Pacific Ocean

Bonobo: in Fiji

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We have been anchored for two days in front of a traditional village on the island of Quamea. The welcome and the generosity are incredible, as they are almost everywhere in the Pacific. Since Tonga, the people are no longer Polynesian, but Melanesian. Here the traditions are respected and applied from day to day. The positions of Kings of the islands have been passed from father to son for more than 1,000 years. When a boat arrives in front of a village, the crew must carry out the ‘Sevu’ ceremony, to discuss with the chief or the king and give him a bunch of Kava roots. All this is very serious! You have to find a ‘godfather’ who speaks English and the local dialect, to be introduced to the ceremony. This is easily done on arrival, as everyone will be on the beach to welcome you, apart from the ‘chiefs’, who wait for you to be taken to them. Wearing a skirt is compulsory (I turned a sarong into a Sulu, the Fijian skirt), as is a long-sleeved shirt. Headgear is strictly forbidden, as are sunglasses and rucksacks.

The ceremony takes place in the chiefs’ premises, sitting cross-legged on mats. You mustn’t look the king in the eyes, but speak to him via the intermediary of the ‘godfather’, to whom you have told your life story so he can sing your praises to the king. The king will then pick up the offering of kava…or not! If he picks it up, all is well, you are part of the clan! Otherwise, he can refuse you entry, and you ...

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