Getting to Know the Fijian Culture
Fiji is a like a great big melting pot, taking influences from many other different cultures such as those of India, China and Europe. Fijians have a great sense of community and there is a great emphasis on family life. Although the official language is English, there is an indigenous language called Bauan as well as many other different dialects spoken throughout the country.
Arts and Crafts
The arts and crafts of Fiji are representative of their Polynesian and Melanesian background and tradition, keeping, as they do, men’s and women’s crafts apart. Crafts associated with women include pottery, the production of tapa cloth from the bark of the paper mulberry tree and mats made using the leaves of the pandanus tree. Men are engaged in wood carving and canoe building.
The dance form called the meke is highly traditional, and usually relates the story of a significant event such as a war. While most mekes are traditional, modern ones do exist, being composed to mark a particularly important event. Music was traditionally a form of chanting that told a story or held information to be passed down the generations. However, with outside influences from Asia and Europe, music has evolved into song – some in Fijian, some in Indian and some in English.
Clothing and Costumes
Men used to wear loin clothes and women grass skirts, but the modern costume, known as a sulu, is worn by both sexes. It is like a skirt and varies in detail from region to region.
Traditionally, Fijians used to eat root crops, fruit and vegetables along with wild pigs and birds, although the tribes that lived near the sea would supplement their diet with seafood. Food was cooked with locally harvested herbs and spices. Nowadays, a strong Indian influence can be detected, although many people cook following the Chinese and European styles.
Fijians love sport, and the two most popular ones are rugby and soccer. In the past, sport was combined with warrior training, meaning that skills such as archery were taught and practised. Unfortunately, many of the old sports have now died out as the sway of outside forces becomes harder to resist.
Fiji is very rich in tradition, with a very interesting heritage that carries its influence in to modern day life, making Fiji a fascinating place to visit.
Picture: Murati Subatli
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