The largest social unit for Fijians is the Yavusa, defined by historian R.A. Derrick as the "direct agnate descendants of a single kalou-vu" (deified ancestor). Chiefly succession was from older brother to younger brother, after the death of their father. When the youngest brother died, the eldest son of the eldest brother became chief. This tradition still influences Fijian society today, though less rigidly: there is more of a tendency nowadays towards primogeniture.
Each brother in the family then formed his own branch of the yavusa, called the Mataqali. Each mataqali became the custodian of a specific task. A fully developed Yavusa has several mataqali:
The mataqali are subdivided into Tokatoka, each comprising closely related families.
Several Yavusa comprise a village, several of which form a district. The British colonial rulers amalgamated the districts into Yasana, or Provinces. The districts also form three Matanitu, or Confederacies. These are often said to be agglomerations of provinces, but as the latter were a colonial imposition, the boundaries do not coincide exactly, and the Provinces of Ba and Ra are each split between two Confederacies. The Kubuna Confederacy covers Tailevu, Bau, and Verata, on the south east side of the main island of Viti Levu. and the Lomaitviti group, This Confederacy in modern Fiji is considered to be the most senior. The other two are Burebasaga (covering the rest of Viti Levu), and Tovata, covering Vanua Levu, and the Lau archipelago. Despite its isolation and relatively small size, Tovata has been politically dominant since Fiji gained its independence in 1970.
Other languages and dialects spoken in the country are Hindi, Cantonese, Rotuman, Gilbertese (Rabi Island), and Tuvaluan (Kioa Island). The Fiji Islands are traditionally linked to their island neighbours Rotuma, Tonga and Samoa, and this is evident in the culture and dialects of the Northern and Eastern provinces being Cakaudrove, Bua, Macuata, and Lau. The many dialects spoken in these four provinces consistently use sounds that are heard in Tongan and Samoan, but not so with dialects from the Western and South Western parts of Fiji. The Fijian Language uses the Roman Alphabet as in English however readers need to be careful interpreting Fijian words in this, and similar articles. The following conventions exist:
The letter "c" is pronounced like the English "th" sound in "then". Therefore, "Laucala Bay" is spoken as Lauthala Bay. Each letter "d" is preceded with an "n" sound. Nadi (the airport town) is pronounced Nandi. Each "b" letter is preceded with an "m" sound. The town Ba is pronounced mBa. The letter "q" is pronounced as an "ng" (better "ng" + "g") sound as in the English word "finger". Beqa is pronounced mBeng-ga. The letter "g" by itself is sounded as an "ng" sound as in the English word "sing". The letter "r" is rolled as in Spanish. In Fijian words, each vowel is given its full weight and never shortened, skipped or slurred.
The existence of many dialects within the Fijian language as well as exposure to the other languages spoken have contributed to many Fiji Islanders being bilingual. For general communication in an informal environment, a very interesting cross use of the languages has developed, resulting in slang now commonly referred to as Fiji English. In formal settings, of course, correct usage is adhered to. Fiji English comprises aspects of Fijian, English and Hindi, which reflects the history and identity of the people of Fiji
In Culture its various crafts and music give it an identity along with it traditional etiquette and varying forms of clothing attire, its unique architecture also tells a story of a culture and its evolution, the following will discuss these aspects of culture in Fiji.
The village of Na lotu on Kadavu Island is famous for its pottery, the making of which is still governed by strict rituals. Nadroga and Rewa also produce fine pottery. Each region has its own unique style in the making of pottery.
The making of tapa, or masi, is another craft associated with women. Tapa is made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree and decorated in charcoal with symbolic motifs and various patterns. In modern times, it has become fashionable for a masi to bear the name of the person who made it. Masi are often exchanged as gifts on formal occasions. The island of Vatuelele of the southern coast of Viti Levu is famous for its masi products.
Most Fijian mats are made from the leaves of the pandanus tree. The long process of preparation includes scraping and boiling the leaves, and drying them in the sun. There are different mats used for different occasions, and some are made as gifts for formal occasions such as weddings. Most mats are bordered with highly decorative and brightly coloured wool. One well-known Fijian mat is the kuta, made by women in Vanua Levu, particularly Bua.
Weaving using various materials was another craft generally mastered by the women but also aspects of weaving were mastered only by the men, various types of weaving practiced were and still are; basket weaving, coconut rope weaving, coconut leaves weaving.
Carving was practiced by the men; carving would be used for items of practical use and simple shapes and design were used. A lot of effort was put into well adorned weapons and items for the home and ceremony, today carving is practiced for its use in tourism and no longer plays a major role in Fijian society and life except in the case of the Tanoa used from drinking Kava.
