Gift of names

ALONG the coast of Macuata, in Vanua Levu we came across a gentleman from Raviravi Village called Josateki Manatua.

Raviravi Village is one of the coastal communities in the District of Macuata. There are six landowning units within the Yavusa Matainubulevu at Raviravi. The village is approximately 57km from Labasa Town.

A chance conversation with Mr Manatua turned out to be deeply enlightening as he talked about the significance behind the meaning of names and places. The 65-year-old is known as the village historian and whose traditional knowledge over local lore proved quite fascinating.

Part of the conversation drifted towards our identity. For us human beings, names are very important. It helps us understand the world around us. A surname roots us in history and family tradition, while first names establish more particular identity and personality.

Mr Manatua says it’s something that is slowly dying out in our country not only among iTaukei but other cultures as well.

“For us humans, placing names is our special gift,”Mr Manatua said.

“It tells our story. When an iTaukei person comes back from overseas, he will give a name to his child or his descendants will name one of their children to remember that trip.

“Or even the places where they have worked, for example our Fijian soldiers. They have named their base camps with the names of their villages. It’s something to connect us and to say ‘yes, we were there’.”

He says it’s something that is present in all cultures, a practice that has been around since ancient times.

“The Bible itself has names enriched with meaning,” said the villager. “The word ‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’; the first book of the Bible is a book of origin, and we see many stories where people’s names are rooted in how they began.

“That’s why naming of people and places is special as it is a special heritage for our generations to come; to know where we came from,” he said.

“Today we don’t take naming seriously. I always tell people that nobody knows us. Our stories are only known through our deeds and names that are rooted in family history. It’s our DNA,” he said with a smile.

Mr Manatua is a traditional fisherman at Raviravi Village.

* Read more about Raviravi Village in The Sunday Times.

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