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

Death and Funerals

In days gone by, when a noble died, the body was placed in a canoe-shaped wooden trough, called fugaroto, on top of which was hung an apei (fine white mat) as a canopy. The word aroagvaka (canopied canoe) was thus used when referring to the death of a noble. The term ala is the common word for death, and when a commoner died, his or her body was placed on a mat, with a wooden pillow under the head, and the lower part of the body covered with a mat. The upper part of the body was painted with turmeric powder mixed with coconut oil. The bodies of nobles and commoners lay in state for a day and a night, exposed to view, before burial.

The chiefs of all the districts of Rotuma had to be informed of the death of a district chief so that they could come to pay their last respects to him. The messenger who went around the island informing chiefs about the aroagvaka was the one chosen to be the deceased's successor. The elders of the mosega (descent kin group) whose turn it was to rule the district selected him. [1] The mosega might also meet to discuss such matters prior to the chief's death if it became apparent that his illness was critical.

Whenever a person died, the village chief (fa 'es ho'aga) was informed first so that he could assign people to perform tasks that needed immediate attention: a group of men to dig the grave, another to take down the walls of the house where the corpse was laid; others to cut soapstones from the beach and bring them to the grave; men to provide food from their gardens and bake it for the funeral feast; women to prepare kava for the kava ceremony (because kava had to be chewed by young women); others to cut banana leaves to cover the 'umefe for the chiefs in anticipation of the funeral feast. [2]

News of the aroagvaka travelled fast by coconut wireless. Funerals were the only Rotuman functions that people hurried to arrive on time. To be late was an omen of bad luck for the family because it was believed that it foreshadowed the death of another member of the household. Sneezing (he'jia) in the house while the body was lying in state was also considered a sign that another family member would die in the near future.

Visitors brought presents such as mats (at least one white mat and several brown mats), tapa cloth, garlands of flowers, and food (taro, yams, pigs, turtles). All the raw food had to be baked for the funeral feast. To leave some uncooked suggested they were expecting to make another koua, indicating another death. Chiefs came with their people in a group (la'o). Each chief's la'o was led by a young woman from his family carrying an apei, followed by other women with ordinary mats. Next came the chief himself, followed by additional men and women.

When the la'o approached the front door, they all crouched down and an elder (mafua) announced their arrival by calling on the chief's spirit (he' 'atua) to protect him and his party as they entered the house. (The visiting mafua could be any elder in the la'o, male or female, who was capable of handling the he' 'atua.) Then the mafua greeted the body in the fugaroto and the chiefs of the place, finally asking permission to enter. The party listened to the response from a female elder seated by the back door of the house, inviting the chiefly la'o to come in. This mafua (always a woman) had to have sharp ears and knowledge of the spirits of the different chiefs and the titles they were known by:

District              Spirit                                    Title

Noa'tau             Maf se mao                         Fa ne Saho'a

Oinafa                'Ofa                                        Fa ne Lep ma'ma'a

Itu'ti'u                Paufu                                   Fa ne Lag tanu

Malhaha            Lie and Paufu                    Fa ri roa ta

Juju                     Peie'                                      Fa ne Sol'umea

Pepjei                 Aso                                        Fa sau ta
(part of Juju)

Itu'muta           Hanit e ma'usu                 Fa sau ta
(part of Itu'ti'u)

Before they arrived, the mafua of each la'o had to know who died and the cause of death, and whether the person had died suddenly or after a long illness. All sudden deaths were believed to be caused by a blow (kafa). Other causes were aging, withering (maimai), or illness. The mafua of the la'o, while crouching in front of the house, announced the name of his chief's local spirit. For example, if the death occurred in Itu'muta and the visiting party was from Itu'ti'u, the exchange was as follows:

The visiting mafua began: "Gou le Paufu, Kalog" [3] (I am Paufu, sirs). [Paufu is the name of the spirit of the Itu'ti'u chief's home in Motusa.]

Then the mafua addressed the dead person: "Fa sau ta" (if a man) or "Han gata" (if a woman).

The mafua then announced one of the following, depending on the circumstances of the death:

(a) After a sudden death or brief illness: "Noa'ia 'e tartar ne 'ou kafat" (Thank you for bearing the blow).

(b) After a long illness: "Maimai 'ia se 'on 'ojogat" (Thank you for bearing the long illness, during which you withered away), or alternatively: "Noa'ia 'e tartar ne hik vai mea" (Thank you for taking your medicine).

The mafua continued:

"'Äe kel se soloag ne 'ou hule" (You have seen the setting of your moon [life]), or sometimes, "Täla molien se rer ne 'ou farao ha'at" (Your spirit is going to climb onto the holy mat).

Because the death had occurred in Itu'muta, the names of the chiefs of Itu'muta were announced as follows:

"Noa'ia fa ne Sahoa' het, Noa'ia Gagaj Tiu, Gagaj Fagmaniua, ma te' ne 'au fau gagaj he ta'ag usia' te' pa tikaf se laloag su'uar ta'ag?" (Greetings to you, district chief [in this case, Itu'muta], subchiefs Tiu and Fagmaniua, and all others inside. May we enter the chiefly house?)

The mafua sitting inside the house knew whose party was crouching outside by the name of the spirit with whom they had identified themselves. When she heard "Paufu," she knew at once that the district chief of Itu'ti'u or his representative headed the party outside. She therefore responded with the greeting:

"Kalog, fa ne Lag Tanu het, marium ma 'aitu, han gate', han gate' ma te' ne 'au fau gagaj he ta'ag, noa'ia ma mas ne laam se laloag su'uar te'." (Sirs, the chief of Itu'ti'u has come with his spirit, with women carrying mats, and the whole party; you are welcome to step into this house.)

Any party that came to an aroagvaka or ala with a chief and white mats had to go through this same procedure, but relatives who lived afar entered the house through the back door without performing the he' 'atua ritual even if they brought white mats, because they needed no protection from the spirit of the dead person. Visitors who came without a white mat also entered through the back door.

While the body of a chief was lying in state, a group of elderly men from the village chanted a temo (a kind of chant sung when a chief died). The singing of the temo helped to keep people awake and was sung to the beat of cupped hands clapping. One of the singers performed a kaf faksara, by clapping with the middle finger of one hand bent toward the palm, making a sound that contrasted with the usual sound of cupped hands.

