DRAWA ARTIFACTS RECALL FIJI’S CANNIBAL PAST

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 31) – It is a rather bizarre heritage for someone to live with, although the stories of cannibalism that Drawa Village headman Samuela Baka was told by his grandmother are part of Fiji's history.

[PIR editor’s note: Drawa village is located on Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu.]

The tough logger from the Macuata village admits to being a little frightened at times retelling the stories, but his grandmother passed on her childhood stories to make sure her era of Fiji's history wasn't forgotten.

Baka said the village still had sites where the victim was killed and where the village elders met to decide on their next target. He said his grandmother told him how she would put aside fingers and other body parts in her plate while eating all the vegetables in her soup.

Baka's grandmother died more than 10 years ago. He said she always preferred eating vegetables because her childhood memories haunted her.

To substantiate the stories, he took me across the river to show the stone and the platform where he believed the victims were killed.

Recollecting his grandmother's tales, Baka said the davui [conch] was blown each time the chiefs were ready to kill.

He said after the victim was dead they would carry the body across the river to the village where the women and men would prepare the roasting pit.

Baka said although the village had only seven homes now it was once very popular and many chiefs from around the area were from Drawa.

He said it was sometimes frightening to recall the stories but he was thankful that his ancestors accepted Christianity and changed their lifestyle.

"Although my grandmother was frail she recalled many stories and each time we get a visitor here we tell them about it and I take them to the site if they are interested. Many people are not interested because we have to cross the river and walk through thick bushes. The davui is still there and sometimes the youngsters in the village blow it for fun. Further up the hill there are two stones, which my grandmother said was used to check the size of the victim. If the person to be killed managed to pass through the two stones he was considered undersized and the chiefs instructed the women in the village to feed him or her. After a few months the victim would be measured again and if the size is right it would be a feast."

He said the village had also produced brave warriors.

Pointing to a pile of stones in the bushes, the headman said in the old days, when villagers committed an offence the chiefs ordered them to pick all the stones, take them across the river and bring them back to form a pile.

He said warriors armed with clubs were on stand-by to assault the offender if he failed.

"Our village is very historic and we hope to make it into a tourist destination in years to come," said Baka.

He said many villagers had moved away in search of work and a better lifestyle.

Baka said a lot of them returned to spend their holidays there and enjoy the serenity.

Baka said the stories were interesting because they had a lot of background information about the area.

He said with the recent supply of piped water and flush toilet facilities, Drawa was slowly changing and in years to come it could become a tourist destination.

February 1, 2006

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