Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sevusevu 101

Half Kilo of Yaquona Kava
Sevusevu is a Fijian tradition thousands of years old.  The Fijians were ferocious and cannibals long ago.  When a visitor from another village came to visit, they presented a gift of Yaqona (Kava Root) to the chief.  If the chief accepted this, you were welcomed into the community for the duration of your stay.  If the chief did not accept your sevusevu, you were probably eaten.  Captain Bligh, after being set into a lifeboat by his mutineers, sailed through the waters of Fiji but never touched land and kept on going for fear of the Feegees.  He probably should have brought some Yanqona.

Yaquona is sold in the markets of the large cities.  We bought 4 half kilo bundles.  You do not show up and anchor in front of a village without presenting Sevusevu.  It would be like someone pitching a tent on your front yard in the US. 

Before you do anything, you go to the village, find the headman, called the Turaga ni Koro.  He is your representative.  You must be well dressed which in Fiji means wearing Sarongs and the women must have their sholders covered.  You tell him your story about where you are from and why you want to be at his village.  He then takes you to where the chief is.  He may be at his house but could be anywhere.  The chief will be sitting on a mat and already know you are coming.  You must not have your hat or sunglasses on anywhere around the chief.  It works best if your Turanga talks the chief’s representive.  In Yadua, the Turanga ni Koro had a stroke so wasn’t able to represent us, and in Soso, they only had a stand-in chief.  So we just went along with whatever.  After all, we weren’t going to be eaten.

When you go into wherever the chief is, you take off your shoes outside, crawl to him on your knees and place the bundle of Yaqona in front of him.  By placing it on the floor, this is to give him the option of accepting or rejecting it.  Your Turanga will tell your story.  The chief will clap three times which means “I am about to speak, please listen”, then place his hands on the bundle, recite the traditional monologue that has always been said for Sevusevu, and clap some more.  You will clap also and that’s it.  He will welcome you to the community.

This clapping thing is very important.  A clap is called a Cobo, pronounces Thombo.  It is a deep, loud, cupped hand clap.

If you are fortunate, the drinking of the Kava will follow.  The chiefs herald will have a village boy, the mixer, cut and grind the Kava root in a steel mortar and pestal. When it is to the chiefs satisfaction, the herald puts it in a silk cloth and squeezes water through it in a large bowl until it is acceptable to the chief.  Kava is a mild sedative and anesthetic.  It numbs your lips when you drink it and you may get a mild buzz.  The Fijians live to drink this stuff.  They can not handle alcohol so it is best.

It tastes like dirt and dishwater and is served in a coconut or wooden cup.  The mixer fills the cup and gives it to the chief.  He cobos once, takes the cup and chugs it down completely.  Then he and everybody cobo’s three times.  The cup is then refilled and the mixer presents it to the next person in order of seniority (importance).  They cobo once, drink, and cobo three times, and so on.  

No comments:

Post a Comment