The following temo recounts the places a canoe had gone: [4]

Fonoäfe vaka matagi forau

Fonoäfe was a sailing canoe

Ho'ame hafu ta ko Pepe'atu

Pepe'atu brought the stone

Kauvaka ma 'e mafa ne sa'au

Sailing along near the reef

Mose'aki sio la'o mane'a

An end comes to a joyful trip

Vakalepa 'e sa'au sua tea

For the canoe had to be paddled because the wind died down

Manumanu ta kaukau ma 'ea

A sea creature waded toward us and said

Takia la'o la'o halea

It would guide us as we drifted in the sun

'Umi let'aki 'isa ne fea

We who were afraid tried to reach out

Liua vakat se utut 'e fa'

Turning the canoe to the west

Tapene 'e Tikopia; ia ma au

What about Tikopia; is there a current?

Fatuki ma Nanumaga

Fatuki and Nanumaga

Nauru ia ma Nui

Nauru and also Nui

Tarawa ia ma Peru

Tarawa and Peru

'Uvea ta ia ko tohi se tanu

'Uvea, which is quite close

Niuafo'ou, Niuataputapu

Niuafo'ou, Niuataputapu

Niua moki fu agatau

Little Niua is in front of us

'Otara Toga sa'a furu sau

Our Tonga, plait white mats for the king

Before burial, the body was wrapped in fine mats and tied three times—once toward the head, once toward the middle, and once over the legs. If the dead person had been married, the surviving partner and his or her relatives provided the mats for wrapping the body. They had to take the body out through the front door legs first so that his or her eyes faced the direction in which the burial party was headed. As they were about to carry out the body, the mafua inside the house, who was sitting by the back door, called out:

"Kalog, fa sau ta [for a male corpse] or han sau ta [for a female]; täla mariuen se 'on tia ha'a" (Sirs, the gentleman/lady is leaving for his/her holy grave).

Having been farewelled by the mafua in the proper way, the wrapped body was put on a hata, a bier of wood (two long poles with cross pieces), and carried by male relatives to the grave. As soon as the corpse was out of the house, the mafua inside ordered the white mat that had served as a canopy to be lowered and folded, along with the mats on the deathbed. The folding of the mats symbolized the end of the person's life. Folding the mats immediately after the corpse was gone was a way of making a new death in the house unwelcome; if the mats were left in place it might suggest they were waiting for another death to occur.

The pallbearers' bodies were smeared with a mixture of mena and coconut oil, and they wore skirts of fresh ji leaves. Dressed alike, the village men who accompanied the pallbearers as they walked toward the cemetery (tamura) chanted a ki.

A ki summoned the strong spirits of old in funerals, in war, in wrestling matches (hula), and whenever extraordinary strength was needed, for example, when large gravestones were carried from the beaches or when dignitaries arriving by boat were carried on a platform. Here are some examples of ki:

Noa'tau and Oinafa

As ta, hual ta, moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i

Tokaniua moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i


Orosio o-o-o-o-o

'Ivo, Oii iii e-o-a

'E ho—hei tua hi!

Orosio—[and repeat].


As ta, hual ta, moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i

Sosoi'aki moumou ki-i-i euoo a ehoo

Orosio o-o-oi i-e-o-a

'E tumu se-'e tumu se-'e

Hei tua hi, Hei tua hi!


As ta, hual ta, moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i

Moa ta moumou ki-i—e uoo a ehoo

Orosio—ioo, orosio—iooo—i-e-o-a

'E ho—hei tua hi! hei tua hi!

Fag'uta (Juju and Pepjei)

As ta, hual ta, moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i

Ragafuata moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i—euoo a ehoo

Orosio—ioo, orosio—iooo—i-e-o-a

'E ho o hei tua hi! hei tua hi!


As ta, hual ta moumou ki-i-i-i-i-i

Hani te ma'usu moumou ki-i-i-i-i euoo a ehoo

Oro sio-ioo, Oro sio-iooo i-e-o-a

'E ho o hei tua hi! hei tua hi!

All ki end with "Iok Pakora . . . e-e-e-e-e."

The ki was sung until the wrapped body or coffin was lowered into the grave. The bier had to be dismantled soon after the burial and left at the burial site to rot. The mats that covered the bier were given to the owner of the land where the grave was dug. [5] In addition, a white mat and several ordinary mats, along with lengths of cloth, were presented to the gravediggers immediately after the burial. They were given to the leader of the gravediggers' party before leaving the cemetery, and he distributed them among the members of his party.

The crowd attending the burial went back to the house site where the body had lain in state to partake in the funeral feast. The chiefs, the village mafua, and one member of the family sat inside the house, The others waited outside for the feast. The kava plant was brought in, followed by food placed in la (cradles of coconut leaves, called fuarei), rather than the coconut-leaf baskets used on other occasions. [6] (Food containers that are presented to chiefly persons during ceremonies, whether baskets or cradles, are called fono.) The food placed on the fuarei included three baked corms (any combination of taro, yams, papai, 'apea[7] ), a roasted chicken wrapped in coconut leaves, and a tin of corned beef. A roasted pig was always carried on a plaited coconut leaf carrier called sa'tui.[8]

The mafua sat near the food and summoned the men by calling "Marie', marie', marie'!" (Thank you, thank you, thank you!) The men, who were waiting outside, then brought in the 'umefe (low tables) and placed them in front of the chiefs. Each chief was given a table of his own, which was placed upside down in from of him. Then the mafua called the girls ("Marie', marie', marie'!") who were to prepare and serve the kava, and those who were to serve the food. The four kava girls entered, led by the one who was to prepare the kava for drinking. She carried the tano'a (a wooden bowl for mixing the kava) and was followed by the others who brought a small mat, a halava (a large coconut shell containing water), ipu (coconut-shell drinking cups), and three banana leaves each.

First the mat was placed down in the middle of the room facing the highest ranking chief, who sat in the middle of the line of chiefs. If the house was oriented east and west the chiefs sat against the east wall; if the house faced the sea, the chiefs sat against the seaward wall (mua heta). Then the kava girls put down a banana leaf on which they placed the tano'a. They sat down and the han ho kava (kava maker) sat facing the chiefs and placed a banana leaf on her lap to serve as an apron. By her side sat the han agai, the girl who poured the water into the tano'a. On either side of the tano'a sat the other two girls who served the kava to the chiefs. The girls appointed to serve the food proceeded to sit in front of the tables facing the chiefs. They carried three banana leaves each (two for the table and one to serve as an apron on their laps), and a knife with which to peel the corms. To keep flies off the food, each woman cut off the end of the banana leaf on her lap and used it as a fan.[9] All the girls had to sit in the proper Rotuman manner with legs bent at the knees, their feet facing behind them to one side (päe fakhani).

Next the mafua called in the boys ("Marie', marie', marie'!") who brought the fono to the girls who were serving the chiefs. The mafua called, "Kalog! Fon fakaitet se [name of highest ranking district chief present], ia' marie', marie', marie'! Kalog! Fon fakaitet se [district chief next in rank]," and so on. Fono fakaitet was announced by the mafua for any fono taken to the centrally important person as well as for any presented to the district chiefs sitting in the row.

