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

Tefui: Garlands

Tefui are garlands of fui (also called saru) worn at various functions, such as mamasa, takai, sui putu, höt'ak hafu, or dances. The Rotuman tefui is different from garlands made and worn by other Pacific Islanders; it is one of a kind.

Täntäne leaves (Polyscias sp) must be bleached, by dipping them into boiling water for about a minute and sunning them for at least three days, before the fui can be made. Sweet-smelling flowers are picked on the day the fui are made, early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cool. The flowers are wrapped in the leaf of an 'apea plant (giant taro, Alocasia macrorrhiza [L.]), which is always cool to the touch and keeps the flowers fresh.

For decoration, the ripe fruit of the pandanus tree is used, or when pandanus fruit is not in season, red ginger. In the past, white flowers of the paufu (the male tree of the Pandanus tectorius, Parkinson) were also used because of their sweet smell. Nowadays, the white young leaves of a coconut tree or fan palm are used instead to decorate the outside of the fui.

Method for Making a Fui

The white leaves of pandanus, coconut, or palm leaves are torn into narrow strips about 1/2 inch wide and cut into many pieces 34 inches long. The ends are shaped in parallel lines and put in a bowl of water and set aside. Then the red skin is cut off the pandanus fruit (hata), or red ginger flower, to a diamond shape. Pieces of string are cut in elbow-to-fingertip lengths for tying the fui. The fringes (jio) of each fui are made up of two täntäne leaves tied together with coloured wool (a rather recent innovation). The wool is wound around the hand several times to form a ring of several strands, which is then tied with a finger-length piece of wool to make a fringe. On this piece of wool, one or two hata and a Rotuman gardenia are strung. A pair of woolen jio and a pair of täntäne are needed for each fui. (If for any reason, such as bad weather, the täntäne has not been prepared in advance, strands of mairo[Alyxia stellata], a sweet-smelling plant, may be used instead.)

Two strips of white leaf are removed from the bowl of water, crossed, and held between the thumb and first finger of one hand. With the other hand, the fringe is placed on the leaf, followed by the flowers in pairs with the ends spreading and pointing out. The flowers are stacked until the fui is almost an inch thick. Lastly, the other pieces of white leaves are arranged into a star, with the centre of the fui still firmly held between finger and thumb. Two red diamonds of hata or ginger are placed on either side of the central point and tied to the fui firmly with a piece of string.

Uses of Tefui

A tefui for men consists of five or seven fui (depending on how big the fui are) strung together with string or wool. One fui hangs in front, and the other fui are tied in pairs, one on each side. When a tefui is ready to be worn, it is wrapped in an 'apea leaf to keep it fresh.

For dancing, women wear one fui tied to a ji leaf, while girls sometimes wear a fui tied to a plait of hair in the evening or on special occasions.

For the ceremony on the fifth day following a death (teran lima), two strands of tefui with 15 fui each are strung between the poles on either side of the grave, and two strands with 9 or 10 fui each are strung between the end poles. Such lengthy strands are also needed at a headstone-placing ceremony (höt'ak hafu) to hang on the poles placed at the corners of the grave.

To Lolo: Anointing Oil