Kato'aga: Rotuman Ceremonies

by Elizabeth K. Inia

Table of Contents


Part 1: Components of Ceremony

'Epa, Apei, and Päega: Ceremonial Mats
Koua: Earth Ovens
'Umefe: Chiefly Tables
Tefui: Garlands
Lolo: Anointing Oil
Mena: Turmeric
Mafua: Knowledgeable Elders
Fumarä'e: The Man in Charge
Etiquette and Manners
Numbers and Measurements

Part 2: Ceremonies

Death and Funerals
Birth Rituals
First Birthday
Hapagsu: Recurrence Prevention
Majau: The Power to Heal
Ag Forau: Farewell to Travellers
Mamasa: Welcoming Ceremonies
Installation of a Chief
Homage to Chiefs
Koua Puha
Ancient Marriage Rituals
Modern Marriage Customs

Rotuman Indigenous Spirituality

Fumarä'e: The Man in Charge

Fumarä'e is a man chosen by a chief to be in charge of any function for which a koua is made, such as a marriage, funeral, or mamasa. The fumarä'e should be installed nini (anointed) by a chief. The people of the village make a koua and prepare a päega for the man to sit on. He is installed in the same way as someone taking a title (hül asa). The chief himself pours the coconut oil and paints the inductee's cheeks; formerly mena was mixed with the oil. The inductee is then called fumarä'e. He becomes the man in charge of all the feasts done in the village and stands up in front of the chiefs and visitors, calling out orders to the men who serve food.

At a marriage feast, the fumarä'e directs the men as to which portion of food is to be given to sigoa (namesakes), which portion is to be taken to the groom's or bride's party for their meals, and so on. He sees that the food is well distributed to all parties present. Each party takes the baskets of cooked starchy root-crops, roasted pig, and other foods, to a suitable place in the compound to eat. If the fumarä'e sees that the food is insufficient for division into many portions, he orders the men to place the food on a long row of split coconut leaves topped by banana leaves and asks everyone present in the function, except the chiefs and other dignitaries, to sit opposite one another and share the feast. Good fumarä'e are known by their wise judgment and generosity. Greedy fumarä'e keep much food for themselves and the workers so the guests have less.

The fumarä'e tells the mafua to announce all koua that are brought to a marriage feast, for example, 'amaho, fakpou, koua ne mose, fakasoko, 'öf sope, laloag ne su, a'vahiag su. He records all the koua that are brought to the marriage and sees to it that the people who really work hard—those who produced everything asked of them at the first meeting, when the date for the wedding was discussed—have food to eat in return. He walks around while the feast is in progress to make sure that everybody has enough. Sometimes he orders more food be added to the shares taken to each party.

At funerals, the fumarä'e asks the woman who records the number of la'o (kin groups attending the ceremony as a unit) to give him the list so that he can divide the funeral feast accordingly. He eats last and divides the remaining food among the workers and himself. The host family thanks him with mats after the function is concluded.

To Hierarchy