Ra Enge


Veiqia: na iVolavosa Vakaviti

Today and every day we celebrate our female ancestors. On this International Women’s Day we are launching our new series Veiqia: na iVolavosa Vakaviti.

This year is the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate our tattooing history. Through language people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression.

Throughout the year we’ll be sharing Fijian words associated with veiqia. We hope these word lists will help raise awareness, revive, and document our history.


In Fiji, women were the tattoo artists (daubati) and recipients of revered qia (tattoo). Girls were tattooed at puberty; the ceremony initiated them as women and signified their eligibility for marriage.

na iVolavosa Vakaviti

QIA tattoo
VEIQIA tattooing
QIALAKA to tattoo
VEIQIALAKI to continue the tattooing process
DAUBATIDAUVEIQIADAUVEISAU OR MATAINIQIA the person who tattoos. Daubati (bati (tooth) referring to the tattooing tool) have been described as hereditary priestesses
QÁRANIQIA the cave where the tattooing takes place, sometimes in the forest or a remote place
SAMUQAWE modern synonym of qia. This is more applied to men, where black tattooed writings are applied to the body usually on the hand, arm or upper torso
SAUCA to prick, as in tattooing for leprosy but qia implies to paint as well; and this constitutes the difference between sauca and qia.
The Kauvandra Mountains (Photo-relief plates of watercolour paintings by Constance Gordon-Cumming from C.F.Gordon Cumming: At Home in Fiji, Edinburgh, Blackwood, 1888. Retrived from http://www.justpacific.com/fiji/engravings/gordon-cumming/athome/index.html).

In Ra, Adi Vilaiwasa, the daughter of Degei, was the first woman to be tattooed. She was tattooed in a cave below the sacred summit of the Nakauvadra mountain range in the valley of the upper Wainibuka River in Ra. In 1886 the cave was still used to tattoo women.


Brewster, A. B. (1922). The hill tribes of Fiji. Philadelphia: Lippincott. Retrieved from Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/hilltribesoffiji00brew

Hazlewood, David (1872). A Fijian and English and an English and Fijian dictionary : and grammar of the language with examples of native idioms (2nd ed). Sampson Low, London. Retrieved from Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/fijianenglishan00hazl/

Ravuvu, Asesela & Tabana ni Vosa kei na Itovo Vakaviti (2005). Na ivolavosa Vakaviti. Tabana ni Vosa kei na Itovo Vakaviti, Tabacakacaka Itaukei, Itovo kei na Iyau Vakamareqeti, Suva.

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