For subchiefs (toko), the mafua announced, "Fonoitet" and "'Eu fonot se te' ne gagaj 'atakoa 'og, ia' marie', marie', marie'!" The chiefs' fono were presented as each person's name was announced. For nontitled visitors, "'Eu fonot se te' ne gagaj 'atakoa 'og, ia' marie', marie', marie'!" was announced and the boys came forward with fono and placed them by each server's side (the side away from where her legs were folded back). The kava servers and mafua were also given fono though they were not announced.

The quantities of food were then announced by the mafua: "Kalog! Te'eiate täe la usia'afua . . . Faktemasine te' . . . Laagai saghul, 'i'in sema 'e hatat, kav hu fa' hatat . . . Ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs, cooked chiefly food to be announced . . . here is for the gravediggers . . . 10 containers of food, with a roasted pig and a kava plant. Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

Next he announced, "Koua af'aki te', la ruaghul, 'i'in sema 'e hatat, kav hu fa' hatat" (The food for the funeral, 20 baskets, with a roasted pig and a kava plant). Then, "Kav putu te', laag paat, fu'akiag paat, a'vahiag paat, paag riit" (The kava for the mourners, [and the food for those who prepare] the grave [and for those] who put the walls of the house back up). [10]

Finally, the mafua announced: "'Igkavei la pupui liam, jio sema 'e äf 'a'anat, rer sema 'e hat sava'at, kav hu fa' hatat; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (A heap of food for the next five days, piled on top of 1,000 uncooked taro, 10 pigs, and a kava plant. Thank you, thank you, thank you!) [11]

Then it was time for the kava ceremony to begin (manu'uag ne kav ta). The mafua called a man ("Marie! marie! marie!") to come forward to the kava plant, which was tied with a coconut leaf to keep the branches together. The man squatted down and broke the coconut leaf tie. [12] He broke a twig from the plant (kafra) and jabbed it into the roots and shouted, "Manu'!" The mafua answered, "Uah!" Then the mafua chanted the fakpeje (a poem that he chose as suitable for the occasion, or one concerned with the origin of kava). If the mafua did not know where the kava came from, he could ask the man about its origins by chanting a question:

Kafa fai ma mia'mia'sio 'e ar ka asa ta panipani, Reirei ta ha'ua 'ona kaf se 'ona araar. Tau kava, kai ma'uga se kai, fuma'e, se kai tokarara? (The sun is shining over the kava plant that was uprooted. Is it from the top of the mountain, the side of the mountain, or from the valley?)

The man by the kava replied accordingly. If it was from the top of a mountain, he replied, "Kai ma'uga; manu'!" (From the mountaintop!) If from the slope of a mountain, "Kai fuma'e; manu'!" If from a valley or plain, "Kai tokarara; manu'!"

An example of a classic fakpeje, recorded by A. M. Hocart in 1913 from Timote Hanuarani of Noa'tau (as I adapt and interpret it), is as follows:

Kafa mai lalala, sü' ma'imo sio

Dried kava twigs, sticking out, mix with water and drink

Ka ta'ea 'e si' tutur, mariuen

Stop leaning on your hands, for gone

Sina tuku 'e Manono

Sina has left Manono

Vaka te päepäe te', kalog

This was the canoe on which she sat, sirs

Lepi heta fu fak popot

Lepi stood on the way

Gasav ne Sauri'i kou toto

In between Sauri'i the blowhole, like a boar

Fif hoto ma fakarua ne sopo

Bubbles up like soap

Ma la osia telua rogorogo

Get ready to fish at the famous hole

Vao ül 'ai ma 'is la mo'o

A net of leaves, we better hide

Fono 'e väefa ko sui maro

Bait with leather-jacket fish for bones were hard

'Isa la oroa te Sauri'i

Let's attract sharks of Sauri'i by a contrivance of coconut shells

Kavei se Ragse'e ka ma 'on ri

Ragise'e is our landmark because of houses

Jou, asa ta huhrer

Fish ripple, sun is overhead

Ui toto fa'u Haue

Can hear blowholes, back of Haua

* * *

* * *

Maksulu 'e nu'suar

The door is darkened

Fa'u kav hu fatat a'mamar

A huge bundle of kava plant

Pasi ma fuap'aki tutu

Cut up and distributed

Mou het ma mam fakput

Chew the root and store it up

Rou se tano'a su'i 'e tan

Put it in the kava bowl and pour water into it

'Imoa se laga huag

Drink or drain it down inside you

Sau fon 'e puak ma pulmakau

The king's basket contains pork and beef

Vahi ma kop la tuk

The feast ends with "tuk ne kava" [the mafua announces "vah ne kava" to the chief][13]

Rueas la la'o ma fuetou

Let us go; I stand up

Fäega ma 'a'a 'en nuju.

Talk as if biting my lips [inarticulate because I am drunk].

* * *  * * *

Kava hao'e Sa'tarua

Kava was planted at Sa'tarua

Tarai 'isoa la ua

Sharpen a stick to dig it

Jei se' kafa ra mafua

Split the main kava twig

Kava pu sio se sala mafua

Kava came down to the old road

'E Loliki, hei hei tuatua

At Loliki, Heitua, Heitua

La fai'ihauag 'e mali'ulu ma ki ta sua

To cut a pole under the breadfruit tree and sing ki

Mam'asa ma 'on moa tupua'

A giant and his rooster [petrified]

Par'ai rua fu nu'suar fa'

Two bunches of bananas at the back door

Fo'u sahasaha ma nino rua

Striped sugar-cane and two taro

Fon kav mij ma la' la ua

To get the food for the kava quickly, go and dig

Kava ha'u 'e 'Anoh se tuk

Kava reached Anoh, don't put it down

Ka sala kirkir ka pua'pua'

For the road is full of gravel and uneven

Ha'u 'e Ogea ma lag ta safua

Reached Ogea, the breeze blew

'Au tuk sio la a'u'ua

Put it down and rest

A ofof Ho! Ho! 'e tei manua

Sighted a man of war and shouted "Ho! Ho!" Where?

