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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

Clans, ceremonies and kava Fiji’s most celebrated drink is a mouth-numbing root-based preparation that is drunk ceremonially to welcome visitors, seal business agreements and settle arguments Katie Silvester The Pacific nation of Fiji is known internationally for its palm-fringed beaches, its prowess on the rugby pitch and the rich history of its clans, which includes the long-discontinued practice of cannibalism. But what strikes many visitors to the country is the friendliness of its people, who are always quick to welcome newcomers into their midst. Culturally, Fiji is split between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, whose ancestors were brought to the islands from India between 1879 and 1916 to work as indentured servants on sugar plantations. Traditional Fijian society is clan-based, with hereditary chiefs heading up its many villages where more than 300 dialects of the Fijian language are spoken. Villagers share the obligations and rewards of community life. They fish together, dividing the catch between them, build homes together, prepare feasts, and work together to maintain the village’s paths and shared spaces. Anyone visiting a village must get prior permission and observe the correct etiquette on arrival. In Fijian culture, the head is a ‘sacred space’, seen by locals as a person’s connection to heaven. Therefore, hats are seldom worn, so as not to block this connection and it is seen as an insult to touch another person’s head. Bags carried on the shoulder are also viewed as an oddity, as ‘material assets’ should be carried lower down as an acknowledgement that everyone in the village is on the same level. © BureNavala2 CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia In Focus Fiji four 58 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2015 global


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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