Brush up on indigenous Fijian protocol and avoid cultural faux pas when you visit a Fiji village.
VILLAGE VISIT PROTOCOL
Many indigenous Fijians (i-taukei) still live in rural villages where traditions run strong. A visit to a traditional Fijian village is one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the daily lives of locals.
It is advisable not to visit a Fijian village on your own as there are many complex traditional protocols to observe first. The best way to do so is with a tour company or your hotel.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Villages are a place to be conservative so women should cover up as much as possible before you go. Sleeved T-shirts are most suitable and a long ‘sulu’ (sarong) can be tied over shorter bottoms.
Hats and sunglasses should also be removed within the village. The head is sacred in Fijian tradition and adornment is a privilege set aside for the village chief. It’s also taboo to touch someone’s head – even those of small children.
THE SEVUSEVU CEREMONY
Admission onto village lands requires formal permission and usually requires a gift of kava roots to the village chief in a ceremony known as 'sevusevu'. Yachts touring remote islands should stock up on kava roots but most tour companies will arrange this on behalf of the tour group.
Upon arrival at the village, your contact and representative is the village headman who will then present your offering to the village chief and elders on your behalf.
The formal 'sevusevu' ceremony involves elaborate speeches of offering and acceptance by various members of the village. It is also a central feature of all social and community gatherings.
It is polite to be quiet during this time and only photographs and videos of the ceremony when the village headman indicates that it is appropriate.
You’ll notice people clapping several times during the ceremony in a cupped fashion. If you are offered a bowl of kava, cup your hands and clap once before accepting. Greet your hosts with a loud ‘Bula’, then consume the kava all at once and hand the bowl back before clapping three more times.
It’s polite to have at least one bowl of kava but you can relax once the official ceremony is over.