Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Costume "Fusion"

The contraversial 'owl' costume
In every festival where there are performances by contestants or entertainers, we usually see them portraying their culture. Whether it is European, iTaukei, Fijian of Indian origin, Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian or other ethnicities, the performance is usually be based on culture. The reason for this is we human beings celebrate our heritage, our ethnicity and culture. During the Hibiscus festival we see all sorts of dances – we see the meke, the bhangara, the hula to the tamure and the dancers are usually dressed in the traditional costumes. Sometimes it’s a grass skirt, and we also see the iTaukei attire of masi and other attire of where the dance or meke originated from.

Lots of time, thought and practice is put in. And if the meke belongs to a certain vanua, a traditional ceremony of request is presented to the owners. If accepted, the owners would even have one of their people attend the practice to make sure it is done properly. From dance moves to attire everything is performed to expectations.

Today we have what we call fusion. It’s the joining together of two or more cultural dances and attire.  We often see iTaukei meke being performed to contemporary English songs or Hindi music. And likewise we often see traditional Hindi dances performed to iTaukei chants. As time goes by, producers of song and dance have come up with many fantastic fusions that have made us sit up and clap with approval. And there have been times we sat back and frowned. And there were times we have cringed in horror and wondered what the dancers were doing and who thought of the fusion of two or three cultural songs and dance moves. And we say collectively, “Oh my god, who came up with that?”

It has always been the tradition in Fiji for the approval of traditional mekes and costumes to be sought from the owners or the vanua. Blessings come with the approval and we are always delighted with the result. If the person requesting the owners that he or she would like to add a little, the owner may approve of it and accept it – and a modern dance and song is invented.

In all walks of life we celebrate our rich culture and as time has gone by we no longer see the traditional seasea, fan and spear dance, we no longer see the derua (bamboo) being used.  We are losing a lot to mordernisation. It’s a fact of life.

Then we have the recent “issue” of the Miss World Fiji and the owl costume. Many of us have gasped in horror and wondered where and what part of Fiji did this originate from. It has been said, and it should always be, that if a representation to a world event is to be performed where the name of our country is going to be used, traditional request and representation must be sought. 

There have been mixed feelings about the owl costume, with the producer/director defending himself, saying that Fiji has no traditional costume. Is he true? And he explained that the owl is a symbol of wisdom. I wonder what would have happened if the costume was to have been presented to the people of Fiji before they left, would we have given our approval. And to whom would the isevu have been presented. With my vivid mind I can just imagine the frowns that would have appeared on the faces of traditional heads of the iTaukei people not to mention the rest of us.

As for the Miss World Fiji pageant, who does it belong to, is it a private organization with no say from anyone in Fiji. Why are there no iTaukei involved in it?

Anyway, it seems we are now trying to piece the jigsaw puzzle together and some pieces don’t fit. I have a feeling Torika Watters could be thanking her lucky stars it wasn’t her wearing that costume. But what about Ms. Vakaloloma, was she coerced into wearing the costume, did she approve of it? I’m sure she will return to explain things and we all hope someone other than Mr. Blake does.

The owl is certainly associated with the wise and that’s why a group of them are called a parliament of owls. But I digress, if we were to refer to our parliament of the past, the owls would disagree, because they were referred to as clowns.

Anyway, we have learnt a lesson the very hard way and I hope the Miss World organizers did agree that the costume was the best and that’s why Koini was first on.

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for your blogs, it certainly looks very professional and well organized. I am surprised to see on television that the director/producer claims that the costume was shown to the people of Fiji before they left to compete in miss world.

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