Fiji Ethnology

In 1956 there were 345,737 residents, of which 148,134 Fijians: 4422 Rotumani, 5320 other Pacific islanders, 169,403 Indians, 6402 Europeans, 7810 Euronesians (European mestizos), 4155 Chinese and Chinese mestizos. Population growth is around 4% per year, and is worrying above all because Indians are growing faster than Fijians: the birth rate in 1954 was 43 per thousand among Indians, 37 per thousand among Indians. Fijians, slightly less among the Euronesians, and 17 per thousand among Europeans. Mortality, on the other hand, was 11 per thousand among Fijians, 8.6 per thousand among Indians, and 4 per thousand or so for Euronesians and Europeans.

Exports consist of sugar, gold, copra and bananas; imports of cereals and their products, meats, other foodstuffs, fabrics, machinery. The port of Suva was damaged by a cyclone in 1952 and by an earthquake in 1953. Nandi airport, on the west coast of Viti Levu, is one of the most important in the Pacific.

Ethnology. – According to INTERSHIPPINGRATES, the residents of the Fiji Islands belong to the Melanesian group by race and culture, but with notable Polynesian affinities. Under the wise direction of the British government and aided by the Critian mission, which has already been active in the country for a century, they have every chance of escaping the fate that awaits almost all the peoples of the islands and the Pacific: extinction. It should however be fading away their old civilization (v. Melane – Persians), and, in recent times, although the race has gone through altering unions with immigrant Indians. The state of health is satisfactory and crime is minimal. The presence of numerous teachers, government employees, missionaries, captains of cutters and indigenous doctors confirm the civilization capacity of the population. In the ports and among the aristocracy, European costumes and clothing have taken over; but in the interior of the island, near the Kai Dholo, there are still traces of the ancient custom. As in the past, great care is taken of the hair: men transform them into huge wigs that sometimes reach an incredible volume; the leaders put a kind of turban over it. The tattoo is no longer used; on the other hand, the teeth of a sperm whale (tambua) still have an important part, used as an ornament in necklaces, as a coin and in gifts of honor. The houses are rectangular with long pitched roofs covered with grass.

The fear that the ancient islanders had of the cow and its milk has disappeared to the point that in the frequent feasts, in addition to the strictly pork, beef is also consumed, and condensed milk is commonly used in the diet of children. On the other hand, the natives are very ashamed when they are reminded of the ancient anthropophagy. The preparation of the quarry continues, the use of which is accompanied by special ceremonies. Some of the old industries, such as pottery and tree bark fabrics, have naturally disappeared, while the weaving of mats and fishing nets is still actively exercised. Many matrimonial customs still recall the ancient matriarchy: the missionaries, for example, complain about the very relaxed sexual morality even among the Christian natives. The clan is still theoretically the owner of the land, which is divided among its members; and apart from objects of personal property, everything that the individual produces belongs to the clan, which does not contribute to increasing the desire to work. On the other hand, those in poverty can demand what is necessary from the other members of the clan (kerekere), which gives rise to much abuse. The authority of the leaders has diminished: now everyone can eat the turtles he has captured, while this was previously a privilege of the aristocracy. However, they have the right to avail themselves of the clan or each of its members, not only in the general interest, but also for themselves personally (lala), although this now encounters strong resistance. Christianity has not completely eliminated the ancient religious uses: conjurations and spells are still used in the most important moments, the belief in the spirits that live in the forest remains, etc. Not even the ancestor cult has completely disappeared. Sacred stones and trees are at least treated with some consideration. The taboo still exists, and among the objects affected by it is also the Bible and especially on Sundays, on which day all work is suspended with superstitious terror.

Language. – The residents of the Fiji Islands all speak a single language, which takes on different colorful dialects in the various islands. The best known variety, and to which glottologists in general refer, is the one spoken in the Viti Levu or greater Fiji, which represents a Western-type variety of common Fiji. Fiji belongs to the Melanesian language family.

For the characteristics and relations with the Indonesian and Polynesian languages, see maleopolynesian, languages.

In phonetics we can see the lack of distinction between the voiceless k, t and voiced g, d. In the morphology it is observed that noun and verb are distinguished only by their position in the period (a vosa “speech”; au sa vosa “I speak”), etc.

Fiji Ethnology