THE Uto ni Yalos arrival yesterday for World Oceans Week celebrations revived ancient indigenous traditions after a lapse of more than 200 years.
As the fleet of seven vaka entered the breakwater of Laucala Bay on the University of the South Pacific foreshore in Suva, a ceremonial party of three traditionally dressed men waded into the sea to welcome home the 120 sailors taking their message of the conservation and protection of the ocean around the world.
The qaloqalovi, a ceremony that is usually done on land after the era of traditional canoe sailing phased out with modernisation, returned to the ocean.
Captain Jonathan Smith and his Uto ni Yalo crew received the tabua and described it as significant on a day marked to celebrate our ocean.
Uto ni Yalo herald Setareki Laveti, of Fulaga in Lau, said the crew was honoured to be part of the te Mana o te Moana voyage to create awareness on the risks put on the oceans resources and health.
We are privileged. The Uto ni Yalo has a message for our people to protect the ocean and coming home to this ancient traditional welcome means a lot, Mr Laveti said.
Our ancestors protected our tradition, our culture and our identity, which is also the ocean. We have started to lose most of them and it is now time for us to do all we can and save what is ours.
The welcome included the presentation of voivoi (pandanus leaves) from Nanukuloa in Ra to the sailors as a mark of celebration of women who contributed to the upkeep of ancient traditions.
Uto ni Yalo stalwart Manoa Rasigatale said without the participation of women in the planting of voivoi for the weaving of the canoe sail a long time ago, the Pacific islands would not be inhibited as they are today.
The women are the channels of success for the mana to be achieved in the sailing of a canoe, he said. Fijis blessed with the best voivoi for weaving sails only found in Nanukuloa. It was known in ancient times as Voivoi ni Laca (pandanus sails).
Mr Rasigatale said Nanukuloa was visited for veisa (barter trade) by people from different parts of Fiji and the Pacific because of its rare voivoi, which is tough and flexible for sailing.
Captain Smith said the revival of traditions was one step in the protection of ancient ways to sustain our ocean.