Nesian Forever

Nesian Forever

Words by Andhy Blake

Imagine waking up to a new ‘nesian’ culture each day as you navigate through Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. From the breathtaking postcard settings in the Cakaudrove province to the ethnically diverse and colourful Macuata province – the friendly north is indeed a melting pot of cultures!

Kioa Island, Polynesian Culture
Getting ‘leid’ upon arrival in the Polynesian influenced island of Kioa set the tone for my navigation quest – if this was the entrée into the entire experience of my trip, then the welcome from the villagers singing from their flotilla of dugout canoes was indeed the appetiser!

You cannot enter into a Polynesian setting without being entertained by song or dance and this was the order after my warm welcome onto the island. Later, I quenched my thirst with some of the sweetest green coconuts while I chatted to the Chief of the island, who gave me a crash course on their ancestors who sailed from the Vaitupu atoll in Tuvalu.

Rabi Island, Micronesia
I will be honest, my encounter with the Rabian or Banaban culture dates back to when I was a teen – the neighbours across the street from where I lived, were the proud sons and daughters of Rabi island. The islanders are the indigenous land owners of Ocean island in the Micronesian influenced island of Kiribati. I was familiar with their food and dance so getting the first-hand experience visiting their home some many years later was quite special.

Like all ‘Nesian’, Banabans love song and dance, and being treated to their distinctive display of traditional, hypnotic movements was spellbinding; their neutral costumes of natural material, a contrast from my recent experience on Kioa Island.

Dancing is one of the most important aspects of Banaban culture, the medium by which their history is passed down over generations. The cultural dances are clever snippets of these events displayed in a combination of singing, dancing, and mime.

Kia Island, Melanesia
Experiencing the Melanesian culture on Kia Island off the Macuata coast was sentimental – I grew up in a not too distant neighbouring island that was only a boat ride away. Each day, I would gaze at the horizon to pass time and day dreamed of what life would be like living on it (Kia Island). Now I was setting foot into that day dream and allowing it to become a reality!

A display of the traditional dance called meke and a bounteous selection of food fresh from the ocean and meats cooked in an earth oven-called lovo, will be the lasting memory of this loving island and its habitants – a postcard that has been etched into my collection of travel experiences across Fiji.

Despite the various cultural mixes of my ancestry, with Tongan and British being the dominant mix, our Fijian culture, whenever on display tugs at the strings of my heart and reminds me why I am a proud Fijian.

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