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Captain Cook Cruises Fiji | Blog
Nothing represents the essence of Fijian culture better than the ‘sevusevu’. This is the central component of all life-cycle rituals, social gatherings, healing ceremonies and community meetings. It is also a way for visitors to seek acceptance into a Fijian village. Attending one of these ceremonies is an amazing experience for any visitor to Fiji. Should you get the chance, here is some information on what to expect.
ONE BIG FAMILY
Fijian society revolves around the idea of the collective community: that is, all of the community exists together as one big extended family. What one individual does impacts everyone within that family. If you reside within the boundaries of a settlement, you are considered as part of that family and must act in such a way that won’t harm or bring danger to any members within the group.
ASKING PERMISSION TO ENTER A NEW LAND
In Fiji, it is common law that all land belongs to the natives and that permission must be sought when entering onto new land. When visiting the smaller native settlements, a visitor must seek out the village chief and present him with a small token or gift as a sign of respect and to ask permission to walk on his land. This not only gives visitors permission to interact with the villagers but also to stay in the town and to visit any local scenery (such as beaches, waterfalls etc). Not doing so shows disrespect for the natives and their culture, but is also the equivalent of trespassing – you wouldn’t be impressed if someone pitched a tent in your backyard without permission, would you?
WHAT IS SEVUSEVU?
‘Sevusevu’ is the name given to the actual gift or token that visitors present the chief with. What this item is depends on where you are, as preferences vary from region to region, but the most common item is Kava Root. This indigenous substance is available at any marketplace and is used to produce a mouth-numbing brew that is shared during the ceremony.
When arriving in the village, visitors should ask for the Turaga ni Koro (pronounced as too-ranga nee koro) who is the head villager, as they usually have good English skills and will help with the translations. The head villager will take visitors to the chief’s house for introduction. Remember to take your shoes off at the door. Sitting cross legged on the floor, the kava root is then presented to the chief, who will then oversee the making of the brew.
First, the root is placed in a cloth pouch, then water added so that the contents can be squeezed out into a ceremonial bowl. When the chief is happy with the results, traditional words are said of the bowl to bless the contents, then the bowl is shared around between all present. When the contents are finished, the ceremony has ended and visitors are now considered as part of the family.
The specifics of the actual ceremony itself varies from region to region, but the basic formula of the event itself stays the same.
To ensure you are respectful of this important tradition, there are a few points of etiquette to follow. Firstly, everyone at the ceremony should dress in a sulu, which is a Fijian skirt regarded as their national dress. Women should also cover their shoulders and remove everything from their head, like hats or sunglasses. Men should sit cross-legged, ensuring that their sulu covers their knees, and women should sit with knees and feet together. Do not take photographs or videos throughout the ceremony, until the Turaga ni Koro lets you know that it’s okay to do so. Silence during the ceremony itself is crucial.
Related: Fiji Etiquette You Should Know
EXPERIENCE A SEVUSEVU CEREMONY FOR YOURSELF
If a sevusevu ceremony is something you would like to experience or witness for yourself, find out more about our Four Cultures Discovery Cruise, where you can explore the beauty of Fiji while learning about the different cultures that make up the community: the Ellice Islanders, Banabas, Indian and Fijian people. And of course, you will have the opportunity to attend a traditional sevusevu ceremony.