PIGLETS, WHALE’S TOOTH MARK VANUATU TRADITIONAL APOLOGY

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PIGLETS, WHALE’S TOOTH MARK VANUATU TRADITIONAL APOLOGY

By Jona Bola

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 10) - A Vanuatu delegation and descendants in Fiji presented 10 piglets, fine Vanuatu mats, dalo [taro] and a kava plant to seek the forgiveness of the Fiji chiefs yesterday.

Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi received the presentation, done in traditional Vanuatu style, on behalf of the chiefs and people of Fiji.

With a walking stick and a boar's tusk encrusted to it, the president of the Vanuatu Council of Chiefs, Paul Tai, presented the gifts in front of more than 5,000 people who converged at Suva's Albert Park.

Speaking in the Vanuatu dialect, Mr. Tai said the people of Vanuatu presented their gifts from their hearts to the chiefs and people of Fiji.

He said the gifts were a token of apology for what their ancestors may have done in Fiji after being brought here through black birding in the 1800s.

[PIR editor’s note: According to an online Vanuatu Guide, blackbirding refers to the ‘slave trade’ of the 1900’s which was initiated by Robert Towns (Townsville) and was supported by the Queensland government. It relocated an estimated 60,000 Melanesians to Australia and other areas as a form of cheap labor.]

Tai said the people of Vanuatu were sorry if things they had done in the past had directly or indirectly insulted the chiefs and people of Fiji.

He said the presentation was significant because it was done during Fiji Day celebrations and the Melanesian Arts & Cultural Festival.

After accepting the apology, Ratu Joni was taken around the gifts five times before touching each gift as well as the stakes where the 10 piglets lay.

On behalf of the chiefs and people of Fiji, Joni presented a ‘tabua’ (whales tooth) through his herald to accept the apology and also to seek forgiveness from the Vanuatu people.

As part of the traditional Vanuatu way of apologizing, the audience, which included invited guests, overseas dignitaries and members of the public, were treated to a lively Vanuatu dance.

Vanuatu Descendants Association of Fiji spokesperson Reuben Tokona had earlier said it would be a great relief to Vanuatu descendants in Fiji for their ancestors to be forgiven for crimes they committed in Fiji.

He said the idea of offering an apology had continuously been discussed by Vanuatu descendants in Fiji over a number of years.

Mr. Tokona had gone to Vanuatu earlier this year to discuss the matter with Vanuatu chiefs.

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