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About Fiji & Fiji Kava

An Introduction to Fiji and Fiji Kava

The Republic of the Fiji Islands is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean consisting of 522 islets and 322 islands divided in 10 groups, with only 106 being inhabited. In July 2008 it had an estimated population of 944,720 with the majority of the population concentrated on two islands, Viti Levu (600 000) and Vanua Levu (130 000). Fiji was colonized by the British but is independent since 1970.

The island of Viti Levu, is home of Suva, the national capital, and is the largest of the islands with an area of 10,389 sq. km, about the size of The Big Island in Hawaii. It has the highest mountain of Fiji, Mount Tomanivi (Mount Victoria), rising at 4341 feet (1324 meters). The main industries are sugar cane, dairy and tourism. It is also where lives the biggest insect on the planet, the Giant Fijian Long-Horned Beetle, measuring 15 cm long! There are 2 National Parks, Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, and Koroyanitu National Heritage Park. In Suva, there's shopping, cinemas, restaurants, nightclubs, markets and a museum.

Vanua Levu, the second largest island, has an area of 5,587.1 sq. km. It is surrounded by corals and has 2 mountains, Mount Batini (Nasorolevu), 1111 meters high, and, Mount Dikeva (Thurston), 1030 meters high. Labasa is the biggest town with a movie theater and many restaurants serving local and Chinese cuisine. Sugar cane is the main industry along with tourism.

The 3 official languages are English, Bau Fijian, and Hindi. In a 2007 census, Indo-Fijians were 313,798 accounting for 37.6% of the total Fiji population. They are descendents from Indian laborers that were hired by British Sugar Cane producers in the 19th Century. Most of them are descendants of Bhojpuri-speaking Biharis.

In Fiji, kava is also called grog or yaqona. In the ancient times, it was only drunk by Chiefs. It is now deeply "rooted" in the culture and drunk mostly during the evening at family gatherings, and during social and political events. There's always a good reason to drink kava. In Fiji, kava is what held and still holds society together. It brings peace and serenity. Although women are not seen drinking kava along with men, they do drink kava with other women, usually in the kitchen. A woman visitor with no rank will be allowed to drink with men, but she will drink last. Honored guests will be served first.

Kava varieties in Fiji:
Matakaro, Damu, Loa kasa balavu, Qila leka, Gona vula, Dokobana vula, Qila balavu, Dokobana loa, Vau leka, Matakaro balavu, Vula kasa balavu, Gona Damu, Loa kasa leka, Kabra, Loa.

Traditionally, young girls prepared the kava by chewing fresh roots and then mixing the pulp with water. Today the roots are dried, and turned into a powder. A designated person making the kava in a tanoa, massages the powder into a cloth and then strains it. The person then claps his hands with cupped hands to announce the kava is ready. In Fiji we clap in our hands before and after drinking.

It is not seen as an offense anymore to refuse to drink kava. But why would you?


Fijian words

Bula: Health, life, hello
Bilo: Coconut shell to drink kava
E dua na bilo: Try a cup (of kava, of course!)
Grog: kava
Grog shop: A place where they sell kava, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
High Tide: Full bowl of kava
Low-tide: Half a bowl of kava
Maca: said along the clapping after a shell of kava is drunk meaning it is empty
Na Koro: Village
Ni sa bula: Hello
Ni sa moce: Goodnight, goodbye
Ni sa yadra : Good morning
Sevu-sevu: Kava ceremony in a village by its chief to welcome a new guest
Talanoa: conversation, chat
Tanoa: A big wooden bowl with short legs to prepare kava
Tovolea mada: Try Please (try the kava!)
Vinaka: Thank You
Vinaka vaka-levu: Thank you very much
Yaqona: kava



~ Map of Fiji ~

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