By: Jasmine Brown
Fiji, or the Republic of Fiji Islands, is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. It has a long history of many languages, conquerors, governments and religions. Fiji is truly a land of change, beauty and tradition. Fijian culture has a host of influences; English, Indian and Polynesian being just some of them. There also exist deeply rooted traditions which make this land unique, despite a willingness to adapt. Considered by many an exotic paradise, Fiji is also home to a rather impressive military force and a strong presence in the United Nations.
Fiji is a beautiful place, viewed and romanticized by Western audiences in such films as The Blue Lagoon. It was recently ranked as the number two secluded honeymoon destination and there are many obvious reasons as to why. The exotic beach is a sexual fantasy setting for some and just an otherwise sensual getaway for others. At the very least, the warm weather allows for water-related fun and requires the occasional baring of skin. Another exotic attraction of Fiji is the local fruits and flowers. Besides being alluring in terms of taste, sight and smell, many women desire beauty products with ingredients from Fiji. The idea may be to allow the natural beauty to rub off oneself. Fijian products are also sometimes used for massage oils or perfumes, specifically designed to enhance sensual experiences.
One interesting product of Fiji (and the surrounding Pacific Islands) is Kava. Kava is a root which is traditionally ground and mixed with water for ceremonial purposes. The drink is mildy narcotic and has been confirmed to not only enhance relaxation but help boost a low libido. However, Kava should only be taken in small doses, especially if it is meant to be used as an aphrodisiac. Too large a dose may simply put a person to sleep.
One of the earliest examples of Fiji as an exotic destination occurred when James Cook wrote about his experience with the Fiji natives during one of his expeditions to neighboring Tonga. He describes them as both fascinating and savage, not much different from the view the Western world holds today. Great warriors and fierce cannibals, the Fijians were held in esteem for their bark cloth and clubs, yet still feared for their differences.
Because of the abundant natural resources, Fiji held the attention of Europe for many years. Finally, in the 19th century, settlers began to make it a more permanent home. Reasons from beach coming to missionary practices were cited but one thing was sure: the Western world was attracted to Fiji. During that time, a local warchief raised himself to the position of king hoping to defend his country against foreign influence. Eventually, the country came under British rule anyway. The British brought over Indian contract laborers to work on the sugar plantations. Indians would then become a major religious and political contributor in shaping Fiji’s history in later years.
In 1970, Fiji gained independence. In the following years, Fiji had several coups and political upheavals, resulting in the republic we know today. Currently Fiji is considered a Christian nation. There are many Fijians of Indian descent, however, and Fiji has a great many followers of the Hindu, Islamic and Sikh religions as well. Traditional Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, are national as well as the Hindu holiday of Deepawali and the Muslim holiday of Eid. The religion of ancient Fijians was animistic with a strong undercurrent of witchcraft. Although the ancient beliefs are widely acknowledged as myths today, vestiges of old beliefs are sometimes practiced privately. Whatever the religious practice of the inhabitants, there is a strong history of faith in this country. That fact greatly affects all parts of Fijian life, most especially sexuality.
Culturally, Fiji is very traditional. Native Fijians have gender-specific crafts and dances. Women might make pottery, weave tapa cloth, create mats or do a seasea (a fan dance). Men might carve, create canoes or do a meke wesi (a spear dance). Many of these artistic forms are still practiced today, often for tourists. There is also traditional garb for Fijian villagers. Men would wear loincloths and women would wear grass skirts. Single women would wear their skirts shorter and their hair long, married women the opposite. Many Fijians have now adopted a more Western style of dress.
Fijian villagers are very connected to each other and their immediate family. Arranged marriages were also traditional, although now much less so. Additionally, a Fijian village would have a complex hierarchy. The greatest ruling positions are male only. Although these structures are not strictly followed today, they still influence everyday life for some.
Women in Fiji are considered to be exotic and beautiful in other parts of the world, traditionally having Asian features. They are also strong and hardworking, in which many are asked to create and sell crafts in the lucrative tourism business. There are many organizations created for and by women to protect and enhance their rights. Some such groups are the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, National Council Of Women in Fiji, Fiji Women's Crisis Center and Fiji Women in Politics Program. Some of these groups focus on political action, while others focus primarily on specific issues. For such a traditional society, women are really beginning to come into their own with increased political and economic power.
Fijian men are generally considered exotic and attractive as well as the women. Athleticism and sports (particularly rugby) are popular and there often exists a fantasy of the Fijian man being very muscular and somewhat dark. Due to traditional societal values, much of the economic responsibilities are put on Fijian men today. There is a definite exotic fantasy about a young Fijian men marrying a well-off female tourist. This is a self-serving fantasy for both European women and Fijian men. This kind of relationship is actually rather common in reality but it is all too often the subject of a short-time fling. Fijian men tend to be reserved and non-demonstrative in public due to traditional culture.
In 2007, Fiji became the first Pacific Islands Forum country to incorporate sex education into the national secondary school curriculum. Besides addressing sexual health issues (including HIV/AIDS), the program includes lessons on family life, relationships and preparation for marriage. The program received local support (SPC, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) as well as international organizations (UNICEF and UNFPA). They are hoping to receive support from local parents and clergy as well.
There is unfortunately a rather rampant sex trade in Fiji. The increase may be due to economic struggles. Although some abuses have been reported, there are laws in place to protect underage women from sexual crimes and women in general from unwanted sexual advances.
To the Western eye, Fiji is the ultimate exotic destination. There seems to be something inherently sexual as well as sensual about both the land and the people of Fiji. But how much of that is simply exoticism? The Fiji culture is a traditional one, with many influences. There is a great appreciation for beauty and sexuality in the culture, but as outsiders we must learn to respect the whole picture, as well as enjoying the view.