Concerned about the loss of tradition
5:00 At the cock’s second crow Silivia crawls from under the mosquito net, leaving her two youngest daughters beneath it; then tiptoes around her husband and three other children sleeping on the floor mat of the vale-lebo (sleeping house). She pulls out the tab of wood that serves as a lock and goes to make breakfast in her vale-kuro (cooking house) before her children leave for school. All seems fixed in time. The heavy clouds ding to the mountains of the province of Naitasiri and their mist settles to the bottom of the valley, giving the impression that the village of Naseuvu nestled there will stay forever caught between day and night. Only the rushing waters of the Waidina River, and the smoke from the kitchens’ wood fires reveal the activity in the village.
A sub-clan chief
When Silivia steps outside, her foot sinks into the muddy earth. It is the rainy season. Just yesterday, her husband, Ratu Abele, was binding the last leaves on the cooking house’ s roof, one of the few buildings still made in the traditional style. His father, Ratu Valetino, is so concerned about the loss of tradition that he insists the whole family must learn the craft. In Fijian society, power descends from the paramount chiefs to village chiefs, who distribute the garden space to their villagers, and down to sub-clan chiefs like Ratu Valetino, who represent the needs of their particular tribe. At the sound of the church’s lali (a hollow wooden gong), the three older children, dressed for the day after their shower the night before, jump up silently, fold the cotton cloths that have served as bed sheets, pile them in cardboard boxes at one end of the house, where all the family’s belongings are kept, then walk across the village. Their first words will be those of the morning’s prayers in the small wooden church.