Rü' fak takaifanua

The gun fired and boomed

Kava pu sio se pua rua

Kava come down to two frangipani trees

Ma ta' kava 'el'ia se su'ura

There kava was near the king's house

'Au a' taf se' ta nu'suar

Open one of the doors

Kava 'u su'iof se nu'suar mua

Kava was headed for the front door

Ma ta af huag ruruak

The row [of people] smelled the roots

A'häe ke lalavi ne moa mafua

They thought it smelled like the feathers of an old rooster

Fia' het ka ruruak pirpir

The fia' [small kava root without the stalks] has tiny curly roots

Ma a'häe ke lalavi ne koroi

Looked like feathers of koroi [a chicken with feathers sticking out]

If the mafua ended the fakpeje with "Hül!" the man tending the kava had to jab the roots again and shout "Manu'!" and the mafua continued the fakpeje. This could happen several times if the fakpeje was a long one. When the mafua finished with the fakpeje, he said, "Turo' kalog!" The kava tender then replied, "Kalog! Gou täla usia'afua, mou iat het pas saghul, ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs, I am going to say how big this root is, that this root can be chopped into 10 pieces. Thank you, thank you, thank you!) However, he did not really chop the kava into 10 pieces unless it was a kav hu toso, a huge plant tied up with torau (the new, white leaf of a coconut tree), and all or most of the seven district chiefs were present (see Pas ne Kava, p. 136).

As soon as the manu'u of the kava finished and the fakpeje was recited, the roasted pigs were cut up. Each pig required one man to cut it up. Pigs were cut into nine parts: the head (filo'u), the two hind legs (arag 'iko), the two front legs (arag rima), the two sides (tua' hapa), the underbelly (pu ta), and the backside (mür heta). First a man jabbed a knife into one of the hind legs (i'akiag ser heta or arag ko) to wipe the knife before cutting off the head. This hind leg went to the fono of the mafua, and the other hind leg to the kava girls' fono. When he had severed the head from the body, the man cutting it shouted, "Te'eiate' vah'ia!" and the mafua responded, "Marie', marie', marie'!" Each man cutting up a pig had to shout this sentence and the mafua had to respond to each. Next they severed the two hind legs, then the two front legs, followed by the sides. This left the backbone, which belonged to the man doing the cutting. Then they cut away the underbelly and finally the backside.

Each boy who brought the food to the servers took one piece of pork or beef at a time to the chiefly tables and placed it in the fono. The boys handled the meat with banana leaves, as did the servers, so as not to touch the food. The head of the largest pig was presented to the highest ranking chief, the head of the next largest pig to the chief next in rank, and so on. Before giving the pig's head to a boy, the carver removed the pig's liver and pinned it under the pig's chin with a sliver (no'o) from a coconut rib. Because the head might be insufficiently cooked and not eaten, a portion of the ribs was generally given to each chief as well. The women serving the chiefs placed the head with the liver up and the back of the head toward the chief. [14]

After the heads had been presented, the boys took the two front legs and other parts of the roasted pig to the rest of the fono. The girls who were serving the front legs did not place the whole piece on the table, but cut off the flesh near the joint (väearaga) and after putting that on the table, returned the rest of the limb to their fono.

The 'umefe had been upside down, but while the men were cutting up the pigs, the serving girls turned the tables upright in this fashion: they put one hand underneath and the other on top, while pulling the tables toward themselves and turning them up so that the legs that had been closest to them became closer to the chief. At the end of the feast, the servers turned the tables over in reverse so that any remaining food scraps fell toward themselves and not toward the chief. The tables were turned over in order of rank. That of the highest ranking chief, seated in the middle, was turned over first, then the tables of the two next highest chiefs, flanking him, and so on down to the lowest ranking chiefs who sat on either end of the row. The turning down of the tables following the conclusion of the feast proceeded in the same manner, from the middle to the ends.

After turning the tables upright, the servers covered them with two banana leaves, with the tips facing toward the front (eastward or seaward). From the third banana leaf each server tore off two pieces to cover her hands and used the remainder as an apron on her lap. The first corm (taro, yam, papai)[15] was placed on the tip as a weight; it also served as a reserve in case the cut-up food was insufficient. The server then picked up the second corm and peeled the top half. She cut off the top inch or so in front of herself (on the table). [16] She then sliced the middle portion of the corm onto the table in front of the chief (unless it was an 'apea, in which case she peeled and broke it into pieces without the aid of a knife). The middle part of the table was reserved for the meat. The bottom part of the corm she returned to the fono. She repeated the process with the third corm.

While the girls served the corms, the boys put into their fono portions of pig (and beef, if cows had been slaughtered and baked in the koua), fruits (such as pineapples, slices of watermelon, hands of bananas), [17] pieces of sugar-cane, and drinking coconuts. The meat was brought to one server at a time in sequence of chiefly rank, followed by the fruits, sugar-cane, and coconuts. The serving girls placed the meat (beef, pork, chicken) in the middle part of the table, the fruits at the edges of the meat, and the sugar-cane (which had been peeled except for a section at the bottom that served as a handle) at the right-hand edge of the table, with the unpeeled segment facing the chief. The coconuts, which had been husked and shaved (to make them smooth), were placed in the fono, ready to be served at the end of the meal. [18]

When she finished with the root-crops, the server took the chicken out of the fono and tore off the coconut leaf wrapping. She placed the chicken on the palm of one hand and broke off the head and feet and put them back in the fono. Then she broke off the legs and wings and placed them in the middle of the table with the gizzard (pofo) and tail section. [19] The rest of the chicken she put back in the fono. She then placed the portions of meat on the table. If she saw that the portion was too small, she called back to the boy provisioning her for more (she had to be careful not to be greedy, because any leftovers were hers).

One boy went around to each server and opened the tins of corned beef with a knife. The servers then dished out the corned beef using their knives. Corned beef was served only after the chicken, pork, and beef had been placed on the table.

After all the food had been placed on the table, the server took the coconut and removed the cover over the eye with her knife and pierced the eye to make an opening. She made a stopper from the part of the husk she removed and stuffed it into the opening. She broke the rest of the husk into pieces and prepared a soro (hand wiper) for the chief to use after the meal. The coconut was kept with the soro under the table until the announcement of the end of the meal ("Re sor" or "'Ou sorot") by the mafua. After the servers had finished preparing and serving the food, their main responsibility was to fan the table to keep flies away and to remain attentive to the chiefs' needs.

The Kava Ceremony

Immediately after the manu'uag ne kava, the girl who was to mix the brew washed her hands with water from the halava. Then the girl who held the water container (han agai) poured some water into the tano'a, into which the kava had been placed beforehand.[20] The kava maker squeezed the kava in the water slowly while waiting for the servers to finish preparing the tables. As soon as the tables were set, the mafua called out, "Marie', marie', marie'!" This was a signal for the kava girls to begin. The kava maker clapped her cupped hands twice, then thrice with open hands, and called out, "Kavaite te'!" She took her ipu (coconut cup) and scooped up some kava and poured it back into the bowl so the chiefs could see its colour (and hence its strength). While doing this, the han agai called out, "Ko sü'?" [21] asking whether the kava was strong enough. (Although the chiefs had the option of asking for the kava to be made weaker by pouring in more water, they in fact never did so.)

