Dau Nakelo – On call to fulfill their duty

Variety of fish that was caught at the Marine Protected Area in Nasilai. Picture: JONA KONATACI

IN an itaukei setting everyone has a duty to fulfil.

In several cases around the country, there are those that are special.

A young boy or girl is born into a family with specific traditional roles and responsibilities and no one else can perform that specific duty much better than those who are called or are bestowed with that traditional calling.

For some special gifts or calling there are strict measures that need to be followed like taboos to ensure the mana in their duty is maintained.

For those that break the tabu, either they face the consequences, or if not told and hope to be kept a secret there will be a sign to reveal that the tabu has been broken.

“The essence behind tabu or avoidance rules is that a child in a family must conform and behave like others in order to avoid an unusual occurrence. Any unusual behaviour in any member of the family would mean an outcast. Similarly, people were expected to be afraid of some behaviours and activities that they were involved in because of the repercussions thereto,” African Academic Obediah Dhodho wrote in his research titled Traditional Taboos Defined Conflicts Prevention, Myths & Realities.

On Vatulele island, it is strictly prohibited to remove from the island or take the red prawns locally known as the ura buta or ura damu ni Vatulele.

Should someone think or attempt to steal the red prawnlocals believe the sea will become rough and no boat will be able to sail across to the mainland.

On Beqa island, there are tabu that need to be followed for those participating in the traditional firewalking ceremony or locally known as the Vilavilairevo.

The sign will be the main culprit could be burnt during the traditional ceremony.

At Namuana Village in Kadavu and Nacamaki on Koro island they are known to be bestowed the traditional gift of turtle calling. However, one is not allowed to point nor take pictures, because if they do the turtles will disappear.

We can, therefore, conclude a special gift is given for a special purpose and must in no way be abused or exploited. The same can be said for the people of Nasilai, in Nakelo, Tailevu.

They are known as the traditional fishermen or gonedau of the turaga na Tui Nakelo, they are referred to as the Dau Nakelo.

When the Tui Nakelo wants to eat fish he will call on his Dau Nakelo and they will adhere to the desires of their chief like all other places, there are certain taboos that need to be followed before the fishermen go out to sea.

One in which they are not allowed to sleep with their wives or partners, in other words abstain from sex.

“E dau tiko na kena tabu, e tabu na lai moce e vale, me keimami varautaka na kena qarai mai na ika qo me kena na turaga. Kevaka keimami dau qoli tiko va qo, qo vei ira na dau vakatara na tabu, ya keimami dau rai tu vaqo, ya na ikabula na qai saraga mai loma vei koya saraga na iliuliu ni qoli, na qai vakaraitaka vua na muna, ni bera ni qai tale e tuba. Sa kaya saraga o liuliu ni qoli dua vei kemuni qo voroka na tabu na bogi.” (Everyone that will be going fishing is to abstain from sex. If during our fishing trip and the turtle swims right up to the head fishermen and then turns and shows its backside before swimming back out, the leader knows someone has broken the tabu.), said Savenaca Delai the former Nasilai Village headman.

Located beside the mouth of the Rewa River, Nasilai Village comes under the district of Nakelo in the Tailevu province.

Home to about 200 villagers, many grow up knowing the sea is whatthey can fall back on. Many still return to the sea as a means to meet their daily sustenance.

Nasilai is also famous for playing host to the all famous picnic spot the Nasilai Beach.

History dictates about 151-years-ago the boat Syria ran aground along the Nasilai Reef while bringing Girmitiyas during the indentured labour period.

The Dau Nakelo was given this role so that they can always be the specific traditional fishermen of the Tui Nakelo.

Sixty years old Osea Delaisavui originally from Naqarani in Rewa, with maternal links to Nasilai and who spent most of his life at Nasilai said the family household of Rara will always host the Tui Nakelo when he comes to the village.

There are times in which the message is just relayed that the Tui Nakelo requests for some fish, and there are other times when the chief makes the journey to Nasilai, to personally relay the message.

“Qo na vuvale o Rara ena koro o Nasilai, qo na vanua era na mai tiko kina na turaga na Tui Nakelo. Era dau gole mai ke na turaga na Tui Nakelo, mai vakaraitaka na nodra gagadre, na vuvale qo ena qai kauta na nodra kerekere kina loma ni koro vua na Dau Nakelo. Yaco yani na itukutuku, na Dau Nakelo esa na qai kaciva na matanivanua. Nira sa soqoni toka rau sa na qai gole yani o Matanivanua kei Komai Rara. Lai varaitaki vei ira.” This is the family the Tui Nakelo will come to, the Komai Rara will then pay a visit to the traditional spokesperson who will then call the village. When all are gathered  the spokesperson and the Komai Rara will then relay them the message that their chief desires to have some fish.)

Like in every traditional request yaqona will always be involved. But if the chief request to feast on a turtle there is a slight difference in how the request is made.

According to Mr Delaisavui when the vanua has gathered, the Komai Rara while kneeling down will carry a fresh uprooted yaqona plant on his shoulder, and present it.

When he is done he will throw it over to the matanivanua who is expected to catch it and accept the request.

Mr Delaisavui added if the Dau Nakelo and his men are fishing for a week, the Tui Nakelo will provide them with everything they need from their food to what they drink.

Mr Delai added in the past they would provide the Tui Nakelo with his fish, and it is the duty of the chiefly mataqali to  reciprocate the gesture by providing food for their men and their families.

He said over the years and the growing population taking into consideration new ways of life that have crept in, what is received is not to their satisfaction, the Tui Nakelo, therefore, has agreed for the people of Nasilai to also sell the fish in order to meet their daily needs.

As amazing as it sounds the traditional fishermen of the Roko Tui Kiuva are always present when the Tui Nakelo makes a request.

History reveals the Roko Tui Kiuva’s gonedau is originally from Nasilai and was sent there as a personal request ages ago.

“E liu era dau cakava na neimami qase na yavirau era dau vakayagataka na vau na drauniniu. Ia o au, na noqu kila au sa qai dau cakava qo, na levu ga ni tamata. Ya au sa kila talega na levu ni ka ena rawa Mai. Na nodra yalo vataga na cauravou ena noqu kauti ira e wai. (In the past I watched my grandfather’s and father use the vines and coconut leaves, but me I just
know what I can catch by the number of men I take and their spirits.)

“Dua ga na domo ena rogo ekea au duadua ga. Na cakacaka qo, na cakacaka ni vakarorogo. Kevaka era vakarorogo vinaka, na rawarawana cakacaka. Vaka dou vakadinadinataka, rawarawa na qaravi tavi totolo talega noda cabe mai ke na ka e lai rawa mai. So na gauna sega ni dau rawa mai so na ka baleta saraga na yalo ni tamata.” (In this job only my voice has heard none other. When they listen well, we won’t spend a long time at sea, but if there are many differences there it will show in less catch. And
as you witnessed we only spent less time at sea before we came back.) said Kulivarani Tamanikaira originally from Kiuva.
For as long as he can remember Mr Delai said they will continue to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

“Keimami na qarava na neimami tavi ena neimami gu taucoko, baleta keimami sa kila kena vinaka vaka kina neimami sa sotava
tu kina na kalougata.” (We will perform our duties to the best of our abilities because we know the benefits and we have been

  • History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish your account of history too — Editor

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