To celebrate Fiji Language Week, we spoke to pacific nursing student, Kali Saumadu. He dives into his cultural background and journey studying the Bachelor of Nursing Pacific.
What villages are you from in Fiji?
Ni sa Bula Vinaka! I'm Kali Saumadu, I have strong ties to the beautiful Lomaiviti province in eastern Fiji. Originally, I hail from Vione in Gau, a place close to my heart. However, I was brought up in the welcoming village of Natokalau on Ovalau Island. Natokalau has been my home, or “Vola Kawa Bula kina”, where I've cherished memorable moments and formed lasting bonds with the community.
In addition to my connection with Natokalau and Vione, my mother’s roots trace back to Sinuvaca Koro, another enchanting village in the Lomaiviti province. The rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality of these places have shaped my identity, and I take immense pride in calling the Lomaiviti province my home.
What do you love about the Fijian culture?
One of the things I love about Fijian culture is its strong sense of community and family. We prioritise spending time with loved ones and supporting each other in times of need. Our rich traditions, music, and dance are a source of pride, showcasing the vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry of Fiji. Our connection to the land and the environment, as well as our respect for elders and ancestors are also integral aspects of our culture that I hold dear. Fiji Language Week provides a wonderful opportunity to share and celebrate these cultural treasures with the world.
How do you sustain the language at home or in the community?
Sustaining the Fijian language at home and in the community is crucial to preserving our cultural heritage. Here is how I do it:
- Vosa vaka Viti e vale (Speaking Fijian language at home): We make an effort to speak Fijian at home with family members, ensuring that the language is regularly used in daily conversations
- Talanoa\Tukuni (Storytelling): Sharing traditional stories, legends, and folktales in Fijian helps pass down our culture and language to younger generations
- Soqo vaka Viti (Community events): Participating in community events, gatherings, and celebrations where Fijian is the primary language of communication
- Vulica na Vosa vaka Viti (language classes): Enrolling in language classes or workshops can be helpful, especially for those who want to learn or improve their Fijian language skills
- Veimaliwai kei ira na Qase cake (interactions with elders): Spending time with elders who are fluent in Fijian provides an opportunity for language exposure and learning from those who have a deep understanding of our culture.
The tabua is a valuable piece in the Fijian culture. What can the tabua be used for?
The tabua or whale's tooth, holds significant cultural and spiritual value in Fijian culture. It is considered one of the most precious and revered items in Fijian society. Here are some aspects of its value in Fijian culture:
Symbol of wealth and prestige: Historically, the tabua was a symbol of wealth and prestige. The larger and more beautifully shaped the tabua, the higher the status of the owner. It was often used as a form of currency and as a valuable gift in important transactions and ceremonies
Spiritual and ritual significance: The tabua has deep spiritual and ritual significance in Fijian culture. It is believed to possess the mana (spiritual power) of the sperm whale from which it comes. It is used in various ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, and important traditional rituals
Gift of respect and honor: Giving a tabua as a gift is a symbol of respect, honour, and goodwill. It is often presented to chiefs, elders, or esteemed visitors as a mark of reverence and to establish positive relationship
Resolution of conflicts: In some cases, the tabua has been used as to resolve conflicts or disputes. When presented as part of a reconciliation ceremony, it signifies a willingness to make amends and seek forgiveness
Connection to ancestry: The tabua is also associated with ancestral connections. It is passed down through generations and is a tangible link to one's ancestors and cultural heritage
The tabua is an emblematic and multifaceted item in Fijian culture, encompassing notions of wealth, spirituality, respect, reconciliation, and protection. It continues to be an integral part of Fijian traditions and ceremonies, symbolising the deep-rooted cultural values and connections of the Fijian people.
What is your Fijian favorite dish?
As a proud Fijian, one of my favourite dishes is definitely "Mum's fried fish with taro leaves cooked in coconut cream," especially when served with "Dalo lokaloka" or Purple Taro. This dish is not only delicious but also represents the wonderful fusion of flavours and ingredients that are characteristic of Fijian cuisine.
The fried fish adds a crispy and savoury element to the dish, while the taro leaves cooked in coconut cream provide a rich and creamy texture with a hint of sweetness. Purple Taro, or "Dalo lokaloka," is a special variety of taro known for its unique purple colour and earthy taste. When combined with the fish and coconut cream, it creates a harmonious blend of flavours that truly captures the essence of Fijian cuisine.
This dish holds a special place in my heart as it reminds me of home and the lovingly prepared meals that bring families and communities together in Fiji. It's a true comfort food that I savour whenever I have the opportunity.
You are studying Bachelor of Nursing Pacific, how are you finding your studies so far?
Studying for a Bachelor of Nursing Pacific has indeed been a transformative journey for me. Transitioning from an engineering background to the healthcare field was a significant change, and it came with its own set of challenges. However, the rewards and personal growth I've experienced along the way have made it all worthwhile.
One of the most important lessons I've learned during this journey is the need to prioritise myself and my education. It's not always easy, especially when juggling the responsibilities of being a family man. Balancing family, work, and school can be a real challenge, but it's a challenge I gladly embrace because I understand the importance of investing in my future and setting an example for my children.
Building a strong support network has been crucial to my success. Surrounding myself with people who believe in my goals and provide encouragement and assistance has been a game-changer. Whether it's my family, friends, or fellow students, their support has made a world of difference.
Maintaining a positive attitude has been my compass throughout this journey. I firmly believe that my faith and trust in my heavenly father have given me the strength to overcome the hurdles and obstacles that have come my way. It's not always a smooth path, but the sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that I'm working toward a career where I can make a real difference in people's lives as a nurse keep me motivated and dedicated.
Moreover, I take pride in the fact that through my pursuit of higher education, I'm setting an example for my children. I want them to understand that there are no limits to what they can achieve through hard work and determination. Education is a lifelong journey, and I hope they are inspired to pursue their own dreams and aspirations, just as I have.
In the end, this journey has been about personal growth, resilience, and the unwavering belief that with the support of loved ones and faith, there are no mountains too high to climb, and no trials too tough to overcome.