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Home / Picturing Our World / Member Stories (31) / Professional Photographer (14) / South Pacific Islands (1) / Environments: Ocean (1)


A Journey to the South Pacific: Photographing Fiji

A Third World Paradise

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View of the Coral Coast, Viti Levu

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These images represent pieces of the various aspects of a country, torn between traditional ways of life and westernization, called Fiji. I went to three islands, Viti Levu; great Fiji, Vanua Levu; big land, and Taveuni; the garden island. My images show the serene and the roughness of an underdeveloped country. Fiji is a place of vibrant beauty and natural resources yet has environmental and educational problems that seem to be occurring throughout the country.

Sea turtles are symbols of good luck to the Fijians. In history, the sea turtles led the Fijians to land. However, if requested by a chief, they are still eaten in ceremonies. To my horror, they are killed very slowly, by keeping them out in the sun on their backs for four days until they die. Not only are they endangered; there is no monitoring on how many the villages actually kill each year. I have yet to confirm if it is legal in Fiji for the villagers to kill a certain number for ceremonial purposes. On the other hand, there are natural growing mangrove forests and there are also man made mangrove farms that have been planted to help sustain the ecological system. There seems to be some concern for maintaining the environment, but on a very small level. Unfortunately, much of the garbage in Fiji is burned and or dumped into the ocean. I saw everything from batteries, aerosol cans, glass, and about 20 pairs of shoes on the beaches and in the water. The coral abundance, especially off of the coral coast is amazing. There are a myriad of indigo blue starfish and a variety of corals as one heads out toward the break. It is common to see Fijian women hunting for octopus on the reefs with sharp sticks.

Buses are the major method of transportation for the natives in Fiji. There are always people waiting for buses outside of villages, and children waiting for hours for a bus to come by to take them to school. Most of the roads have been eroded or are not paved. Out of the three islands I went to, Taveuni had the most maintained roads.

The markets show the resources from the land and the ocean that are commonly found throughout the country. The Fijian and Indian populations are seen in their separate areas at the market in Sigatoka. Some Fijians have expressed frustration that the Indian populations are doing better financially than the Fijians. Mainly because of better money management and education.

All villages still have designated chiefs and still practice ritual rites such as the Yaqona ceremony. This is a ceremony that takes place when invited to a village one brings to the chief Kava root that is pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with water to form a muddy like liquid called yaqona. Drunk out of coconut shell bowls, Kava is known for its relaxing properties, and creates numbness on the lips and in the mouth. It is taken regularly by the Fijians.

Fijian and Indian culture and society relies on tourism as the main source of economic growth and employment. Cessna planes travel from one island to another, and it is common to meet people from other countries that travel by sailboat. The villages and towns display the basic way the Fijians live; farming off of the land, using machetes as a primary tool; from opening coconuts to cutting down sugarcane, and living in simple but vibrant corrugated metal houses with outdoor bathroom facilities. Electricity is just being installed on some of the islands that have been running off of generators.


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Do you think that the Ceremonial pracitice of eating Sea Turtles should continue

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