Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Olympic Golds and Kava Bowls

It may have escaped your attention with all the excitement and ceremony of the Olympics in Rio back in August; but a small island nation won its first Olympic medals ever.

That nation was Fiji and we didn’t just win medals – we won golds!

As all Fijians are aware by now, our Sevens Rugby team did the nation proud by beating Great Britain in the final of the tournament to bring home gold for Fiji!

Fiji has sent athletes to the Olympics since Melbourne in 1956, but we had never previously won a medal. So if you’re reading this from the U.S., where your nation hauled home a massive 47 gold medals, spare a little ripple of applause for us!

Wild celebrations – over the kava bowl

The victory in the final sparked wild celebrations in Fiji; or as wild as things can get when the kava bowl is in play!

As you know, kava has a relaxing and calming effect, but these qualities were put to the test after the final, in which Fiji hammered Great Britain 43-7.

It certainly was a proud and emotional moment for all Fijians, as the 12 squad members received their gold medals from Princess Anne in the stadium in Rio.

As the medals were presented to the team, some people were surprised to see each Fijian player kneeling on the podium, and clapping three times out of respect for the Princess. This is a gesture normally reserved for a kava ceremony, when it is traditional for Fijians to clap three times after drinking a shell of kava, as a sign of respect.

In the national stadium in Suva, thousands of Fijians gathered to watch the historic match and to cheer the boys on from the other side of the Pacific.

And how did Fijians celebrate the win?

According to Maori Television, the kava was flowing  for former Fijian rugby captain Deacon Manu and many Fijians alike:

“The communities all around the world, the Fijian communities that I’ve touched base with, many around the world, and they’re all in full party mode and the kava is flowing like water at the moment to celebrate the victory.”

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama congratulated the team too, saying,

“A wonderful reception awaits our boys when they arrive back in Fiji. Never before has the Fijian spirit soared so high as it does today. Never have we stood so tall as a nation. So let us rededicate ourselves to the task of building our beloved Fiji. One nation, one people, playing an even greater role in the region and the world.”

Well done Fiji. We’re proud of you!

By Zane Yoshida

The Ever-Present Kava Bowl: From Politics to Rugby to Surf

Whenever and wherever there is an important event or an esteemed guest arriving in Fiji, a kava bowl won’t be far away. And the more important the guest the larger the kava ceremony.

In the past few weeks, there have been several important events and visitors to the country – and all have received the ‘kava treatment’.

A kava comment causes a stir

First there was the opening of the 2016 World Surf League Fiji Pro tournament in Namotu, Tuvarua. The close relationship between kava and surfing is something that I wrote about previously in this post.

Then the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, recently took up an offer from the Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, to visit Fiji.

He was welcomed in Suva by a 100-strong Guard of Honour and a traditional welcoming ceremony, where he drank kava and was represented with a traditional whale’s tooth.

His visit represented the first visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister in the past decade. Despite having their differences in the past, everything was as cordial as expected around the kava bowl. But all eyes were on the Key’s reaction to the kava…

On a previous visit to the South Pacific in 2010, Keys described the taste of kava as a mixture of muddy water and liniment and then, in answer to the question about what he thought of kava from Vanuata, he replied with the following (to every Fijian’s dismay):

“At the risk of offending them, slightly better than the Fijian kava, and on a par with Samoa.”

Fijian kava is known for its high quality, so this comment caused widespread raising of eyebrows around the Fijian islands, and probably didn’t endear Key to the majority of Fijians.

It was good to see that, though he may not be a kava lover, he still downed a shell from the kava bowl on this visit – as you can see by the picture. But he kept his thoughts on the taste of kava private this time!

Rugby balls and kava bowls

Bill Beaumont, the incoming chairman of World Rugby, was also in town for a committee meeting – the first ever in Fiji, since the World Rugby body was established in 1886!

Beaumont met with the Fijian Prime Minister at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa and was treated, of course, to a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony around the kava bowl.

As you can see just from the past few weeks, the kava bowl is an ever-present fixture in Fiji – from the halls of government, to the rugby field and out on the sea!

Have you had your shot of kava today?

Olympic Golds and Kava Bowls
The Ever-Present Kava Bowl: From Politics to Rugby to Surf