Sunday, March 28, 2010

Turtle Calling in Nacamaki, Koro

FIJI SUN - 28 March 2010

For someone who hails from the village of Lutu-Wainibuka in the province of Naitasiri, my recent trip to the island of Koro was my first ever trip to an island outside Suva.I was with a group of media invited by the Taveuni Development Company to cover the opening of the Koro Biofuel Plant at Nacamaki village.
The chief guest was the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
We arrived on the island on Monday by Northern Air and were accommodated at the Dere Bay Resort, a 25 minute drive from the Koro Airstrip.
Thanks to the great services of all the smiling staff at Dere Bay and David and Elsa Miller, owner of the resort.

A report I read about Koro said: “Koro is known as the most fertile island in Fiji, boasting large plantations and thriving tropical forests. Koro has an exception bird life and has been featured in numerous books.”

I had also heard about turtle calling in Koro and I really wanted to witness it. 
Those were two of the questions that came to mind and I wanted to see the truth about turtle calling.

At our briefing at the resort, we were told that we would be going to Nacamaki the next day (Tuesday, our second day on Koro), to see turtle calling. 
From my own research about turtle calling, that was after my return from the beautiful island of Koro, I found out that turtle calling is also done at Namuana in Kadavu.

Below is a story on “Folklore Of Turtle Calling” from the Marine Turtle Newsletter 
The custom of turtle calling of Namuana on Kadavu is based on an ancient legend which is still passed down from father to son.

“Many, many years ago in the beautiful village of Namuana, there lived a very lovely princess called Tinaicaboga who was the wife of the chief of Namuana village. Tinaicaboga had a charming daughter called Raudalice and the two women often went fishing on the reefs around their home.

“On one particular occasion, Tinaicaboga and Raudalice went further afield than usual and waded out on the submerged reefs which jut out from the rocky headland to the east of the bay. They became so engrossed with their fishing that they did not notice the stealthy approach of a great war- canoe filled with fisherman from the nearby village of Nabukelevu.
This village is situated in the shadow of Mount Washington, the highest mountain on Kadavu Island.
“Suddenly the fisherman leapt from their canoe and seized the two women ,bound their hands and feet with vines and to set off in great haste for home. The cruel warriors from Nabukelevu were deaf to the pleadings and would not listen to the entreaties of the women.

“The gods of the sea, however, were kind and soon a great storm arose and the canoe was tossed about by the huge waves which almost swamped it. 
As the canoe was foundering in the sea, the fisherman were astounded to notice that the two woman lying in the water in the hold of the canoe had suddenly changed into turtles and to save their own lives, then men seized them and threw them into the sea.

“As they slipped over the side of the canoe the weather changed and there were no more waves. 
The Nabukelevu fisherman continued their journey back to their home village and the two women from Namuana who had been changed to turtles on the waters of the bay.

“It is their descendants today who rise when the maidens of their own village sing songs to them from the cliffs. The translation of the strange song which is chanted on such occasion is as follows:

“The women of Namuana are all dressed in mourning. 
Each carries a sacred club; each is tattooed in a strange pattern.

Do rise to the surface Raudalice so that we can look at you.
Do rise to the surface Tinaicaboga o we may also look at you.’ 
“The women of Namuana village still preserve the strange ritual of calling turtles from the sea. All the maidens of the village assembled on the rocks above the water and begin to sing a melodies chant. Slowly, one by one, giant turtles rise to lie on the surface in order to listen to the strange chant.

“On the island of Koro it is the man who call the turtles but the legend behind the ritual is unknown to me.

Having never witnessed the true calling in Koro or Kadavu. I cannot comment on its success. 
It is possible that the area is used for calling are freedom grounds and should the turtles be free from hunting pressure and harassment they may be present when ever the callers assemble.”

Well, I’m here in Koro and this is my story about turtle calling at Nacamaki village. 
The visit to Nacamaki village and then to the hill to see the turtles, was I must admit a very special moment not only for me but for my other media colleagues. 

We were greeted by the Sau Turaga, Kinijioji Manakiwai, who then led us to the village hall where our sevusevu was presented.

They accepted us in the traditional manner and we were made to feel at home by the village elders. 
Mr Manakiwai also explained how Nacamaki and Nabukelevu in Kadavu are related to each other.

“Tui Naikasi’s daughter was married to one of the ancestral gods from Nabukelevu and this was how people of Nabukelevu also had the special turtle calling gift. 
“Schools from around the country and even tertiary institutions have all been to the island for quest to know the truth about turtle calling and whether it is still being practiced in the island.”

It was time for us to climb the hill to have a good look at the turtles rising from the deep blue sea.

Then the chant which goes like this was sung by our tour guide:

“Tui Naikai Tui Naikasi
O iko na Vu kei Nacamaki
Eqeeqe I Baravi
Sucu a luvemu ra sa mai rogoca a kaci
Kaci a kai Bau ra kaci talevaki
Kaci sa vude cake
Kemu I vude yate ni lagi
Vude vude Tui Naikasi

We were there on the hill to see for ourselves the real truth about turtle calling.
A friend of mine whispered to me “remember the taboo.”
“I will,” I replied.

And suddenly I saw the turtle rising and through my excitement, I pointed at it and to our surprised, the turtle disappeared. They all turned to me and said: Kaicolo ga na kaicolo.” 
I must have probably screwed up other media colleagues’ fun after pointing at the first turtle that emerged to the surface.

I tried my best to avoid all these spoils from my friends, especially my tauvu’s from Lau and Vanua Levu who all spoiled me for the stupid act I had done.

As a “Kai Colo” I tried to take the bold step and said to myself, why should I be frightened of what I have just done when I am on the land of my mataqali?

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