The kava server to the right of the kava maker knelt, sitting on her heels, holding with both hands an ipu to be filled by the kava maker. She called, "Kava tau via!" and the mafua answered, "Kalog! Tau kava fakaitet se [title of highest chief present]; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" The girl stood up and moved, bent slightly at the waist to show respect, toward the chief whose title had been called, holding the cup in both hands with her arms extended. The ipu rested on the palms of her cupped hands. When she arrived at the chief's table, she knelt to the right of the girl serving food to the chief and offered the cup to the chief. [Nowadays, grace is said by a priest, minister, or other church official before the girl holding the ipu extends it to the chief.] The chief took the cup and drank the kava in one gulp, then handed back the empty cup to the kava girl, who stood up, took a few steps back, still facing the chief, before turning around and returning to the tano'a. While the first chief was drinking, the second serving girl got ready. She knelt on the left side of the kava maker and called, "Kava tau via!" The mafua answered, "Kalog! Tau kava fakaitet se [title of next highest district chief present]; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" The second girl moved forward to hand the ipu to the chief who sat at the right hand of the central person. The two girls alternated handing cups of kava to the chiefs, but were careful not to cross in front of the tano'a. (Ideally, the chiefs were seated so that the second ranking chief was to the right of the highest ranking chief, the third ranking chief to the left, the fourth ranking chief to the right, etc. This permitted the girls to alternate without crossing in front of the tano'a. If the sequence did not correspond to this order, the same girl might have had to serve two successive chiefs to avoid crossing over.)

After the mafua had called all the district chiefs, he announced the subchiefs: "Tau kavaitet se [title]; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" The two kava servers took turns until all the chiefs had drunk their kava in rank order. After the last chief had been served, the kava server whose turn was next called, "Tau via!" to which the mafua replied, "Tau se te' ne gagaj 'atakoa 'og, tau se feu te' turo', kalog! ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Take the ipu to all the rest and to me). This signalled people to start eating. The kava servers then took cups of kava in no particular order to the other dignitaries sitting with the chiefs. [22] When the tano'a had only one cup of kava remaining, the serving was given to the mafua. The dignitaries who had not yet been served had to forgo the honour.

The chiefs started to eat as soon as all the titled men had finished drinking their cup of kava. At funerals, after the fono had been distributed, women came forward bringing an apei and 'eap ma 'on faua to every district chief. This was the fau fono (covering of the basket of food), thanking the chiefs for their presence; the mats were placed behind the food servers, the apei on top of the 'eap ma 'on faua. After eating, when the chiefs were preparing to leave, each chief's wife or other relative carried the fau fono to the chief's house.

While these rituals were taking place, the common people were seated outside. Some relatives of the deceased were assigned to lay down coconut leaves topped by banana leaves on which the food was to be placed. When the leaves were ready, the people were called to sit down facing each other in two lines. Young men and women who were not engaged in the ceremonies inside the house brought baskets of food and put down on the prepared leaves the root-crops (whole) and meat (already cut into chunks), including tins of unopened corned beef. Ordinarily those outside were not served fruits or sugar-cane, and had to cut up the root-crops themselves. They might ask to have the tins of corned beef opened for them, or they could choose to take them home unopened. As the people started eating, the close male relatives of the deceased gave speeches thanking the people for coming to pay their last respects. They were told to take home whatever food remained after they finished eating.

At funerals the family of the deceased was disposed to have all the food eaten or taken away, leaving nothing. This was different from other feasts, where the hosts often put aside cartons of corned beef or tinned fish for future consumption. As with the canopy and mats, which were folded immediately after the corpse left the house, and the dismantling of the bier at the burial site, this practice of distributing all the food was a precaution against death revisiting the family soon.

Inside the house, when the highest ranking chief finished eating, the mafua called out, "Re sor!" (Wipe hands!) or "'Ou sorot!" (For you to wipe your hands!). Everyone had to stop eating at this point (the ranking chief was expected to eat slowly enough to give everyone else a chance to finish eating).

The serving girls then took the drinking coconuts, on which the soro (hand wipes) had been placed, from under the table and handed them to the chiefs. While the chiefs wiped their hands and drank from the coconuts, the girls put the food left on the table back into the baskets together with the banana leaves, which they folded so as to retain the scraps of food on them.

With the chiefs still seated in front of them, the girls then turned the tables over toward themselves. The girl in front of the highest ranking chief turned her table upside down first, followed by the two girls flanking her, and so on in order until all the tables were upside down. The mafua then called out, "Tukuag ne kav ta!" (Retreat of the kava!) Up to this point, all those eating at the tables remain seated. The mafua continued, "Kalog! Vah ne kava fakaitet se [titles of district chiefs in rank order]; vah ne kavaitet se [titles of subchiefs in rank order]; vah ne kavat se te' ne gagaj 'atakoa 'og, usi'a te' tuk se fa' la maür kalog; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" This signified the end of the feast, each chief having partaken of the food and kava.

The kava girls then led the procession out, headed by the kava maker carrying the tano'a, followed by her attendants. Each took with her the basket of food that had been given to her during the food distribution. They were followed by the food servers carrying the baskets from which they had served the chiefs. While they were leaving, one boy fetched the basket of food belonging to the mafua and carried it to his home for him. [23] Then the chiefs could get up, stretch their legs, talk to one another, and take their leave.

The kava girls, the serving girls and boys, and the relatives of the deceased then had their meal, eating from the food that remained after all the visitors had theirs.

Takai: Returning the Widow(er) Home

If the deceased had been married, the surviving spouse had to be taken back to his or her parental home, accompanied by a la'o (a group bringing with them white mats, ordinary mats, and a koua: roast pig, taro, and a kava plant). A subchief from the widow(er)'s village headed the procession.

At the parental home of the widow(er), extended relatives prepared food to receive the la'o. After the la'o arrived, they prepared a seat (päega) for the widow(er) using the mats brought by the la'o; they placed white mats on top and covered them with a cloth. Then the bereaved person sat down on the päega. The chiefs who came with the la'o, and the chiefs from the home village, sat on either side of the päega. They carried in the koua brought by the la'o and placed in the back of the house. A closely related girl from the parental home came forward with a bottle of sweet-smelling coconut oil, a tefui, and a new set of clothes, and knelt in front of the bereaved. If the bereaved was a man, she removed his shirt and oiled his body, starting from his head and face, down his arms and torso, and finally his feet. She then put a new shirt on him and wrapped a new ha' fali (wraparound) over the one he was wearing. With his help, she then took off the old one. If the bereaved was a woman, the girl anointed her head, arms, and feet, as well as her clothes, with the oil and placed the new garments in front of her so that she could change into them later.

