Pacific Island Books
Culture and Society

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Culture and Society

Children of the Sun: Fiji Islands by Glen Craig. Recommended retail price $12.50.

This is a superb collection of wonderful photographs by long time Fiji resident/visitor Glen Craig. Glen (who for reasons known only to himself goes by the epithet Glenbo) has a quirky and vibrant photographic style and his photographic sense of humor shines through. The fly leaf to the book proclaims: “This book is a celebration of the peoples of the fiji islands whose wonderful spirit and spontaneity is evident in the many and varied images. May they and all visitors to these shores protect and nurture this spirit for all present and future Children of the Sun.”

The guff at the back makes much of the fact that only amateur cameras were used and that no scan or system editing was applied. This is really so much sophistry … when you are as good a photographer as Glen is, it really doesn’t matter what system you use. And anyway the distinction between amateur and professional cameras is thin these days.

If you had to buy only one book about Fiji this would be my recommendation … even above my own Fiji’s Natural Heritage (but of course you should buy both!) Soft cover, 136 pages (17 cm by 17cm).

Click here for image from Children of the Sun by Glen Craig (35.27K)

Cikobia-I-Ra: Archaeology of a Fijian Island by Christophe Sand et al. Published by the Fiji Museum and the Museum of New Caledonia. ISBN 2-9509311-5-4. Recommended retail price. $22.

Cikobia, a small island in the north-east of the Fijian islands, has been called "Cirikalia" - the isolated one, by its inhabitants. An archaeological program begun in 1997 by a Franco-Fijian team has tried to reconstruct various aspects of the prehistory of this island which is situated at the border between Melanesia and Polynesia. This booklet, written for the general public, gives an account of the main archaeological discoveries which show the wealth and diversity of Cikobia's prehistoric heritage. In English, French and Fijian. Soft cover, 58 pages. Published in 1999.

Deuba: A Study of a Fijian Village by William R. Geddes. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 9820201500. Recommended retail price $17.

Deuba: A Study of Fijian Village, originally published in 1945, is a simply told but highly informative account of life in three adjacent rural communities in Deuba district, not far from today's Pacific Harbour complex. As Fijian social scientist Dr. Eci Nabalarua writes in her new introduction for this reprinted edition of Geddes' book, "For any young anthropologist or social science researcher, Geddes' small book on Deuba is undoubtedly a superb point of entry into the field," and she concludes, "the villagers in Deuba … can be proud … that an important era of the life story … of their community is now included in the annals of a living history."

When he collected the materials for his book on Deuba, in 1942, William R. Geddes (1916-1989) was serving as a young New Zealand army officer, part of a three-man team resident in Deuba, responsible for training Fijians in guerrilla warfare techniques as part of the then British colony's Pacific War effort. At that time Geddes had not yet committed himself to professional anthropology; it was his Fijian work that inspired him to do so. This, his first published work, is a portent of the several fine ethnographic monographs that he would subsequently write, mostly on peoples of the Southeast Asia region. Geddes was to become professor anthropology at Sydney University and one of the leading anthropologists of his generation. Soft cover, 99 pages. Published in 2000.

Fiji and the Fijians Volume I: The Islands and their Inhabitants by Thomas Williams. Published by the Fiji Museum. Recommended retail price $18.00.

Written in the forties and fifties of the last century, and published in 1858, Rev. Thomas Williams' remarkable classic still provides by far the best single insight into Fijian life as it was before the widespread and profound impact of Christianity. An outstanding scholastic feat which quite dwarfs many more recent studies, the book contains a wealth of reliable and detailed information on most aspects of Fijian culture, presented in highly readable form. As such it is standard, indeed essential background reading for all interested in Fiji and things Fijian.

Published by the Fiji Museum, this new paperback reprint is a faithful reproduction of the rare first edition, and includes the very valuable colored illustrations missing from later editions. Soft cover, 266 pages, 3 color plates, 29 engravings; 1 map. Published in 1982.

Fijian Ethos, The by Asesela D. Ravuvu. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies ISBN 9820201861. Recommended retail price $19.

The book is about traditional Fijian ceremonies which continue to exist as a model for life. They reflect Fijian world view, and define the social and political structures, religious beliefs, values and practices inherent in Fijian communities. Functioning as a framework within which people continually evaluate their behavior in relation to others, these ceremonies also act as a focus of achieving and maintaining unity and a unique Fijian way of life. While they generally emphasize the importance and maintenance of the existing traditional order, these ceremonies are also manipulated as a means of achieving new goals and aspirations in the quest for a more prosperous and better life.

Dr. Asesela Ravuvu is the Director of the Institute of South Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific. He worked with the Fiji Education Department for 24 years. He was one of the first graduates of the University of the South Pacific. He joined the University staff in 1976 as a lecturer in Pacific Studies. This led to his interest in studying Fijian society that culminated in the publication of The Fijian Way of Life. An in-depth study of Fijian ceremonies resulted in this book, The Fijian Ethos. Soft cover, 359 pages. Published in 1987.

