On the sidelines of Fiji’s biggest soccer tournament at HFC Bank Stadium, hundreds of people from a remote island in Fiji have gathered at the stadium’s car park to celebrate their cultural roots.
Vanuabalavu (or long island) is part of the Lau group of islands, just east of Viti Levu. Vanuabalavu has 17 villages, all of which are represented at this week’s annual Vanuabalavu Day Festival. Men, women and children adorned in colourful traditional attire singing pulotu (hymns) and dancing the tau’olunga (Tongan/Lauan dance) were some of the scenes from day one of the festival.
Viliame Tucake from the village of Dakuilomaloma said the aim of the festival is to “raise funds for two community-owned secondary schools on Vanuabalavu – Adi Maopa Secondary School and Wainiqelei Circuit School”.
“For small-sized villages, we’re hoping to collectively give $5,000 and big villages $16,000,” he said. So far, more than $100,000 has been collected, according to the Vanuabalavu Festival Committee.
Tucake said he was really happy with yesterday’s turnout. “This year’s Vanuabalavu Festival has brought many of us together to rekindle our bond for a great cause,” he said.
Evisake Wainiqolo from the village of Malaka, who’s married to a man from Sawana, said: “To all those who have links to Vanuabalavu, here and abroad, please come and support this special occasion where we can build up the lives of our children for the future.”
At the Sawana village tent, you can find delicious local foods like “lovo, vakasakera (fish in coconut milk with some greens), there’s puaka (pork), of course! We cannot miss that!,” said Wainiqolo.
You can also find cakes and pies at the Mualevu village tent, said Lesi Vuatalevu. She said a percentage of their earnings will also go towards the Soqosoqo ni Marama, a local women organisation that she’s a member of.
“You can have your breakfast, lunch and dinner here with us. So the earlier you get here, the better chances you have on a good variety of food,” Wainiqolo highlighted.
The Vanuabalavu Day Festival ends today around 5pm.