Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Is there truth in Fijian history ?

The Fijian society must re-write its history for the sake of its current and future generations.  The Ministries of Indigenous Affairs and Education are best placed to do this, by seeking the services of qualified people which must include those with epistemological knowledge.
Respected British historian and member of the Advisory Committee on Colonial Education, the late Margaret Perham said in her address to Africans that “…history does not grow and lies quiet in the past.  That we must try to know its facts.  This is not easy.  History is not only made by men: it is written and read by them; and most men, especially …go to history, not for the whole truth, but to take out those little bits which they can colour with their own ideas and fit together to make a pattern to please their own pride of race, or nation or tribe. Yet the strongest men and the strongest nations are those with the courage to face the truth, those who go out into its sunlight instead of hiding in the deep shade of their own wishes and dreams…” (Perham, 1941).
The Lutunasobasoba theory that we are fed with was a tale that won a competition organized by the Colonial Administration’s ‘Na Mata’ in 1892 (France, 1969).  That is,  Lutunasobasoba and his entourage traveled in big canoes from Egypt, landed on the western coast of Viti Levu, traveled inland to the Nakauvadra mountains in Ra where he died, after which his children dispersed to parts of Fiji.  This story is ingrained in Fiji’s formal education system.  It is also the story that many Fijians now claim as their own with variations, depending on what part of Fiji one belongs to.
Early and more recent writings however say that Fiji had been settled by several migrations of different cultural origin and that the Lutunasobasoba theory, could have been the most recent before European contact.  Some  claim that Fijians interviewed then could only trace their geneologies  for eight generations in depth. (Brewster, 1922, Nayacakalou, 1975).
In addition, Lapita findings suggest a Fiji link with surrounding Pacific island Melanesian and Polynesian countries.  And, this would make sense for how could our supposed ancestors have traveled in their canoes from Africa to the Pacific?  Dutch Abel Tasman only managed to site Fiji in the 17th century, even then, he sailed in a ship.
A map of a location of village sites after Frazer (1973:82) in the Nakauvadra Valley prior to 1874 Cession adapted from the Department of Lands and Survey, 1989 and Native Lands Commission neither shows an abandoned village site for Lutunasobasoba, nor his children.  Instead, the eleven (11) abandoned village sites belong to Rokola, nearest to the top of the mountain, then, further down to Narauyaba, Nasanimai, Takina, Nukuitabua, Navanani, Navono, Dakunivatu, Bua, Naikoro and Burelevu.

Claimants to these sites now reside in the hinterland of Viti Levu, the western and central divisions including the Rewa Delta, according to an extract from E.W. Gifford 1952, Tribes of Viti Levu and Their Origin Places, Anthropological Records, Vol.13. No.5.  
Interestingly, our link with our Polynesian cousins is better publicized than our relationship with our Melanesian cousins.   Is it because we suffer the syndrome that ‘white is better than black’?
To this day, Rokola’s people some of whom currently reside in Rewa, enjoy the relationship of ‘tauvu’ with Solomon islanders because of their belief in a common origin.  The Rabuka Government, through Ratu Jo Nacola who was then a Cabinet minister and a Ra chief familiar with the local history of his province, was instrumental in the existence today of a parcel of land allocated to Solomon islanders in Ra. 
Noble intention aside, British Colonialism applied certain strategies to control an often divided people, whenever its economic and political power was threatened. Therefore, social engineering that was implemented in colonies like India (Bose & Jalal, 1998, Modern South Asia)  and most of Africa (Perham, 1941) was also applied to Fiji for land (tokatoka, mataqali, yavusa) and social grouping codification purpose; Turaga, Priest, Carpenter, Messenger, Fisherman, Warrior and Administrator/Ambassador.  It is understood that this social grouping was only prevalent in areas where those who worked closely with the Colonial Administration came from.  A chief from Vanua Levu was thought to have best described how he came to be, ‘… We fight for it…’ (France, 1969).
Social engineering in the 19th century also included civil servant commoners transformed into chiefs and, traditional civil servant chiefs transformed into the role of state chiefs.  This marked the emergence of new chiefs in place of old ones.  (Durutalo, 1997).
Maybe, just maybe, the cause for what is perceived today as Fijian ‘veiqati’, hence ‘coup de’ tat’, land and chiefly disputes is because, we have allowed Post and Neo Colonialism dictate to us, ‘Who and What we are’.
The fate of Fiji’s future lies with the present, but it will take courage because the truth can  be painful.
Tuesday 2nd November, 2010


  1. Wonderful piece. Frazer (1973:82) could I please have the complete reference if possible?