The girl, still kneeling, then placed the tefui around the neck of the bereaved and tied it. (This ritual of renewal was meant to help the bereaved forget the past and look to the future.) The girl then retreated, backing away, while the mafua from the home village called out, "Kalog! Takai te'. Päegat, agrua liam, 'eap ma 'on faua saghul, 'eap hap saghul, rer sio ma 'e tu'rua rua, siliket, sar het, liuliu het. Te'eiate' täe la usia'afua, koua 'af ruaghulut, 'i'in sema 'e hat rua, kav hu fa' hatat. Tarige te', koua 'af ruaghul, 'i'in sema 'e hatat; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs! All the mats that were brought for this seat [in order]: 5 big mats, 10 half-sized mats, 10 decorated mats, topped by 2 white mats and a silky cloth, tefui, and sweet-smelling oil. Now I'm going to announce the food: 20 baskets of baked food, 2 roasted pigs, and a kava plant. The food prepared by the receiving family: 20 baskets of baked food, a roasted pig, and a kava plant. Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

 A group of four girls prepared and served the kava to the bereaved and the chiefs at his or her side in the same manner as at the funeral feast. Food was likewise prepared and served with the same protocol. After the feast, the la'o returned to the village where the funeral had taken place. The bereaved remained at his or her parental home, where he or she would now reside.[24]

Kav Putu: Ritual Kava Drinking

In the evening, after the la'o returned to the funeral site, the chief of the deceased's village was responsible for providing a koua and drinking coconuts for the family and the relatives who were staying for the kav putu. The young men and women of the village had by now cleared away the rubbish from the feast, including the coconut and banana leaves. They dismantled the la and discarded them as well. The boys also put back the walls of the deceased's home.

The mourners closed the doors and prepared kava for the kav putu ceremony. The men, who had shaved the hair off their heads, sat around the tano'a and drank kava in honour of the dead person. They set aside one ipu of kava for the spirit of the deceased and later emptied it outside the house. The women, who had cut their hair short, sat around the place where the body had lain in state and prayed for the spirit to return (toftofoa, fakperperua). The men continued to drink kava and pray for four days. The villagers brought food and drink periodically to sustain the mourners, who were little concerned with food.

During this period the female mourners did not bathe or change their clothes so that the returning spirit would find nothing changed. The men tended to their chores during the day, but came back to the kav putu in the evenings. During the four days of kav putu, the spirit of the deceased might visit the mourners in dreams or in trances. The departed spirit might also visit mediums in the village. Finding his or her body in a state of decay, however, the spirit went away for good.

Teran Lima: The Fifth Day

Early in the morning of the fifth day (teran lima) after the funeral, the immediate family and close friends went down to the sea to fish and bathe themselves (kakau sasi). The catch was put into a la and taken to the house, accompanied by a mafua. The doors of the house were opened and the mafua, with the la of fish in front of him, addressed the attending chief: "Kalog! Kakau sasi te'; ia' kato'at! ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sir; we have bathed in the sea; there are a hundred fish in the basket! Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

The mafua gave the fish to the women to clean, wrap in banana leaves, and cook on hot charcoal.

The floor of the house, which had been left unswept since the day of the funeral, was now cleaned, and things were returned to their proper places. The men of the village prepared another feast of baked food and pigs to mark the fifth day. When the feast was ready, the chiefs went into the house and sat down in a row. The kava and koua were brought in and the usual procedure was followed by the mafua, the kava makers, food servers, and so on. The announcement of the feast for teran lima differed in some ways from the funeral feast. The mafua called out: "Kalog! Te'eiate' täla usia'afua, teran lime te', kakau sasi te', paag riit, huar'akiag putu te', lo'uag faraot, höt'akiag hafu te'. 'Igkavei la pupui jio 'e 'a'an taraut, 'i'in sema 'e hat liam, raf i'et, kav hu fa' hatat; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs! I am going to announce, this is the fifth day, [we have] bathed in the sea, put back the walls, the mourners have dispersed and the kava is finished, the mats are folded and the floor is swept, the headstone is mounted. There are fifty baskets of food containing hundreds of taro, five roasted pigs, a basket of cooked fish, a kava plant; thank you! thank you! thank you!)

The grave in the olden days was made of four slabs of soapstone erected like a rectangle (fiso'a) and filled with sand. On top of the grave of a child or a young person, a small stone (lei) was placed as a tombstone; for an older person, and especially on the grave of a chief or a strong man, a large slab of stone (makpurou) was placed on top of the fiso'a.[25] [Nowadays, modern tombstones, obtained from overseas or carved by stonemasons locally, take the place of lei and makpurou, and the fiso'a are made of concrete blocks. The erecting of a headstone (höt'ak hafu) is delayed for approximately a year to allow time for the family to plant crops and plait mats, to prepare for the ceremony, and to give relatives abroad sufficient time to plan their trips.]

Höt'ak Hafu: Mounting the Headstone

 The höt'ak hafu marked the end of the mourning period. Until this event, the immediate family of the deceased visited the grave regularly, bringing flowers and tefui, and fresh sand from the beach. Höt'ak hafu were essentially family functions. The family fixed the date, informed close relatives and friends, and bore most of the expenses involved. The villagers helped by donating root-crops, pigs, mats, and money.

In the interim between the teran lima and höt'ak hafu, family members received messages through the dreams and trances of tu'ura (spirit mediums), urging them to compose songs about the deceased. Certain individuals on the island were famous for composing songs and could be approached with information about the messages received in dreams or trances. The composer who was commissioned selected a number of people to sing and dance at the höt'ak hafu, and they began to rehearse (taumaka) in preparation for the event. Just prior to the day, a shelter (ri hapa) was built right outside the back of the house, where the singers and dancers would perform.

On the day of the höt'ak hafu a päega (seat of mats) was prepared for the chiefs along the front wall. The päega was in the middle of the row of chiefs, occupying the place of honour. The first mats to be put down were the agrua (large floor mats); on top of these went the 'eap ma 'on faua (smaller floor mats); then came the 'eap hapa (sleeping mats); and finally the apei. The immediate family and close relatives of the deceased made all the mats for this päega. The seat was covered with a silky cloth on top of which the tombstone was placed face up for all to see.

A second päega, placed beside the main one, was prepared for the craftsman (majau) who made the pa (concrete platform on which the headstone was to be placed). This päega was made from mats contributed by friends, neighbours, and more distant relatives. It was constructed in the same way as the first päega, with agrua at the bottom and apei on top.

