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Edited by Léo-Paul Dana and Robert B. Anderson
Chapter 45: Fiji: Melanesisan Islands with Polynesian Cultural Values
45 Fiji: Melanesian islands with Polynesian cultural values Léo-Paul Dana Commerce is about selling; Fijian society is all about sharing. (Hailey, 1988, p. 39) Introduction The Fiji Islands, of which there are 332, cover an area of 780 000 square kilometres, most of which is communally owned by more than 6000 Mataqalis (land-owning units). The islands are geographically situated at the eastern extreme of Melanesia, adjacent to Polynesia; the Indigenous Fijians are classiﬁed as Melanesians. However Crocombe (1989) found that, while Fijian people can be described as physically similar to the Melanesians, their culture has more in common with that of Polynesia. Reddy (2001) elaborated, ‘Among the Melanesians there is little social stratiﬁcation and the emphasis is on egalitarianism. This is in marked contrast to Polynesia, Micronesia and Fiji where social class and the hierarchical system (of commoners and chiefs) are very important . . . one is born either a commoner or a chief and there is little that can be done to change that status’ (2001, p. 33). Commoners and chiefs both have obligations, as dictated by traditional vakaviti, sociocultural norms; for example, the custom of solevu requires each chief to distribute gifts generously to his people. Among local traditions is the making, serving (Figure 45.1) and drinking (Figure 45.2) of grog, a ceremonial drink made from the roots of the yaqona plant. Hailey (1985) observed that, although the traditional system worked well in the past, it contributes to economic frustration. Qarase noted, ‘The extremely low rate of...
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