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Firewalkers of Beqa

Paula Tagivetaua
Friday, June 17, 2011

SAWAU woman Ro Mereani Tuimatanisiga came to the newsroom the other day to see me because she was shocked at what I wrote about Moro in The Sunday Times of June 5

She said it was not right and wanted to clarify the story of Moro and firewalking.

Beqa has two tribes - yavusa - Raviravi and Sawau, she said.

She said Moro was the ancestral god of the Tui Raviravi clan.

The Sawau clan performs firewalking and have been researched many times by anthropologists from around the world.

Dakuibeqa is the chiefly village of the Sawau tribe and their chief, the Tui Sawau, resides in Suva.

Traditionally, there are four villages of the Sawau tribe and Rukua is one of them. Three more villages have been adopted by the tribe and can also perform firewalking.

Dakuibeqa firewalkers are the ones still performing today in hotels along the Coral Coast and up to Bounty Island off the coast of Vuda.

"The latest research on the firewalkers of Beqa was done in 2007 for a doctoral dissertation in anthropology from the University of Hawaii by Dr Guido Carlo Pigliasco titled The Custodians of the Gift: Intangible Cultural Property and Commodification of the Fijian Firewalking Ceremony," Ro Mereani explains.

"In Sawau folklore, an eel was caught by Tui Naiviqalita, the ancestor of the bete ni vilavilairevo clan and the eel which pleaded for its life was known as Tui Namoliwai," said Ro Mereani.

"It is well understood and documented that the people of Sawau did not drink kava before a ceremony, nor did we pray to any vu asking for power over the fire, as you (Mr Taigivetaua) imply," she said. "Today, we give thanks to God in the form of prayer for this gift and like Daniel 3:19-29, we believe that God has given us this gift and by performing the tradition, we show our love and worship of God."

Ro Mereani says Namoliwai is the area the eel, Tui Namoliwai resides, and is not as some people say - lemon water.

"Moro was not the eel caught on the mountain as you (Mr Tagivetaua) mentioned," Ro Mereani said.

"Before the moli as we know it today arrived in Fiji, the word moli meant blessed or holy. This would mean that Namoliwai, translated, would mean holy water or blessed water. "So this would imply that the ceremony of vilavilairevo is a gift from God and not from some tevoro (devil)."

"Clearly, for too long, we of the Sawau tribe, have allowed people from around Fiji to warp our history in order to suit their jokes or their own history and it is hoped that with this clarification, people will understand that our gift of vilavilairevo is a gift from God and not from some tevoro in the middle of Viti Levu," she emphasised.

Such strong claims and assertions from Ro Mereani who says she is from Dakuibeqa.

She says she is a descendant of Tui Naiviqalita and that the people of Rukua were their bati.

It is good she has clarified that bit on the story of Moro as they told me at Naivucini and at Rukua.

Now the truth, as far as she is concerned has been told for the world to know, and it is a good thing she has done. It puts things into their proper perspective.

Now the world will know that Moro is not connected in any way to firewalking. It is good to know.

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