Fiji Masi: An Ancient Art in the new Millennium by Catherine Spicer and Rondo B B Me. ISBN 0646437623. Recommended retail price $29.95.

This book is collaboration between Rondo, Catherine and Spirit – the Spirit that lives and breathes in the land of Fiji and presents itself in the living art form of masi.  Working together and sharing each other’s hopes and dreams, the authors began the process of writing this book.  Constantly guided by Spirit they found their way cleared at every step as doors opened and help came again and again from unexpected quarters.  The belief in their work and the trust extended to them have been most gratifying.

Catherine Spicer was born in New Zealand.  After volunteering to help on a handicraft course in Fiji in 2000, she decided to relocate to Fiji to further develop, promote and market art and craft made by Fijian women.  This work is now her life’s passion and she devotes her time to assisting Pacific Island women make products suitable for the export market.  This she believes is the key to helping women alleviate poverty and create sustainable income.  Her time is spent in Fiji, Australia and the Solomon Islands.  She is also currently organizing a small group of masi kesa women from Fiji to demonstrate their art in a working exhibition in museums in the USA and Europe.

Rondo Blue was born and educated in Australia.  Her formal education was undertaken at Macquarie University and the University of Western Sydney, where she studied history and graduated BA Dip Ed., and MA, respectively.  Her greatest learning has come from the best school of all, Real Life.  Rondo travels regularly to Fiji and her love for, and knowledge of, Fiji has deepened over the years.  In 2003 she published the book, Kaivalagi ni Viti, an account of early European settlement in Fiji which included the first Census of the settlers.  She has worked as a freelance researcher and genealogist for many years and also given talks on specialized topics to genealogical and historical societies and at universities.  With Catherine, she is involved in planning exhibitions and also lectures on aspects of Fijian art, craft and history.  Home is anywhere by the Pacific Ocean.

Each book comes with an original piece of handmade masi.

$1.00 from the sale of every book will be donated to the Fiji Museum, Fiji Islands. Soft cover, 120 pages. Published in 2004.

Fiji's Past on Picture Postcards by Elsie Stephenson. ISBN: 9823620016. Recommended retail price $50.00.

The various topics of the cards are examined giving an invaluable picture of life in Fiji during the first half of the century as well as exploring the background of the pioneering photographers and publishers of Fiji's picture postcards. Soft cover, 351 pages, 262 black & white photographs; illustrations, 48 color plates. Published in 1997.

Living On The Fringe: Melanesians of Fiji by Winston Halapua. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 9820203155. Recommended retail price $23.

The term Melanesians in Fiji refers to Solomon Islanders and New Hebrideans (from the islands of what is today Vanuatu) who were brought to Fiji to work on the plantations during the 1800's. The term Melanesians in Fiji also refers to their descendants who continue to live in Fiji today, most of whom have more Fijian blood than Solomon Islander or New Hebridean blood because of inter-marriage. Nevertheless, they remain a distinct community, often living in settlements thus on the margins of society.

This book, written by an Anglican priest with years of experience serving Melanesians, discusses their displacement. The chapters analyze the transition from subsistence living to plantation work to urban developments, the role of church and state in urbanization and marginalization, and particular settlements in Fiji, including their structures. Similar to other marginalized peoples, Melanesians in Fiji must deal with issues of dependency, paternalism, class, ethnicity, inferiority, intermarriage, integration and self-determination.

The cover of this book shows Father John Shaw, a Melanesian and friend of the author, alongside a path. The path is one well trodden by Melanesians and is symbolic of their unique journey to the present time. The path winds into the distance and speaks of Melanesians' continuing journey and story. Soft cover, 152 pages. Published in 2001.

Plantation to Politics; Studies on Fiji Indians by Ahmed Ali. Recommended retail price $15.

A century ago Indians began arriving in Fiji as indentured laborers at the request of the British rulers who gave them the option of remaining permanently in the Pacific. Today, as Fiji Indians they constitute nearly half the population of their homeland. The collection of essays in this volume highlights the march of a people arriving as immigrants and then sinking roots in their search for security as permanent citizens. The reader sees the interplay of a variety of forces in a plural society as Indians struggle on plantations, strike for better wages, jostle for prominence among themselves, and confront and cooperate with others in seeking their rights and asserting them. Not just the fears, hopes and aspirations of Indians but also those of Europeans and indigenous Fijians: how they have interacted with one another under colonial rule and then independence, are examined. We journey with a people who begin as laborers and pave the way for their descendants to become cultivators, artisans and professionals as they and their country are transformed. Soft cover, 222 pages.


Rotuma: hanua pumue Precious Land by Anselmo and Daniel Fatiaki and others. ISBN 9820200350. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. Recommended retail price $16.  

Off the main island of Rotuma is Hofliua, or Split Island.  Legend has it that a hermit crab challenged a swordfish to a race from Tonga to Rotuma.  By spacing his hermit crab friends along the way, right up to the beach at Rotuma, the crab tricked the swordfish into believing he had won.  Twice they raced, and twice the crab deceived his friend.  On the third occasion, the angered swordfish put all his effort into victory.  As he approached Rotuma, he was travelling so fast that he sliced through the small offshore island of Hofliua, cutting it forever in two.