Canoe Building was another art practiced only by the men, canoes were not only the major form of communication, but were important in all aspects of Fijian society, from the gathering of food and transporting of crops to use in presentation ceremonies and they were instrumental in wars and politics which were rife in Fiji.. The art of Canoe building was varied across the group and had several different types but of a similar design, the Camakau was a small twin hulled canoe for fishing or small transportation purposes, the most impressive of Canoes in Fiji were that of the Drua, In Fiji’s early history before European involvement, Control of the seaway was a major and decisive objective; disrupting or cutting off the enemies supply and reinforcements gave great advantage in battle and would ensure victory, Sea battles involving hundreds of canoes were frequent. The canoe, which inspired fear and awe and so often held the balance was the mighty Drua, One of the most elaborate and beautiful artifacts of Oceania, the Drua was a product of considerable group efforts and human sacrifice. Double hulled and of gigantic proportions, the Drua was a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship, requiring total community involvement in its construction and human sacrifice in its launching . It's speed out at sea would be in excess of twenty knots and still remained highly manoeuvrable, it was capable of carrying upward of one hundred and fifty warriors and took some 6 to 7 years to build and would vary in length from 100 feet to 118 feet and have a mast height of 60 to 70 feet, in the mid 19th century the following accounts were recorded:
"Up went the huge sail, down went the great steering oars, splashing into the sea, and away we shot like a racehorse. Owing to the great rate at which we were going, the sea was like a hissing cauldron on either side of our course, and the vessel, instead of having time to mount over the smaller waves, cut its way through them." (West, 1869).
"It had a magnificent appearance with its immense sail of white mats; its velocity was almost inconceivable." (Wilkes, 1840).
Ratu Seru Cakobau commanded an impressive fleet which had Several Drua with armed warriors ready for battle the led Canoe was named ‘Rusi I Vanua’ or ‘Cursed is the land’. Much of the art of Canoe building has been lost and only a small few still practice the art on a very small scale as its use in this modern era seems to have lost its place. The craft of Canoe building was traditionally reserved for the male.
An indigenous art form is the Meke, which may incorporate the seasea (women's fan dance) or a meke wesi (men's spear dance). It is usually a narrative of an important event such as a war, a chiefly installation, or even a scandal. Some mekes are generations old, and form an important part of Fiji's oral history. In olden times, the meke was considered to be an oracle from the gods, and the Dau ni vucu, or composer, would often go into a trance before a performance. Others are modern, composed for a particular event, much as a poet laureate might write a poem to celebrate an event in a Western country.
Each district of Fiji has its own form of meke, performed in the local dialect. Other forms of Polynesian and Melanesian dance art forms exist with most widely known being dances of Rotuma and Tonga. There are also various Indian dances and Chinese dances which are performed at relevant festivals marking important times for these communities which are now a part of Culture in Fiji.
Music of Old Fiji consisted of various chants which often told a story or preserved information to be passed on from generation to generation, these songs used various traditional instruments.
With the introduction of European and Asian cultures Music in Fiji has evolved and songs sung in the Fijian vernacular are popular but so also are songs in Indian and English, some local artist mix all three languages and traditional instruments from each culture making for a very interesting Musical experience.
Modern Fiji's national dress is the sulu, which resembles a skirt. It is commonly worn by both men and women. one type worn by both men and women is the 'Sulu va Toga' which is a wrap around piece of rectangular material which is elaborately decorated with patterns and designs of varying styles this is for more casual and informal occasions. Many men, especially in urban areas, also have Sulu va taga which is a tailored sulu and can be tailored as part of their suit. Many will wear a shirt with a western-style collar, tie, and jacket, with a matching Sulu va taga and sandals, this type of sulu can be worn to a semi formal or formal occasion. Even the military uniforms have incorporated the Sulu va taga as part of their ceremonial dress.
Women usually wear a multi-layered Tapa cloth on formal occasions. A blouse made of cotton, silk, or satin, of often worn on top. On special occasions, women often wear a tapa sheath across the chest, rather than a blouse. On other occasions, women may be dressed in a chamba, also known as a sulu I ra, a sulu with a specially crafted top.
While traditional and semi-traditional forms of dress are still very much in use amongst indigenous Fijian culture, there is a greater influence from European and Asian Fashion in urban areas as in neighboring developed nations.
Etiquette in Indigenous Fijian ceremony is rather intricate depending on the function as various formalities and presentations which do several things; firstly it shows respect between two communal groups, strengthen tribal and family ties and reinforce social, tribal and family ties. Various items are used in ceremony and surrounded by ceremony, Kava, known in Fiji as Yaqona, is Fiji's national drink. Traditionally, it was used only in important ceremonies. Nowadays, it is a social beverage. There is a strict protocol associated with yaqona drinking. One should clap once, clasping the hands, take the cup, and drink the yaqona in a single draft before returning the cup to the bearer, clapping three times, and saying the word maca (pronounced: maÞa).
Another highly prized item in ceremony is the Tabua or Whales tooth, other items also the use of Mats, Masi are also used traditionally in ceremony also various regions have tradition that has been passed down generation to generation for centuries one example are the Firewalkers of Beqa, The Sawau tribe of Beqa are noted for their ability to walk on white hot stones without being burned. Strict rituals have to be observed before the firewalking ceremony. There is an ancient myth about how an ancestor of the Sawau tribe was given this power by a spirit god in exchange for his life, after the god was captured by the man who was fishing for eels.
