We have slept through the night and day now dawns
The sun is high in the heavens
Go uproot the yaqona and bring it...
Prepare the root and proclaim it!
The acclamation rose skywards,
Reaching distant lands!
Kava (or yaqona), Fiji's national drink, has an important place in all Fijian ceremonies and is used widely as a token of goodwill and respect amongst the South Pacific people.
The beverage is prepared by straining poweder made from pounded dried roots of the kava - a plant in the pepper family - and adding water. From the tanoa - the wooden bowl - protrudes a thick rope of coconut fibre which is decorated with cowrie shells. This is pointed towards the guests of honour (in this case = us). During the ceremony nobody must cross that line. When the kava is ready, the guest of honour (my mother was chosen to represent us) is presented with the first bowl. It should be drained in a single draught, followed by the clapping of hands.
The village we visited is still very traditional (read primitive) - the only building to have electricity is the church and water comes from a spring. The doctor visits every two months or so and the children have 2 1/2 hours each way to school.
On our way back to the ship, the villages had laid out a little market for us, with shells, corals, wood carvings and the ubiquitous T-shirts. I did partake in some retail therapy, more to help with the local economy than anything else.
Meke is a group performance which mixes singing, chanting and drumming in a very catchy combination . Traditionally it is only performed in a village on special occasions - usually when the village is being visited by someone important (like us). However, meke is much more than a colourful dance, it is a way of keeping alive a culture and for important historical events, stories and legends to be handed down from one generation to the next.