THERE is something quite unique about the traditional yaqona ceremony in the area of Saqani and for any iTaukei visitor to the village of Vuniwai, this exceptional yaqona ritual is prepared for special occasions only.
It is different from the rest of the districts in Fiji in that the traditional yaqona plants or cavudraudrau that is offered to the special guest is taken there and then in its green form pounded for drinking.
Vuniwai village elder Ratu Tomasi Bonaveidogo said the practice had been with them as long as they could remember.
"In the olden days when we had warring chiefs the practice was to prepare the root of yaqona offered during the yaqona ceremony in his presence so that he witnessed its preparation and never questioned its safety for consumption," he said.
"It has stuck with us since then and we have preferred to stick with it since this form of yaqona preparation is transparent in the sense that the special guest witnesses the making of his yaqona concoction."
Ratu Tomasi said the practice in other districts around the country was for the cavudraudrau or the yaqona roots offered to the special guest and prepare another yaqona keeping the cavudraudrau for the special guest to take on his return to his home.
The succession of drinks in Vuniwai is for the Tui Vanua Levu, the reigning chief in the area, to have three drinks of the first bilo or cup, the i rabe or the second cup, and the third cup or the tabani.
The sau turaga or the overlords are the ones who drink the tabani or the third drink of the Tui Vanua Levu.
Ratu Tomasi said the people of Vuniwai and the rest of the villages in Saqani still practised the ritual as it was something that set them apart from the other districts in Fiji.