research

I used four books during my research about Fiji:

Lonely Planet: Fiji (2006, 7th Edition) which was great for background research.

Some books for research
On Fiji Islands by Ronald Wright (1986) - an amusing travelogue that inspired me to do some research into the Gods of War, amongst other things.  Wright also has a very interesting chapter on the fate of the Banabans (or Ocean Islanders)

Cannibal Talk: The Man-Eating myth and Human sacrifice in the South Seas (2005) by Sri Lankan anthropoplogist, Gananath Obeyesekere - it's an academic book, but very readable and I'm interested in reading more of Obeyesekere's work in the future.

Most interesting of all was Joseph C Veramu's novel Moving Through the Streets (1994) - perhaps the most famous novel to come out of Fiji. I really enjoyed reading it, although it tells an incredibly gritty story of life in the slums of Raiwaqa, the South Pacific's largest housing estate.  It deals with the lives of young Fijian men, who grow up in poverty, surrounded by violence and crime, it's almost impossible for them to achieve their potential.  It reminded me of several books I've read before, namely Trainspotting, Last Exit to Brooklyn, A Clockwork Orange and Angela's Ashes.  I'd highly recommend it, if you want to see life beyond the idyllic picture most of us have of Fiji.

I also watched several movies which were filmed in Fiji, although none of them specifically addressed Fijian life or culture.  Nevertheless, it was nice to get lost in images of Fiji and a chance to dream about the beach and a tropical paradise.

Milla Jovovich in Return to the Blue Lagoon
Innocence is quite a theme in the Lagoon movies, both in The Blue Lagoon (Klieser, 1980) starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins and its sequel, Return to the Blue Lagoon (Graham, 1991) starring Brian Krause and Milla Jovovich.  It's interesting that, whilst teenage nudity was acceptable in the 1980 movie, it had become something of a taboo by 1991!

I really enjoyed Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000) starring Tom Hanks as the FedEx employee who gets stranded on a Pacific island, filmed in Fiji's Mamanuca Islands.  I didn't really enjoy Savage Islands (Fairfax, 1983) starring Tommy Lee Jones, which seemed derivative and unintelligent.

Other Themes

If I had time to continue blogging about Fiji, I would be interested in the following additional themes:

- Coral reefs
- Starfish
- Honeymoons
- Rugby
- the Sugar trade
- Hairstyles
Still from The Blue Lagoon
- The Lasakau Sea Warriors
- the University of the South Pacific
- the traditions of drinking Kava a.k.a. grog
- Survivor-type TV programmes
- the Japanese in the Pacific
- the cultivation of Beches-de-Mer (Sea cucumbers)
- the orange dove of Taveuni
- the Banabans of Ocean Island
- Methodism
- the people of Vaitupa in Tuvalu

Dinner Party Trivia

As usual I learned some trivia about Fiji which will come in handy for dinner party small talk:

- the word Fiji is a mispronunciation of the native word Viti, which is the name of Fiji's largest island.
- the Kaunitoni migration myth claims that the Fijians and other Pacific islanders originally came from Lake Tanganyika in East Africa
- some shipwrecked Europeans, like the Swede known as 'Charles Savage', gained a lot of power and influence over Fiji's chiefs.
- an outbreak of measles wiped out a third of Fiji's population in the late 19th century

Still from The Blue Lagoon
- Fiji became a British colony on the 10th of October 1874
- Fijians use the word kaivalagi to describe 'foreigners', literally 'people from far away'
- Kerekere is a tradition of 'unconditional giving' - it prevents any one member of a tribe from gaining too much wealth, as they are expected to share everything they own with others
- Toota-phoota is a Hindi phrase which means 'Broken Hindi'
- Bats are the only mammals which are native to Fiji
- Fiji's flag has a coat of arms with three types of food on it (sugar, coconut and bananas!)
- Degai is a Fijian snake-god who causes night and day by opening and closing his eyes
- In the 1850s, Levuka, the first European settlement and capital of Fiji had a global reputation for drunkness, violence and immorality. 
- Fiji's second-biggest island is called Vanua Levu, which means 'big island'

The Final Word

As part of my research, I read about the fire-walking tradition on the Fijian island of Beqa (pronounced Benga).  I find this tradition fascinating and it seems to be a real example of mind over matter.  I'm aware that there are fire-walking traditions in other parts of the world and that it has become quite popular as a work-place 'bonding' activity.  I was curious to see whether or not it would be possible to do some fire-walking here in London and, amazingly, there are opportunities out there, like the fire-walking evening that took place at London Zoo, last week - what a pity I missed it!

Dancing off to a not-so-traditional meke

And, of course, I've been listening to lots of Fijian music.  It's hard not to smile and feel happy, when you hear the sunny vibes of groups like Mokosoi ni delai deyo and Seru Serevi, but I really fell in love with a band called Black Rose, who are incredibly popular throughout the Pacific and combine more traditional music with pop beats and rap!  I loved their second album, Voices of Nature and I want to leave you with one of their most famous songs, Raude.  Enjoy!  And up next month, G . . .


Image credits:

The image of the books was taken by me.

The other images are stills from the Blue Lagoon and Return to the Blue Lagoon and are from photos taken by me. These images are being used to illustrate this blog post and promote the films. By publishing these images, I'm not condoning or encouraging reproduction of these images on the Internet or anywhere else. These images are not meant to bring the actors into disrepute or suggest their endorsement of this blog post, but are meant to highlight the performances of these actors in these movies.

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