Just before the start of the ceremony, the male who was next of kin to the deceased (such as the eldest son, brother, or grandson) sat on the first päega behind the tombstone. On his lap was a folded apei on which he placed the base of the tombstone so that the lettering faced the people in front of him. He braced the tombstone against his chest. The majau sat on the second päega and the chiefs took their places on either side of these two seats.

Then the mamiag hafu was performed. A girl from the family (a sister, wife, or daughter) came forward with two tefui (one for the stone, one for the person sitting behind it) wrapped in an 'apea leaf, a bottle of scented coconut oil, and a cloth with which to wipe the stone. She knelt down and poured a few drops of oil on top of the stone and with the cloth rubbed the oil over the front surface. As with a mamasa, anointing with oil is a way of symbolically washing away the salt that comes with travelling over the sea. The girl then tied a tefui around the stone; the second tefui she put around the man's neck. She withdrew and a second girl came forward to put a tefui on the majau. [In recent years, after putting a tefui on a person or headstone, the girl sprays it with perfume. This is not really necessary because tefui are made from sweet-smelling flowers that produce a scented atmosphere that remains until the flowers wither.]

The mafua, who had been sitting by the back door during these rituals, then announced: "Kalog! Gou täla usia'afua, [26] mamiag hafu te', päegat, agrua saghul, 'eap ma 'on faua ruaghul, 'eap hap limaghul, rer sema siliket, sar het, liuliu het; 'ia', marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs, I am going to announce, the rinsing of the headstone with oil, päega, 10 agrua, 20 'eap ma 'on faua, 50 'eap hapa, topped by silky material, tefui, oil, thank you, thank you, thank you!)

At this point the man holding the tombstone rose and carried it to the cemetery. [27] A procession of close relatives followed. The tombstone carrier was preceded by the majau who, together with a small group of helpers (who had waited at the gravesite while the ceremonies were taking place in the house), prepared to mount the tombstone. The majau and his helpers mixed the cement that formed the base for the stone. When the cement was ready, the tefui was removed from the tombstone and put aside, and the stone handed over to the majau who, with his helpers, put it in place. When they finished mounting the stone, the majau and his men stuck four poles in the ground, one off each corner of the grave. The women, many of whom had brought tefui and baskets of white sand, now strung the tefui between the poles and poured the baskets of sand around the grave. The tefui worn by the man carrying the tombstone, the tefui of the majau, and the tefui that had decorated the tombstone were now placed on the grave, and the people returned to the house for the sui putu (ceremony to end the mourning restrictions).

During the mourning period (putu), the men, who had shaved their heads soon after the death, did not cut their hair and let their beards grow. The women wore black clothes. The mourners did not attend social functions and always ate at their own home. This period of sacrifice ended when the sui putu was performed.

Two women prepared a päega in the usual way and the mourners sat on it. A woman (more than one if there were many mourners) came forward with a set of new clothes for each of them and a pair of scissors.[28] She cut some hair off the head and beard of each man. She assisted them in changing from the clothes they were wearing to the new clothes she had brought. She then put a tefui on each, anointed them with scented coconut oil [and, nowadays, sprays perfume over the tefui and shirt]. For female mourners, they followed the same procedure, except for the hair cutting. When the ceremony concluded, after the mafua had announced the sui putu ceremony, the two women disassembled the päega and put away the mats.

After the sui putu, the songs and dances that were composed in honour of the deceased were performed (a'ran maka) [29] in the ri hapa. [30] The people who had just been released from mourning were the special people of the day and seated in the place of honour facing the performers. The chiefs sat on either side of them. The dancers came forward and presented their la'o of mats (including an apei) and a koua, which was their contribution to the function.

Here are three examples of sua (songs, to which dances are performed) from the höt'ak hafu of Wilson Inia (25 August 1984):

Hearse ta escort se Nausori

The hearse was escorted to Nausori

Sala a'tafa ko sau te'is

To make way, for he was a king

Ho'a 'e aoga, mafa ne nofo'a

Flown over the clouds, a real chief

Tari 'e gagaja, lio 'ona mafua

Welcomed by chiefs and an elder



Osia sau ta se 'ona hanua

The preparation took place for the king's departure

Tefui 'aipoa Inia henua

A garland of flowers encircled Inia's neck

Fugaroto peka ho'am 'e hanua

A coffin of the best type, brought from overseas

Faua 'e repene ma hosa pumua

Covered with lace and the best of flowers



Malu fatiena 'e Mafahanua

When the shadows were falling at Mafahanua

Kau lei tolea sau ta 'e mua

The pallbearers took him in front

Fana ru'iena ma ki ta sua

Guns fired and the war chant was sung

Se Fafaisina, Inia la tukua

To Fafaisina cemetery where Inia was to be buried

As these songs were sung, relatives came with scented powders, perfumes, pomades, and so on. and sprinkled or smeared them on the mourners, the chiefs, and the dancers. The dancers coaxed the mourners, who had avoided pleasurable activities during the putu period, to join in the festivities by dancing with them. By getting up and performing a few dance steps, the mourners signified their willingness to end their public expressions of grief and to re-engage in normal social life. As the singing and dancing came to an end, the mafua came forward and announced: "Kalog! 'U'ua sio ma purot, ma te' ne 'au fau gagaj he ta'ag ko as ta pen Tiugarea 'ia; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Take a rest, song leader, and all the rest, for the sun is setting over Tiugarea's place [Losa]; thank you, thank you, thank you!)

When the performers had finished dancing, the bereaved family presented them with mats (including apei) and baskets of food in quantities that exceeded their contributions. The chiefs then moved inside the house, along with the senior ex-mourners, and took their places for the feast. [Today, most feasts are served outside the house, under the same ri hapa where the dances are performed.]

 When the koua was ready, a kava plant, baskets of food, roasted pigs, and so on, were brought inside the house if there was enough room, or placed outside the back door under the ri hapa if indoor space was limited. The mafua took his place behind the food, facing the ex-mourners and the chiefs. If the food was inside, he sat in the doorway; if it was outside, he sat behind the rows of baskets. The young men who brought the food to the girls serving the chiefs also took their places beside the food. The servers, both men and women, and the kava girls, wore skirts of ji leaves. The procedures for making and serving the kava, for serving the food, and so on, followed the normal routine except for the announcement of the feast. After the manu'u of the kava plant, the mafua announced the feast as follows:

"Kalog! Te'eiate' täla usia'afua! Hötak hafu te', mamiag hafut, sui putut, a'ran makat. Koue ta 'igkavei la pupui limaghul, jio sema 'e 'a'an tarau liam, i'in sema 'e hat sava'at, pulmakau rua, tua'sirit, raf moa rua, fekei kop he rua, kes poat kau val; tarau merenet, tarau ponapat, tarau fo'ut, kav hu fa' hatat; ia' marie', marie', marie'!" (Sirs! I'm announcing the mounting of the tombstone ceremony, the ending of mourning ceremony, the performance of the songs and dances and the amount of food. Fifty baskets of food containing 500 taro, 10 roasted pigs, 2 roasted cows, a turtle, 2 baskets of roasted chickens, 2 baskets of fekei, 8 cartons of corned beef, 100 watermelons, 100 pineapples, 100 sugar-cane, and a kava plant; thank you, thank you, thank you!)

