Fijian Diversity: racial, ethnic, and religious
Written, edited and directed by Suhad Hussain.
Learn more about how Fijian history shaped the biological, ethnic and religious diversity of the Fijian people.
By Suhad Hussain, 2015
Fiji has a population of over 800, 000. Roughly 55% are native Fijians – predominantly Melanesian. 38% are Indo-Fijian. The remaining population are Chinese-Fijians, Europeans, and other ethnic groups from across the Pacific. Fiji is comprised of over 320 islands, equating to over 18,000 square kilometres. Of the 320 islands, over 150 are inhabited. The main island – Viti Levu contains the two cities in Fiji; Lautoka (over 50,000 people), and capital Suva (85,000 people).
Great Britain claimed Fiji as a colony in 1874. From 1879 to 1916, over 60,000 Indians landed in Fiji to work as contract labourers on the sugar plantations. By 1942, over 93,000 Indians lived in Fiji. Since independence from Britain in 1970, Fiji has suffered many political struggles and coups that have created tension within racial groups in Fiji – in particular between native, and Indo-Fijians.
Under the current Bainimarama administration, the term “Fijian,” now extends to Indo-Fijians and other non-Native groups. Forming a uniform identity for all Fijians represents a significant step forward and looks to promote racial equality in Fiji.
Within native Fijians, there exists a clan-centric and ancestral distinction. A person from the Lau Group will have a different dialect, culture and ancestral roots than a person from Kadavu. Bauan dialect is the most commonly used dialect of the Fijian language. Fiji Hindi is common amongst Indo-Fijians, a language that is predominantly Hindi, but has very distinct Bauan mixtures.
Religion forms a large part of Fijian culture. Roughly 58% of the population identify as Christian (~36% of the entire population identify as Methodist). After Christianity, Hinduism is the second largest religious group in Fiji with 33% of the population identified as Hindu. Muslims make up 7% of the population. 99% of native Fijians are Christian, whereas 77% of all Hindus are Indo-Fijian.
As far as race, culture and religion goes, Fiji is a diverse country. Fiji’s colonial history becomes visible in the architecture and the demographics of the population; yet delving into Fijian art, culture and language, traditional Fijian customs clearly still remain alive across the Pacific island nation.