Story: Fijians

Page 4. Fijian culture in New Zealand

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As more immigrants arrived, change accelerated within Fijian cultures in New Zealand. Many cultural values and practices have been maintained, but some are under threat.

Language

Fijian, Fiji Hindi and English are the main languages of Fiji, and many residents of Fiji understand the language of another ethnic group. But settlement in New Zealand is eroding linguistic flexibility, particularly among recent younger migrants and New Zealand-born Fijians. Some Indo-Fijians see little value in maintaining Fiji Hindi in New Zealand. While there have been some efforts to promote language classes for Fijian children, keeping the language alive depends upon family use and contacts with Fiji.

Religion

The social and spiritual networks of Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious groups have helped sustain Fijian cultures in New Zealand. Fijian Christians are mainly Methodist and Catholic, and in the main centres these churches offer services in Fijian and fellowships for women. The Assemblies of God attract some Fijians, including a minority of Indo-Fijians.

The dramatic post-1987 immigration from Fiji led to a huge increase in Hindu religious activities in New Zealand, including mandir (temple) building, celebration of festivals, and pujas and mandalis (religious gatherings). A smaller proportion of immigrants from Fiji were Muslim. They have contributed to New Zealand’s culturally diverse Islamic community.

Religious networks are necessary in order for indigenous Fijians to maintain traditional family customs in New Zealand. However, many have found it impossible to continue holding elaborate ceremonies. These are labour intensive, time consuming and better suited to a village environment. Some try to return to Fiji for ceremonies such as male circumcision.

Fijian food and commodities

Before 1987 Fijian immigrants found it difficult to get island and Indian ingredients. They relied upon a few Indian importers or friends bringing food from Fiji. Today, largely as a result of the settlement of Indo-Fijians in New Zealand, an extensive range of foods, clothing, utensils and Hindi videos is available.

What is grog?

Grog (yaqona, kava), a mildly intoxicating drink made from the root of the herb Piper methysticum, is enjoyed by most Fijians of all ethnicities. It is a recreational drink, although it has ceremonial status for indigenous Fijians. Grog sessions continue in New Zealand and unite different Fijian groups. Indo-Fijians have been mainly responsible for importing and distributing yaqona in New Zealand.

Sport

Sport and leisure activities reinforce Fijian social ties and also present Fijians positively to the non-Fijian population. Arthur Jennings was the first Fijian to play for the All Blacks, in 1967. Bernie Fraser was another outstanding Fijian star of the 1979 team. Since then many have played for provincial teams as well as the national side – All Black Joe Rokocoko among them. Fiji has also been well represented in netball: Vilimaina Davu was the first Fijian Silver Fern. Fijians are revitalising New Zealand soccer through the activities of the New Zealand Fiji AFC, founded in 1993. Indo-Fijians are also prominent within the New Zealand Boxing Federation.

The media

Indo-Fijians have their own media services, which also cater to other Indians. Radio Tarana is a Hindi radio station based in Auckland. Community newspapers have flourished, and in 2001, the internet site Indian Newslink was established. Indigenous Fijians have slots on radio Niu FM, while community access radio is important to Fijians of all ethnicities.

How to cite this page:

Jacqueline Leckie, 'Fijians - Fijian culture in New Zealand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/fijians/page-4 (accessed 19 November 2018)

Story by Jacqueline Leckie, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015