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Navala, fight or war

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Sunday, December 17, 2017

HAVE you ever been to an iTaukei village that still strictly observes the full traditional iTaukei protocol?

This is quite rare to find as many have been modernised considering the modern world we are living in today and the many changes that have come about forcing people to live a modern life and also lose out slowly on their culture and tradition.

The surge in technology has taken over many people's lives and this has even become a concern among village elders as they want their younger generation to understand their history better and keep it within them.

Nestled among the beauty of nature and below the foothills of the beautiful highlands of Ba is the village of Navala.

It is probably known to many as the only traditional village in Fiji because it still has thatched Fijian bure and villagers truly live a simple life away.

Ratu Semi Nakautoga, the leader of the Narata clan, gave a very interesting account of life at Navala and how it has happened to be the same from then until now despite the many changes happening around us.

Navala, sits beautifully at the bottom of the mountainous and rugged hills of the Ba highlands surrounded by its beauty and is home to more than 700 people.

A trip to Navala a week ago, helped me unearth the beauty of the village, the simplicity of life on this amazing place and the very reason this village seemingly remains as it is since its beginning by its early settlers.

Ratu Semi, 65, explained their ancestors, the first settlers at Navala, came from the chiefly village of Ucunivanua at Verata in Tailevu.

It was during one those journeys undertaken many years ago that they stumbled upon the beauty of this place. However, they were also caught up in a war, hence, the birth of the name of the village va vala (fight or war).

But the village site has moved from its original location three different times as their ancestors opted for a better place to settle, a place where they could easily detect enemies and where they could be away from flooding as their original village used to be near the river.

Despite the feeling of nostalgia of things and days gone by, some will surely ask why the villagers of Naval opt to live in bure given the abundance of alternatives.

Ratu Semi paused for a moment, smiled and gave an answer which left me wondering about the reason Navala remains a very unique i Taukei village.

Despite frequent tourists visitation to this village, it did not change the way of life of villagers.

These Fijian bure, he explained, weren't just there to house villagers, they were always there for three main reasons which according to the clan leader was the only reason their village stood out from the rest of those other villages around the country.

These three iTaukei words portray or capture the characteristics of traditional way of iTaukei life — solesolevaki communal life, communal living, communal setting), veivakaturagataki (respect, held with reverence and respect) and veilomani (the feeling of love or being loved).

These are the very reasons villagers of Navala, according to Ratu Semi, stand out among the strongest and the most unique in our country because they still observe these three main aspects of traditional iTaukei way of life.

Though these may not be observed by some iTaukei people because of their adhering to some aspects of a Western way of life, elders of Navala ensure they are strictly followed by their younger generation because they belive these are what counts in the life of an i Taukei.

Hence, it's the reason the bure will always be a part of Navala.

"Because a bure keeps us together, teaches us respect and help us work together as a family, vanua and a unit," Ratu Semi explained.

"When you enter one of these bure, you will find peace, respect and love ... these are the very qualities we teach our children inside this bure and we believe that when we teach them at a very young age, it will never go away from them.

"We believe that if these bure are taken away and we allow modern houses into our village, we will lose these important aspects of life.

Ratu Semi explained that in a bure, there are three doors — one is used only by the man, the head of the household either on the left or the right while children and women go through the main door only. On the hilltop above Navala is a hill neatly and naturally shaped like a giant. Villagers believe this mountain acts as a guard to the people of Navala.

Below this hill is another, because of its natural crevices and openings, it is also believed that this was used as a hideout for the old, women and children of Navala when wars used to break out a long time ago. The more than 700 people on Navala all work together to achieve a common goal of love, respect and peace.

According to Ratu Semi, their piece of history is like artwork and it is something they hope to pass down to their younger generations.

"We will make sure this is done because these Fijian bure will always be a part of the people of Navala and it is something which makes us unique from the rest of Fiji."

If you ever happen to visit Navala, you will not want to miss out on the stories from Ratu Semi. However, it's just not the oral history, as you walk about, you will definitely feel that uniquness and peace in the village.

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