FIJI NEWS

Fijian meke in the 21st century

Pure forms of traditional fijian dance (meke) are being lost Founding member of the Dance Theatre of Fiji and Fiji Sun subeditor Manasa Kalouniviti argues for a relook at the
27 Mar 2014 09:45

Pure forms of traditional fijian dance (meke) are being lost
Founding member of the Dance Theatre of Fiji and Fiji Sun subeditor Manasa Kalouniviti argues for a relook at the preservation of culture.

Manasa Kalouniviti
SUVA
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s the traditional meke competition between schools was a huge event. It normally took place on Ratu Sukuna Day and was fiercely contested. Marist Brothers High School’s meke team of which I was a member, proudly hoisted the competition cup in 1968, 1969 and 1970. Judges looked for team’s abilities to deliver traditional forms. For the uninitiated, the lessons on meke were simple. For example, Vanua Levu had its own dances, the meke wesi (spear dance) and the seasea (ladies standing dance). Each meke identified a vanua and had its own vucu (traditional chants). There were also specific dance moves to specific forms. If you watch some of the meke wesi and meke i wau (club dance) performed today, they are confusing some of the moves specific to each dance forms and audiences don’t even have a clue that this is happening.
I have a particular bone of contention with tourist operators who ‘cultural groups’ to perform meke. Not only are these meke a great disservice to iTaukei culture because they abandon pure form for a quick buck but they pass onto their bad habits to the younger generation.
I propose that we revive the traditional meke competition that was peformed on Ratu Sukuna Day. Some of the schools like Adi Cakobau School, Queen Victoria School, Ratu Kadavulevu Schoola and Lelean Memorial School continue to incorporate iTaukei culture classes into their school curriculum.
However, we need to think about coming up with a more comprehensive approach to iTaukei culture, particularly meke and protocol.
The Government has already make the teaching of iTaukei language mandatory for all schools. This is good but there are questions about the resources available to deliver this across the board. This is also just aimed to conversational iTaukei language.
I don’t consider myself a lone voice in the wilderness. There are others, like me, interested in preserving traditional forms. It was interesting to note that a recent letter to the editor complained about Bollywood dances being performed at school functions and being passed off as classical Indian dance.
I concur with a similar line of argument for iTaukei culture, particularly meke. Fusion of different dances is inevitable and contemporary dance groups should have the freedom to innovate and express themselves.
However, we do a great disservice to our future generations, not just iTaukei but all Fijians, if we do not remain, true to form, so to speak, with relation to our iTaukei culture.

Mr Kalouniviti continues to maintain a passionate interest in culture in the vanua o Kubulau, Bua.

Feedback: manasak@fijisun.com.fj




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