iQia, Qaraniqia, Qisa – for almost 100 years these words have not been spoken. In 2015 at The Veiqia Project’s first panel discussion in Suva, a woman in her 70’s commented that she had never heard of veiqia and wondered “ what else have we lost”?
We didn’t just lose the initiation of young girls into women hood, we lost rituals associated with it, like receiving their first liku (a woven skirt made from natural fibres), the making of liku, songs, dance,and language.
Through language people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression.
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.
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.
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).
The daubati (tattooist) painted guidelines on each girl’s body before tapping the desired weniqia (patterns) into the flesh using iqia (tattooing tool) dipped in soot. Tools included pigment typically made from dakua gum soot mixed with a little water, damp barkcloth rugs to wipe up the blood, beater sticks, and tattooing picks, each consisting of gasau reed or duruka cane handle with bone or thorn teeth set at one end at right angles to the shaft. Bone blades were typically cut into sawtoothed edge.
The pigments, which imparted a dark blue pattern under the skin, consisted of soot mixed with oil. For chiefly girls the soot was obtained by charring shelled lauci or sikeci candlenuts over a fire, catching the sooty smoke in an overturned pot, the nuts being strung on a sasa coconut leaf midrib for the purpose. The soot was then scraped free and mixed with candlenut oil. For commoners the soot was generally that obtained by burning the makadre resin from the dakua tree. In some hill districts dye was obtained from the gumu tree.
QIAIQIA patterning, or drawing of patterns
QISA, IQISA, QISAQISA To paint the body ready for tattooing
QUMU, IQUMU qisa and qumu can be used interchangeably. The only difference is that qisa tend to follow and outline in a linear fashion whereby qumu is more painting the whole surface without an outline
VEQIAYAKA to continuously make patterns or draw
WENIQIA tattoo patterns and designs
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.