NEWS

Culture Must Evolve to Survive

Culture is regarded as an integral part of our proud heritage. Every ethnic group that makes up our national tapestry has a rich cultural background. But each culture faces a
05 Nov 2014 12:01
Culture Must Evolve to Survive

Culture is regarded as an integral part of our proud heritage.

Every ethnic group that makes up our national tapestry has a rich cultural background.

But each culture faces a challenge of surviving and staying relevant in the face of modern pressures. In order to cope, change is inevitable. There needs to be a paradigm shift to address the conflict between the old and the new.

Recently, the Government put out an advertisement asking for expressions of interest in a research project to look into the complex and expensive rituals and ceremonies of iTaukei funerals. The outcome of the research will no doubt be eagerly awaited.

But changes are already happening in the iTaukei community.

To cut costs, condolence gatherings are being reduced from say a week to two days before the burial.

During this mourning period, people who come to pay their tributes are fed and served yaqona or refreshments.

The bill could run into several thousands. It’s a tradition that is common in the Pacific islands.

The “burua”, a ritual performed after a funeral, has been significantly scaled down in many places. Traditionally it involves the giving out of raw meat and rootcrops by the grieving family in appreciation to those who made presentations of food, money, and traditional wealth like mats and tapa etc. This can be an expensive exercise so an increasing number of families now are just providing lunch for everyone after the funeral.

This change used to be frowned upon but it has now been generally accepted and embraced by many iTaukei as the logical new way forward.

There is a growing realisation that many cannot afford to continue following the old traditions. Some families end up with debts to pay after a funeral. The financial pressures on the families can be traumatic for some.

The changes are part of a cultural evolution that is sweeping iTaukei community coming to grips with modern-day realities versus the old ways.

In the old days, rootcrops and vegetables were harvested from the plantations, pigs and other livestock were raised. Women wove mats and made tapa. Limited cash was used to buy things.

Today, most of these items are bought with money.

The reality is that we live in a cash economy.

Some would argue that the changes dilute the importance of the occasion. But everything is matter of perception.

It’s a double blow to the grieving family if it has to pay for a huge funeral bill and then struggle to survive.

If we do not change than we will suffer from cultural stagnation and eventually death.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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