Fijian connection to water
Written, edited and directed by Carmen Grady.
The Fijian people have a complex, multi-layered relationship to the ocean, as it influences their practical, daily lives, but also the creative arts, symbolism, and even spirituality.
By Carmen Grady, 2015
The ocean is incorporated into many aspects of Fijian life. Not only does it provide much livelihood for the Fijian community through economy and industry; it is also entwined through the movement of the people, creative expression and spirituality.
A key source of food for Fijians is the sea. Seafood is a part of everyday life through consumption as well as job production in the fishing industry. This aspect of the ocean is embedded in Fijian economy. Skilled agriculture, fishery workers and service market sales workers hold 26,639 working positions, taking up 20% of the Fijian job market (Fiji Bureau of Statistics, 2015).
The movement of bodies is also greatly affected by the ocean and its variability. Particularly on islands, tidal patterns and reef structures greatly affect the ability to walk between villages and bring boats into shore. Natural disasters and changes in ocean levels due to climate change are also key factors which affect how the Fijian population negotiate everyday life.
The entangled relationship Fijians share with the ocean is clear when observing their creative arts. Artworks provide evidence that many Fijians understand themselves and the world around them through their connection to the ocean and sea life. Ocean imagery is often seen in art such as carving, but also in traditional patterns and everyday clothing. The ocean and its parts become symbols or metaphors for a larger story about culture, history and tradition which has been passed down from ancestors.
Many Fijians also have a more complex spiritual relationship to the ocean. For example, turtles are often used as a food source but are simultaneously bound to ideas of prestige and hierarchy among chiefs and clans (Morgan, 2007: 60). The politics surrounding customary rights to catch and consume turtles are directly linked to these social hierarchies as well as spiritual connections (Morgan, 2007: 60).
The Fijian population have a symbiotic relationship with the ocean. There is no doubt that the people greatly affect the ocean with fishing and industry; however, at the same time, the ocean mutually affects the people through its movement, influencing their creativity and spirituality.
Fiji Bureau of Statistics. 2015. http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/index.php/social/9-social-statistics/social-general/143-employment-statistics
Morgan, R. 2007. Property of Spirits: Hereditary and Global Value of Sea Turtles in Fiji. Human Organization 66 (1): 60-68.