In an iTaukei (indigenous Fijian) setting, there is an unwritten ‘truth’ that happiness is not gained by what you have accumulated, but rather by what you are willing to give and share.
If you’ve visited Fiji before then you may have heard of the phrase ‘Empty pockets, Big hearts’? And although this might sound counter culture in comparison to ‘western values’ here in Fiji to have so little and yet be willing to give so much, is a source of great pride and overall happiness for many indigenous Fijians!
To fully understand this concept you only need look at the role and significance of the Tabua (whales tooth).
A Tabua (even to this day) is still the most valued object an iTaukei family can have in their home.
Sure money is recognized and has its role within Fijian Society, but the Tabua carries way more prestige and therefore more value, as it is an heirloom that can only be gifted, many of which have been in circulation dating back hundreds of years!
But the amazing thing about this is that, despite its high regard, the Tabua was never designed to stay within and be held by one particular family. You see, the real power of the Tabua is revealed when it is given away.
You will notice this beautiful exchange on display during gatherings such as weddings (as in this image), births, & deaths, as a Gift (Sevusevu) and also when a severe wrong has been committed and a sincere apology (soro) is being requested.
The Tabua is and has always been our cultural currency, our means to honor, to connect, to convey, to celebrate (life and death) and to forgive!
At every step of its journey as the Tabua is passed onwards from generation to generation, it is a reminder to us its people that ‘what unites us is far greater than that which (tries to) separate us.’
A small token of a large gesture that holds great meaning and is of priceless value, and therefore even greater responsibility is required!
Isn’t that something? ☺️