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Kau mata ni Gone

Solomoni Biumaiono
Sunday, January 20, 2013

For Aisake Raikabula and Selai Butadroka Raikabula, it was indeed a joyous day when they finally managed, after many years of planning and delays that they were able to take their daughter Taina Lolohea Adimaitoga Raikabula to her mother's village.

In the traditional iTaukei culture it is called the kau mata ni gone (literally translated as taking the face of the child) or taking the child for the first time, to the mother's or father's villages.

Some places in Fiji do not require their paternal sons and daughters perform this ceremony as they are already considered to belong at birth.

Researchers say that in the olden days, children are usually born in their own villages and do not need to perform this ceremony but in modern days many are born in others places and now need to perform such ceremonies in their father's village too.

But the importance of performing this ceremony at their mothers' villages cannot be overemphasised as another aspect of the iTaukei culture called vasu which forms the basis of the relationship between a woman's child and her relatives, extended family and village, is also highly treasured and closely related to the kau mata ni gone.

The traditional kau mata ni gone obligation is highly considered in the iTaukei culture because as believed that it is the women who are progenitors of the lineage for the paternal side of a marriage.

Their role as bearer of children is highly valued and treasured that the man and his families have to pay homage to the woman and her village through their ceremony for their sons and daughters.

The same was for Aisake when he took his daughter Taina for the first time to her mum, Selai's village of Nabuli in Rewa.

Even though the family now resides in Australia, Aisake said he with his wife had wanted to carry out this obligation but could not do so.

"We had planned to do this last year but then my dad passed away and it was delayed again but after that my mum pleaded with me that I do it now while she is still alive as my dad had missed it.

"Even though she could not make it today because of ill health I am glad that I have finally managed to do this and fulfil her wishes," Aisake said.

Selai's father, Josefata Rokobatina, said his daughter has always wanted to take her child to Nabuli since 2008.

"When she approached me I asked her how she wants to go about it. I told her we can take her daughter to my family or we can take her to the mataqali (landowning unit) or we can take it to the vanua (the village of Nabuli and its traditional relations). She told me she wanted to bring her daughter to the vanua," Rokobatina said.

"So we came over and approached our mataqali members before we took it up to the vanua which then gave its blessings but then again the members of my mataqali then took a tabua to the vanua and asked if they can be allowed to run the ceremony which was given to them," he said.

Aisake, who is originally from Muanisolo village in Kadavu and vasu (mother's village) to Naroi Village in Moala, took his relatives from both sides to Nabuli where the kau mata ni gone ceremony was carried out.

After Aisake's family presented their sevusevu (the announcement of your visit with a bundle of yaqona roots) then the villagers of Nabuli did the qaloqalovi (welcoming ceremony) ceremony with a whale tooth to formally welcome the visitors.

Then a commotion was heard from the far side of the village as Aisake's family started carrying out the traditional obligations that is required of the kau ni mata ni gone ceremony.

Led by a group of women carrying a huge tapa cloth, which, could measure a good ten yards in length Aisake's family approached the main ceremonial shed or vakatuniloa.

Beneath the huge tapa walked Taina who is the reason for this occasion and Aisake and his family laid out everything for their daughter, niece and grandchild.

For immediately behind Taina's huge tapa was another two lengths of tapa carried by women before men and women carrying lengths of cotton tied together to form one continuous chain, which ran more than a 100 metres in length and required more than 20 men and women to carry.

Immediately behind them came another group of women carrying traditional mats with many carrying a number of mats as it seemed the mats did outnumber the women.

Behind them came the men and boys carrying drums of kerosene, kitchen utensils, porcelain cups and saucers as well as beddings.

The tail end of their entourage was brought up by a live pig dragged by the men before it was tethered just beside the shed where by now everyone, from both Aisake and Selai's families had gathered for the formal part of the ceremony.

In addition to Taina being dressed up in traditional iTaukei garb, another 10 people from Aisake's family dressed up in traditional attire stood at the head of the shed behind her.

This is the iTaukei way of giving her company instead of just leaving her standing up there alone and it's a symbolic way of showing how much they do treasure her.

The main part of the ceremony was started by Aisake's family as they presented a number of tabua, including pieces of tapa, the kerosene drums and bales of cloth as Taina's mata ni gone.

Apart from the number of tabua carried by Taina and her entourage, Aisake prepared 30 tabua himself for the formal part of the ceremony.

Once this was presented by Aisake's family, Selai's family reciprocated with mats, bales of cloths, huge lengths of tapa and a bunch of tabua to complete the ceremony.

Selai's father, Rokobatina, said they had used about $18,000 to prepare for Aisake's family and he said every piece of cloth, tapa, mats, food and tabua

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