March 26, 2023


Digital Art Community

Respecting the Ancestors


Spiritual observance in the early nineteenth century focused mainly on divine ancestors, to whom temples were dedicated rather than a lineage of creator gods, as found in many other areas of the world. In Fiji there was a direct correlation between divine power and the phenomena that affected human life, such as rain, drought, crop fertility, and, especially, illness. Accordingly, there was a very practical aspect to Fijian ritual, which involved prayers, chants, sacrificial offerings, obeisance, and other forms of worship in order to please the gods and elicit desired outcomes.

Model or portable temples, such as those seen in this gallery, duplicate the architecture of full-scale temples, and were probably kept in the main bure kalou, and possibly taken as portable shrines on canoe voyages. They are made of great lengths of handmade coconut husk cordage and their elaborate construction was a form of sacrifice and skilled sacred work.

In pre-Christian ritual, yaqona was made in concentrated form for consumption by priests, who sucked it through reed tubes from shallow dishes, some with elaborately carved pedestals. A wide range of types of these shallow, priestly yaqona dishes can be found in this gallery. These bowls were used for the burau priestly rite, which took place in a temple, where the priest drank yaqona offered by supplicants. Rare forms of anthropomorphic yaqona bowls present an expressive image, but it is not known whether they represent a named ancestral figure or why they were made in this human form. Other bowls were carved in the form of an animated flying duck or a naturalistic turtle. Some examples, such as a double bowl in the form of leba fruit (used for scenting cosmetic coconut oil) may have been used for yaqona or the preparation of fragrant oil.