The cuisine of Fiji in pre-colonial times consisted of root crops, vegetables, and fruits, as well as various land animals such as wild pig and various birds. The coastal tribes would have had the same, but also had a large amount of local seafood. These would have been prepared with local herbs and spices on wood fire rock ovens. Most cooking areas were located in the center of house so the smoke would repel insects and strengthen the roof thatching. Another popular method of cooking, which is still used today, is the lovo which is an earth oven —a fire made on in a pit in the ground lined with heat-resistant stones. It closely resembles the hangi of the New Zealand Māori. When the stones are hot, food, wrapped in (banana) leaves, is placed in the pit, covered with soil and left to cook before being exhumed and eaten. Dishes cooked this way include palusami, parcels of taro leaves saturated with coconut milk, onions, and sometimes tinned meat.
Also ceremonial cannibalism was performed not so much for sustenance but more as a means to humiliate your enemy by consuming him. This practice is now extinct.
Modern Fiji Cuisine is rather diverse with great influence from Indian cuisine and spices. When these are applied to local traditional dishes, it makes for interesting eating. European, Indian, and Chinese variants of cuisine, along with traditional foods, are common place in most, if not all households in Fiji.
In Old Fiji the architecture of villages was simple and practical to meet the physical and social need and to provide communal safety the houses were square in shape and with pyramid like shaped roofs and the walls and roof were thatched and various plants of practical use were planted nearby, each village having a meeting house and a Spirit house. The spirit house was elevated on a pyramid like base built with large stones and earth, again a square building with an elongated pyramid like roof with various scented flora planted nearby.
The houses of Chiefs were of similar design and would be set higher than his subjects houses but instead of an elongated roof would have similar roof to those of his subjects homes but of course on a larger scale.
With the introduction of communities from Asia aspects of their cultural architecture are now evident in urban and rural areas of Fiji's two main Islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. A village structure shares similarities today but built with modern materials and spirit houses (Bure Kalou) have been replaced by churches of varying design.
The urban landscape of early Colonial Fiji was reminiscent of most British colonies of the 19th and 20th century in tropical regions of the world, while some of this architecture remains, the urban landscape is evolving in leaps and bonds with various modern aspects of architecture and design becoming more and more evident in the business, industrial and domestic sector, the rural areas are evolving at a much slower rate.
Religion of Fiji is quite diverse with Christianity being the dominant faith of the Majority, Christianity itself in Fiji has many denominations with the Majority being the methodist denomination, of the Asian Religions the Hindu faith is dominant, after which Muslim faith and various other belief systems are followed.
Fiji's old religion is no longer practiced however old deities are still acknowledged and respected but never worshiped as Christianity is the dominant faith amongst the indigenous community, there is still the existence in private of Fijian Witchcraft.
Of the various faiths Christianity is the dominant belief system and including all the various denominations of the Christian faith they number in total 449,482, as for the Hindus with their various denominations number in total 261,097, the Muslims make up 54,324 of Fiji's population and various other belief systems make up 10,166 of Fiji's population.
Sports culture is unique as different racial mixes and cultures come together in a common interest, Fiji is fanatical about sports and the two most dominant being Rugby and Soccer.
Sports in old Fiji, apart from recreation, had a practical place helping to train young warriors. One such practice would have the older men bring the male children a severally injured captive of war, letting the boys practicing their archery skills against this living target. Other sports of old Fiji are as follows:
Tiqa or Ulutoa Was a sport which involved an individual throwing from the forefinger a reed three or four feet in length armed with a six inch oval point of heavy wood. This weapon is made to skim along the ground to a distance of a hundred yards or more. In ancient times, many villages had a long level space kept clear of grass nearby for this sport, which was a competition of both accuracy and distance.
Veisaga Was a sport practiced in some parts of Fiji on a large scale. A group of men and women would assemble on a hill top to wrestle. If a man closes with a woman, he will attempt to throw her and on succeeding they both roll together. minor injuries would often occur from this, but they were concealed by the participants as a matter of pride. If pain was shown then intense ridicule would follow.
Veisolo Was rather a rough sport and at times resulted in death. It involved an attack made on a number of visiting males by a woman. The women would wait until the food was brought to the men, and would rush on their guests with the intent to cause them to scatter so they could take the food. Playful retaliation would follow by the men gently throwing the women to the ground. However, this would sometimes get out of hand and there were instances where men were killed.
The above sports are no longer practiced in modern Fiji.
Sports have developed greatly over the past 2 decades in Fiji with a wide variety of sports undertaken, Fiji is most well known for its prowess in the Game of Rugby and in particular Rugby 7's.
Rugby Rugby union is very popular in Fiji. The highest level of competition is the Colonial Cup. The national team also competes in international tournaments. The Fijian Rugby Sevens team is constantly one of the top two or three teams in the world, often the premier team.
Soccer was a minor sport but over the last decade with further international funding from FIFA and sound local management of the sport has grown in popularity amongst the Indian community initially but now also the Fijian community.
Many sports exist in Fiji and in many ways has its on cultural following, sports such as Golf which has been made famous by Fiji athlete Vijay Singh, Cricket, Surfing, Windsurfing which was brought to prominence by former world champion and Fiji Athlete Tony Philps, Sailing in varying forms, various adventure sports, Athletics, Various Asian Martial arts, Boxing and the list goes on.