Today, perhaps, the swordfish is Modernisation.  It has split the Rotuman people between yesterday and tomorrow, the old and the new.  It has split them, too, across hundreds of miles of ocean so that, now, over sixty percent live in Fiji. This book describes aspects of Rotuma’s unique culture and the tensions faced today as the twentieth century invades its isolation. Soft cover, 267 pages. Revised 1991

Rural Fiji edited by John Overton. Recommended retail price $13.

This volume presents a collection of studies, covering a cross-section of recent research in a country that has been the focus of much recent political and social upheaval. These research efforts do give some clues to the frictions and frustrations, as well as the limited successes, of Fijian rural development. The book is an attempt to present a ‘flavor’ of some of the work that has marked a recent upsurge of interest in rural Fiji.

Of common concern has been the nature and rapidity of recent change in Fiji. Population growth and migration, varying opportunities for cash-cropping, and government rural development initiatives have all affected social and economic conditions in the Fijian countryside. These studies show that rural dwellers in Fiji have not been passive in these transformations. The studies in this volume analyze some of these responses. Soft cover, 230 pages.

Thumbnail photo of Staying Fijian cover

Staying Fijian: Vatulele Island Barkcloth and Social Identity by Rod Ewins. Published by the University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3112-7. Recommended retail price $48.

Barkcloth, or masi, is the traditional art form of the women of Vatulele Island. Its manufacture continues to flourish, even increase, while many other arts are declining, despite the fact that most of its functional roles have been usurped by Western cloth and paper. This book explores this apparent paradox and concludes that the reasons lie in the ability of its identity functions to buffer the effects of social stress. This is so for not only Vatuleleans but all Fijians. It is argued that the resultant strong indigenous demand has caused the efflorescence in barkcloth manufacture and use, contrary to the common assumption that the tourism market is the "savior" of art. This cultural vigor, however, has social costs that are explored here and weighed against its benefits. Rod Ewins locates a very local activity in both national and global contexts, historically, sociologically, and theoretically.

Hard cover, 402 pages. Published in 2009. 96 illus., 26 in color.

Traditional Sailing Canoes in Lau by Robert Gillett, James Ianelli, Tevita Waqavakatoqa and Matai Qica. Published by the Institute of Pacific Studies. ISBN 982020089X. Recommended retail price $19.

People that regularly use sailing craft usually inhabit small isolated and resource poor islands. They have a limited cash economy, thus are dependent upon products of their environment for their transportation. They have compelling reasons for travelling; they have limited or no alternatives to traditional crafts. Such are the people of the Lau Islands in eastern Fiji.

Nearly 100 islands stretching over 250 nautical miles north to south, comprise the Lau Group. Islands are usually no more than 30 miles apart; most rise above 100 metres. From a sailor's perspective, these factors simplify navigation because the islands present a broad destination from afar in the local dialect. Lau means "hitting the target."

Canoe building remains an important industry in these islands. This book, written in English and Fijian explains the construction, dimensions, materials, accessories, repair, sailing methods, navigation, voyages and future of canoes in Lau. Soft cover, 94 pages. Published in 1993.

Vaka I Taukei: The Fijian Way of Life by Asesela Ravuvu. Recommended retail price $15.

This fascinating yet definitive study of the Fijian way of life promises to become a standard reference. Included is the study of kinship, houses, food, life-cycles, land, spirits, personality, values and administration. Fijians constitute the largest of the 1,200 distinct language / culture groups in the Pacific Islands, and their unique way of life is of widespread interest. The book describes both the traditional principles and their present-day manifestations. Recommended for all visitors to Fiji. The Fijian Way of Life would also be a useful reference for ethnologists and geographers. Soft cover, 130 pp.

Click here for photo from Vaka i Taukei: The Fijian Way of Life by Asesala Ravuvu (24.34K)

Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma by Vilsoni Hereniko. Published by the University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0824816552. Recommended retail price $22.00.

"An imaginative and thought-provoking study of clowning in Rotuma, especially of ritual clowning in contexts of marriage ceremonies and the weaving of fine mats.... Completely fascinating." --Canberra Anthropology

"A challenge to readers both in its form and content.... This book conveys the lively, complex and often hilarious elements, both of daily life and celebratory rituals, as they are expressed in contemporary culture." --Journal of Intercultural Studies.

Pacific Islands Monograph Series, No. 12. Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai`i. Hard cover, 197 pages. Published in 1995.

Click on links below for related titles

Fiji Journals of Baron Von Hugel, The : 1875 - 1877 edited by Jane Roth and Steven Hooper

Indo-Fijian Experience, The edited and introduced by Subraman

Kirisimasi: Fijian troops at Britains's Christmas Island Nuclear tests edited by Salabula et al

Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition: Volume 3 by Charles Wilkes

Samoans in Fiji by Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano


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