The Kava Ceremony
My heart goes out to the Fijian people. I am devastated that once again one of the poorest countries in the world got hit with a record breaking tropical cyclone named Winston. As of now, at least 17 people have been killed, low lying areas have been flooded and many homes have been destroyed.
I did a road trip on the beautiful and very scenic Queens Road around the main island Viti Levu in 2014. I met so many wonderful people on my trip. They were very open hearted, had always a smile on their faces, a cheery BULA! on their lips and a flower in their hair, dressed in a traditional a colorful sarong.
I stayed in Sigatoka, a small town in the southern part of the main island, when I got invited to a traditional Kava Ceremony, held at a small village just a half an hour boat trip up the river. I felt blessed because being a woman, I usually would have had to stay with the other women and the children in the kitchen – although both men and women drink Kava in Fiji. Upon our arrival, my friend presented a Kava plant to the oldest man in the village. This is a very old tradition to show your respect and to honor your host.
One was chosen to address thanks to everyone and to introduce me in their local dialect before serving the men first.
A Kava Ceremony is a social and political gathering. After having a few cups of the strong and sedative drink, one pulls out his guitar and starts singing, another one grabs my hand with a bright smile and dances with me around the house with smooth dance moves. I actually haven’t been dancing in ages but I must say, I haven’t felt happier with an easy heart and haven’t had a brighter smile on my face since these very same ages. I don’t know if it was the Kava or the bond of the community.
I did not spent the whole time drinking with the men – I also sat down in the kitchen with the women and children where they prepared lunch for everyone. Unfortunately non of them spoke English, but it is easy to communicate when you are as curious and open hearted as we were.
This was a very memorable day, I learned so much from these people and felt a warmth and a bond in the community that you nowadays don’t feel in the first world countries.
Again, my heart goes out to all Fijians. I hope that their strength as a community will help them, rebuild their lives.
Please follow Vlad Sokhin on facebook and Instagram. I met him last year in China during the 2015 Humanity Photo Awards. He does incredible work in the South Pacific, documenting the impact of climate change in the South Pacific.
Here is a small selection of photos from my day at the village.