Noqu vosa nogu iyau talei

Ni sa bula vinaka, and good health to you. Fiji Language Week this year is celebrated between 6 and 12 October and the Library is hosting a much anticipated event with a presentation and demonstration of the traditional Fijian masi (tapa), followed by a viewing of selected Fijian items from the Turnbull collections.

The theme for Fiji Language Week this year is noqu vosa nogu iyau talei – my language, my treasure; come and find out more.

Women spreading or taking up a carpet of masi and mats, part of the ceremonies installing Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as Sau ni Vanau.Women spreading or taking up a carpet of masi and mats, 1969. Ref: PAColl-0199-179.

In our collections we hold excellent examples of Fijian masi, a cloth made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry. Several collection photographs show masi being worn, gifted and used in customary ceremonies. In the past, it was men who wore masi cloth and it was most commonly plain and not decorated or dyed.

These days both men and women clothe themselves with masi during customary occasions, and a range of different types can be found. Patterns and decorations are applied to the white masi using stencils and natural dyes.

Types of masi

Masi vulavula – undyed white masi, the most common kind.

Masi toni – brown masi from dipping (toni) in an infusion of mangrove bark, often used for burial.

Masi kesa – masi with coloured patterns using dyes and different colours.

Masi kuvui – smoked (kuvui) masi. Chiefly masi used for turbans and shoulder bands with a dull yellowish colour. In places such as Vatulele which is well known for masi making in Fiji, the smoked colour is from having been soaked in an infusion of the bark of the kura tree and bark of the doi shrub.

Masi in photographs

Shows an outdoor gathering including a procession of Fijian women wearing traditional clothing.Presentation of Fijian mats and tapa cloths to Queen Elizabeth II, 1953. Ref: PAColl-7171-61.

Men carrying tools and supplies for a Kava drinking.Men wearing masi, preparing for a Yaqona drinking ceremony, 1969. Ref: PAColl-0199-129.

Formally grouped men in traditional dress, most of them shouldering war clubs, and some wearing necklaces.Men dressed for a meke-ni-valu, a dance before war, 1881. Ref: PAColl-5530-31.

Museum exhibit of Kanathea patterns, consisting of paper stencils and banana leaf stencils for decorating bark cloth.Kanathea patterns, Vuna, Taveuni, 1914. Ref: PAColl-1914-134.

Nuptial couch at Tubou on the island of Lakeba, Fiji. The couch is covered with new tapa mats, and a ngatu (large sheet of tapa) is hung on the wall.Yaqona's nuptial couch, ca 1910. Ref: PAColl-1914-082.

Detail of the patterns on a Fijian masi.Details from a photo of Fijian masi, ca 1910. Ref: PAColl-1914-124.

Tui Tabou ties tapa to the left arm of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara during the latter's installation as Sau ni Vanua.Tui Tubou ties tapa to the left arm of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, 1969. Ref: PAColl-0199-113.

Vinaka vakalevu, see you at the Library soon!

By Arawhetu Berdinner

Arawhetu is a Learning Facilitator with Public Programmes.

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Lynette Tyrrell October 10th at 8:02AM

A lovely blog Arawhetu, supporting a great event yesterday. Vinaka vakalevu.

Semisi Pone October 13th at 9:49AM

excellent pictures