The culture of Fiji is a tapestry of indigenous Fijian, Indian, European, Chinese, and other nationalities. Culture polity, traditions, language, food, costume, belief system, architecture, arts, craft, music, dance, and sports which will be discussed in this article to give you an indication of Fiji's indigenous community but also the various communities which make up Fiji as a modern culture and living. The indigenous culture is an active and living part of everyday life for the majority of the population. However, it has evolved with the introduction of vibrant and old cultures including Indian, Chinese and European culture, and various cultures from the Pacific neighbors of Fiji; in particular the Tongan and Rotuman cultures. The culture of Fiji, including language, has created a unique communal and national identity.

Tradition and Hierarchy

Fijian indigenous society is very communal, with great importance attached to the family unit, the village, and the vanua (land). A hierarchy of chiefs presides over villages, clans, and tribes. Chiefly positions are hereditary; a deceased chief is invariably followed by a kinsman or kinswoman, though not necessarily his own son or daughter. This reflects Polynesian influence: in most other Melanesian societies, chiefs are appointed on merit.

The largest social unit for Fijians is the Yavusa, defined by R.A. Derrick as the "direct agnate descendants of a single kalou-vu" (deified ancestor). Chiefly succession was from older brother/sister to younger brother/sister, after the death of their father/mother. When the youngest brother/sister died, the eldest son/daughter of the eldest brother/sister became chief. This tradition still influences Fijian society today, though less rigidly: there is more of a tendency nowadays towards primogeniture.

Each brother/sister in the family then formed his own branch of the yavusa, called the Mataqali. Each mataqali became the custodian of a specific task. A fully developed Yavusa has several mataqali:

  • Turaga: This mataqali descends from the original ancestor through primogeniture - inheritance of the eldest son in each succeeding generation. The chief of a village is always chosen from the Turaga mataqali.
  • Sauturaga: These are next in rank to the chiefs, support him, and enforce his commands and also have final say in the installation of a Chief
  • Mata ni vanua: These form the official heralds of the village. They are also in charge of ceremonial functions
  • Bete: This was the traditional priestly class. The kalou-vu was believed to speak through the Bete.
  • Bati: This mataqali forms the traditional warrior class.
  • Dau (skill) and Matai: these are the crafts people and specialized skilled people of the tribe e.g. Dau ni vucu (Poet/choreographer/composer), Dau ni yau (treasurer), Mataisau (carpenter/or Canoe builder)
  • The mataqali are subdivided into Tokatoka, each comprising closely related families.