The bereaved family gave speeches thanking the people for coming, the workers for their work, the dancers for dancing, and so on, and reminding the people to take away whatever food was left.

After a week or so, the family of the deceased went to the cemetery and cleared away all the withered flowers and the tefui. They took them back to their home and put them in a pile, allowing them to decompose into soil.

Notes to Death and Funerals

[1] A mosega is a kin group descended from a child of the first ruler of the district. If the ancestral ruler had three children, for example, the district will have three mosega, each one composed of descendants of one of the children, and all sharing a common ancestor. back to text

[2] In olden days chiefs called people together by using a conch shell, but these are no longer present on Rotuma. The conch shell has been replaced by wooden drums ('ai ririga), introduced by the missionaries to call people to church. Today deaths are announced by a distinguishable slow, steady beat of the drum. back to text

[3] Kalog is a polite way to ask for permission from the chiefs to speak; in this book I have shortened its translation to "Sirs." back to text

[4] According to Hocart, who recorded this temo in 1913, it recounts the journey of Fotu'ah who went to Tikopia near Santa Cruz in a sailing canoe. Coming back, he used stars as a compass, and knew that Rotuma was between two guiding stars(called tak rua). Fotu'ah was the chief of Tua'koi in the olden days, but he gave the ruling title to Tuisek from Popofo, Noa'tau; Tuisek is currently the title of the chief of Tua'koi. back to text

[5] In the old days graves were dug in house sites or nearby, but the missionaries persuaded the people to set aside land for cemeteries. The land on which cemeteries are located is still owned by families, who give permission for its use as a burial ground. back to text

[6] For funerals, the la were made of two layers and were called fuarei; single-layer la were called fua'a. When one fua'a was placed over another in order to carry food, it became a fuarei. back to text

[7] 'Apea, or giant taro, is a chiefly food that must be peeled and broken into pieces by hand, without the aid of a knife. Out of necessity, breadfruit may be substituted for one of the root-crops. back to text

[8] In modern times a carton of corned beef may be substituted for a pig. back to text

[9] From the banana leaf on her lap, the server also tore off pieces to use when handling the food. She could also use the rib of this leaf to add to the coconut fibres that the chief used to wipe his hands (soro) at the end of the meal. back to text

[10] The walls that were taken down from the house where the body had lain in state had to be restored before nightfall after the funeral feast. The village chief made a koua for the evening meal to feed the people who put up the wall. He also had to provide fresh coconuts to drink. (For the first day and night after the death, the close family of the deceased do not drink from coconuts.) Kava was prepared in the evening, starting the kav putu (kava-drinking ritual for mourning), which went on for four evenings. back to text

[11] The quantities of food and kava announced by the mafua varied with the amounts on hand and the numbers of people involved. The numbers used were generally rounded up to higher numbers and might have been grossly exaggerated (especially the numbers of pineapples, watermelon, and sugar-cane), but the numbers of cows and pigs were supposed to be correct. back to text

[12] If, after breaking it, he put the coconut leaf on his shoulder, this signaled the mafua to fakpeje (see below). If, however, he put a torau (new leaves of the palm, almost white in colour) over his shoulder, this signified that he himself would fakpeje; only rarely was this the case. back to text

[13] Chiefs and visitors cannot leave their tables unless the mafua announced the "tuk ne kava." After this, the kava girls as well as the girls serving the food can stand, each carrying the remaining food of the fono, and leave. back to text

[14] If the head was especially large, the server might have asked the chief if he preferred to have the whole head in front of him on the table, or only the chiefly portions: the two cheeks (ka'asa) and the meat from back of the head (sui ruerue heta), as well as the liver (äf ko ta). If he preferred the latter, she cut off those pieces and placed them on the table. back to text

[15] 'Apea could not be used in this manner, but had to be served. back to text

[16] The very top of root-crops tend to be softer and less desirable than the middle part. back to text

[17] Fruits were served or not, depending on availability. At funerals such embellishments were not required as they were for weddings and other, more joyous, functions. back to text

[18] At funerals fekei was not served, in part because there was little time to prepare it, and because a funeral was not a joyful celebration. To all other feasts, however, fekei was central. When serving fekei, the girl untied the string holding the banana leaf in which the fekei had been wrapped, exposed the fekei, and placed the bundle with the open part facing the chief, to her right toward the chief's side of the table. Fekei was served before the fruits, sugar-cane, and coconuts. back to text

[19] Placing the tail section of the chicken on the table is a recent innovation, based on the fact that this part is now regarded as especially tasty. back to text

[20] In the old days, prior to the ceremony, young girls chewed the kava and spit it into the bowl. Then they strained it through the shredded bark of the hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus L.) or vasvasi (Sterculia fanaiho Setchell).Nowadays the kava is pounded and put into a small porous cloth bag which is squeezed in the water. back to text

[21] Short for koa sü'. back to text

[22] These could include government or church officials, distinguished visitors, etc. The District Officer, doctor, priests, and ministers are often called by their titles and might be served before the subchiefs. back to text

[23] This was a way of showing respect to the mafua; he was not expected to carry his own food. back to text

[24] If the bereaved was elderly and had spent many years in his or her spouse's village, and especially if there were children who had spent most of their lives in that village, the chief of the village (often at the children's request) might have invited the person to continue to live there. This made it easier for an elderly person's children to look after their parent in his or her declining years. If the bereaved was young it was expected that he or she would remarry and establish a new household, so there was less incentive to invite him or her to stay. back to text

[25] These can still be seen in some of the old cemeteries. back to text

[26] The mafua did not say "te'eiate'" because he was not announcing the feast—he was talking about the tombstone ceremony, or mamiag hafu. back to text

[27] If the cemetery was far away, the stone might have been brought to a vehicle to take them there. back to text

[28] Before scissors were introduced, the men used sea shells for trimming their beards. back to text

[29] A'ran maka means the final public performance of songs and dances that have been long rehearsed. back to text

[30] The deceased's family asked a composer to compose songs and dances. The composer assembled and trained a group of young people, who then performed at the end of mourning. back to text

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