Viti: The Bridge of Moana-Nui
Nayacakalou, Tukai Jioviliti Tawake
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Viti (Fiji) lies at the centre of Mōana-Nui (the Pacific) where the lines of Melanesia and Polynesia converge. Its location has brought about a unique culture where one can find people, arts, crafts, foods, traditions, and protocols influenced by trade with cultures from neighbouring islands from Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia. However, globalization and cultural assimilation associated with British colonies has led to a loss of Itaukei (indigenous people of Viti) culture and tradition. Like many other indigenous island groups, Viti did not use written transcripts to record their history and culture till around the 20ᵗʰ century. Their history was recorded in other ways, namely in the tangible art of building. To survive and thrive as a people their shelters and modes of transportation were key pillars in learning about ones culture and self, how they rested and how they moved on the earth, so no matter where they found themselves their culture and knowledge of self was with them. Vale (fale) and Waqa (waka)were vessels of learning which elders would use as tools to pass on knowledge, through building techniques and processes. The deterioration of Itaukei Waqa and Vale building has seen the culture as a people deteriorate. The physical and mental health of Itaukei peoples is in decline. The loss of our Waqa connecting us to Mōana-Nui, has destroyed the intelligence, confidence, bravery, and strength of Itaukei to conquer the impossible. The absence of Waqa to travel, has left us static, leaving us in a mode of rest, disconnecting our relationship to Moana-Nui and our stories, people, resources, which are all part of our cultural identity.