FIJI AT THE BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION, WEMBLEY, 1924
from The British Empire Exhibition 1924: Official guide.London, Fleetway Press Ltd.pp. 91,93,95.
Area (including Rotumah) : 7,083 square miles.
Population: 157,216. Area of Pavilion: 2,000 square feet.
The Fiji Pavilion is easily one of the most attractive buildings among the many mansions of Empire. The visitor will welcome its compactness and order, and will quickly realise that the exhibits include some of the most interesting things to be seen at Wembley. The tortoise shell goods and turtle backs are unusually fine specimens. The coral and minerals, shells, rubber, and timber exhibits are set out with great attention to detail.
Perhaps, the display by the Native Department will prove the strongest attraction of all. Here, in addition to native dresses and ornaments, are to be seen all manner of native weapons; bows and arrows, clubs, and spears (now only used in dances). A six‑foot war-canoe and a four‑foot outrigger will be examined with proper attention by young adventurers. They may learn a few Fiji words too, and see the objects they represent ‑ Tanoa, a bowl used for kava (a native drink); Tabua ‑ a whale's tooth presented as a goodwill offering; Kali ‑ a native pillow, a fillet of iron‑wood supported on two claw feet Lali ‑ a drum made of a log hollowed like a trough with cross‑pieces near the ends, sound being produced by beating the edge of the drum with two rounded pieces of hardwood; Bure ‑ a receiving house for strangers (shown here in model).
Boys will not care to miss the cannibal forks in this section. Cannibalism has gone out of fashion in Fiji, but the forks may still be found. The four‑pronged wooden forks made in one piece were expressly used for eating human flesh.
The examples of native crafts and handiwork include mats, beadwork, baskets, combs, pottery, tappa and sinnet., The mats are in all varieties‑‑‑ floor, sail, and sleeping mats; coarse mats of coconut leaf, finer mats of the dwarf screw‑pine. All are made by women. Tappa or masi, the native Cloth, is an extremely interesting product of Fiji, made from the bark of the paper mulberry. The art of making it was once known in New Zealand, but has been lost there, and must inevitably decline in Fiji, when the natives discover the more durable textiles made by English looms. Masi is made without the aid of any machinery. The bark is peeled oil the paper mulberry when the tree is the thickness of a raspberry cane, and is soaked and beaten in such a way that the pieces of bark expand and become cloth that, as will be seen, can be planted in a variety of colours and patterns.
Sinnet is made of the fibre of cocoanut husks, dried by baking, combed out, and braided. It is used for fastening, lashing, and wrapping. Much of it is required for canoes and for the houses of the Chiefs. The native love for variety may be observed in the different ways of winding sinnet.
His pottery distinguishes the Fijian from all the South Sea Islanders. It is quite original, and often charming in design. Cooking pots are most in demand, and these are made of red and blue clay, tempered with sand, and glazed with the resin of a species of pine.
The model village, cleverly put together, gives a good idea of a native community. The natural products of the islands are thoroughly well displayed ; sugar, copra, cotton, fruit, vegetables nuts, spices, tea, coffee, ginger, and cocoa. Children may gaze upon the castor-oil bean in all its beauty, and learn how it is treated before it appears in the nursery. Tonga bark (a native specific for neuralgia), tobacco, and rope, have each a place. Here you may buy native soaps and tropical jam.
Scenic models, maps, and photographs complete a vivid reconstruction of life in the South Seas with its fantastic colour and romance. These Islands have really come to London; more than a glimpse of their strange loveliness is before our eyes. Old and new, primitive and modern ways unite in the daily life of the people. Their ceremonies and ways go back countless generations, and yet they can listen to wireless!
The visitor will learn that there is only one way to prepare kava, the native drink. The Fijians call it Yaqona, and it is made from the root of a pepper tree, which is masticated until it is reduced to fine particles which are put into a large bowl and mixed with water. At public assemblies when the water is poured on the root, the people chant songs, and beat with little sticks on a bamboo or log of wood until the kava is ready to be strained. Then the priest or headman pronounces a prayer or a toast, and the most important guest is handed a coconut shell from which to have the first drink. The beverage looks like caf‑au‑lait, and has an aromatic, slightly pungent taste. Roots of yaquona are offered to strangers as tokens of goodwill.
British interest in the Fiji Islands dates from Captain Cook's vist in 1769. In 1835 missionaries founded a settlement in Fiji. In 1859 Thakombau, the most powerful chief in the Islands, offered the sovereignty to Great Britain, but it was declined. A few years later the American Civil War led to so great a demand for cotton that there was an influx of Europeans into Fiji to grow cotton, and a group of Englishmen set up a Fijian Government with Thakombau as king, and an elected Parliament. A good deal of hostility and disorder followed. The Chiefs ceded the sovereignty of the Fiji Islands to Queen Victoria in October, 1874.
The island of Rotumah, about fourteen square miles, was annexed in 1881. The natives are quite unlike the Fijians in both language and ways.