South Pacific Specialists

Fijian Culture – the Kava Ceremony

The Fijians are justly proud of their ancient culture, and they eagerly inform anyone who asks about both their ancient and modern ways. Here is one of the best ways to learn about their lifestyle and explore the environment of their islands.

Fijian Village Visits: Many tours from Nadi, the Coral Coast, and most offshore resorts include visits to traditional Fijian villages, whose residents stage welcoming ceremonies (featuring the slightly narcotic drink kava, or yaqona as it’s known in Fiji). The hosts then show visitors around and explain how the old and the new combine in today’s villages.

Yaqona has always played an important ceremonial role in Fijian life. No significant occasion takes place without it, and a sevusevu (welcoming) ceremony is usually held for tour groups visiting Fijian villages. Mats are placed on the floor, the participants gather around in a circle, and the yaqona roots are mixed with water and strained through coconut husks into a large carved wooden bowl, called a tanoa.

The ranking chief sits next to the tanoa during the welcoming ceremony. He extends in the direction of the guest of honor a cowrie shell attached to one leg of the bowl by a cord of woven coconut fiber. It’s extremely impolite to cross the plane of the cord once it has been extended.

The guest of honor (in this case your tour guide) then offers a gift to the village (a kilogram or two of dried grog roots will do these days) and makes a speech explaining the purpose of his visit. The chief then passes the first cup of yaqona to the guest of honor, who claps once, takes the cup in both hands, and gulps down the entire cup of sawdust-tasting liquid in one swallow. Everyone else then claps three times.

Next, each chief drinks a cup, clapping once before bolting it down. Again, everyone else claps three times after each cup is drained. Except for the clapping and formal speech, everyone remains silent throughout the ceremony, a tradition easily understood considering kava’s numbing effect on the lips and tongue.

Our specialists can book the perfect vacation in Fiji for you that includes the Kava welcome ceremony.

source: Frommers 2013
video courtesy of FijiMe

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