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Ceremonial items and etiquette

Yaqona is consumed seated on a rectangular Pandanus mat. At one end is a Tanoa (wooden or clay mixing bowl). The front area has Magimagi (coconut fiber rope) and cowry shells attached to the Magimagi. This rope is laid out toward the chief, while next to the chief will be his spokesman and other senior men. Behind the Tanoa will generally be three people: one mixing and two to serve and gather water as needed.


Once the Person mixing has all he needs in front of him, he will sit cross-legged and upright, touch the Tanoa and say,

“Qai vakarau lose Saka Na Yaqona vaka Turaga” (I will respectfully mix the Yaqona for the Chieftain).


After mixing, he takes the coconut shell bowl and fills it with Yaqona. He lifts it high and then lets the Yaqona pour back into the Tanoa so the Chief's herald can see the Yaqona. The herald, on seeing it is too sosoko (strong) will exclaim “Wai”. On hearing this the mixer will add more water and repeat the same action until he hears the herald say “Wai donu”. He then knows the Yaqona is a good mix and is ready to be served.


He puts his hands together and circles the Tanoa with his hands, saying,

“ Qai darama saka tu na Yaqona Vakaturaga” (With respect the chiefs Yaqona is ready to drink).


Server cups his hands, claps three times and begins to serve the Yaqona in a Bilo (coconut shell cup). This will then be carefully taken to the chief in his personal bilo (all others will drink of the same cup). The chief will receive the bilo of Yaqona by cupping his hands and clapping with a deep, dignified sound. Then he will take his bilo and drink. As he is drinking everyone will clap in slow time, and when he is finished the herald will exclaim “Maca” and all will clap three times.


The server will clap once drink the bilo and clap once. All will clap only twice when he is finished. For a time this process will be repeated, then once he feels it appropriate the herald will signal to the mixer to open the drinking of the Yaqona to everyone.


Server then touches either side of the Tanoa and says

“Taki vakavo Na Yaqona vaka Turaga” ( Now all may drink of the chiefs Yaqona) and will then clap twice. All will then be allowed to drink, following the order of seniority.

7. If someone comes in the middle of drinking he must bring a small offering (sevusevu) of Kava/Yaqona as a sign of respect. He will announce himself with a respectful greeting

and then the senior members drinking will invite him to join in. He will say a few words

of respect when he places his Yaqona on the mat before the others. Then a member of the drinking party, generally the herald, will touch the Yaqona and say a few words ending with “Tarai Saka tu na sevusevu Levu” as an acceptance of the token of respect (Sevusevu) and the drinking session will continue along with the telling of many stories.

8. Once the Tanoa is empty and the herald sees it fit to end the drinking session and not to

mix again, he will signal to the mixer, who will then say

“Qai maca saka tu na Yaqona Vakaturaga” (respectfully to you all, the chiefly Yaqona is finished).

Each high chief of our islands has his own kava mantra, and this is accorded him whenever he is welcomed. On occasions when visiting dignitaries are welcomed one of such mantras is chosen.

"Na iWase Ni Yaqona" or The Symbolic Food Gesture

After the dignitary has spoken, the people's designated spokesman offers a thank you speech ("ULIVI NI VOSA"), the gist of which is a reconfirmation amongst those gathered of the reverence placed on the visitation and their plea that the dignitary's stay is a pleasant one, that it will bring 'good living' and the pleasure of the forces that guides us.

Amongst family and friend gatherings this etiquette is more loosely followed and dialect and social etiquette can vary from place to place.

Tabua is a whale's tooth and is a valued gift in ceremonial presentations [18] , the greater number of teeth presented the greater the gift. It is important for the presenter to always play down the offering, but those receiving will always talk up the offering: if it is small they will say it is great, the point is eloquence and humility.

Mats and Masi: The exchanging of mats has been common practice in all forms of Fijian ceremony from ancient times.The Masi can be used as a permanent decorative piece in a house or a temporary decorative piece at various ceremonies. One of the uses of Masi is to wrap the newborn baby collected from hospital, while at the other end of the life cycle it decorates the room where the body lies before burial. It also covers the coffin, and is spread over the grave.

Other items:While Tabua, Yaqona and Mats are crucial items in ceremony and social gatherings, many other items are included, such as various root crops and now flour, bread, tinned foods, kerosene, soaps and the like for rural and distant areas. These help to meet physical needs whereas Tabua and Yaqona are items of respect and hold a spiritual significance.