Until the mid-19th century, the practice of eating one’s enemy was an accepted and honored tradition in Fiji. If, for example, war had been declared, Fijians would be sharpening their knives (and forks) in preparation of meeting their enemies.
The last act of cannibalism in Fiji occurred in 1867. Reverend Baker and his colleagues came to the village of Nabutautau to civilize the natives and to convert them to Christianity. The initial interactions between Baker and the Fijian villagers were positive, but then in an attempt to retrieve a comb (or hat), Baker touched the head of the village chief. This was a forbidden act and a gesture that to the villagers was tantamount to declaring war. They cannibalized Baker and his fellow missionaries.
Reverend Baker’s boot, with teeth marks on it, is on display in the Fiji Museum, bearing testimony to the history of the islands and the effects of cultural misunderstandings.
By the 1990s, all of Fiji had become a global village. Almost all of Fiji, anyway. The village of Nabatautau watched helplessly as the rest of the country acquired tools of modernity, such as schools, roads and electricity. The Fijians of this village believed they were cursed, that they were being punished for what they had done to Reverend Baker over a century earlier. In 2003, ten descendants of Reverend Baker and 600 others attended a cultural ceremony in Nabatautau that would change the course of the future. This act of forgiveness, of letting the past be past, paved the road for roads to be built in Nabatautau. Today, the village of Nabatautau proudly hosts the successful Thomas Baker Memorial School and Thomas Baker College.
Fiji was colonized by the British in 1874 and remained under British rule for over a century, until it officially gained independence in 1970.
Despite the attempts of some anti-colonialists to change the look of Fijian currency in 1970, the coins and banknotes of the country still bear the image of the Queen of England today.
Fiji still uses the British flag, but imposes the Union Jack on it. The coat of arms contains items commonly associated with Fiji, such as bananas and sugarcane, and a white dove symbolizes peace between The Republic of Fiji and Great Britain.
Vestiges of British colonialism show up even in the extracurricular tastes of the islands. The most popular sports in Fiji are rugby, football (soccer), cricket and golf.
The Fiji national rugby union team is one of the best in the world.
Fiji is home to the renowned professional golfer Vijay Singh.
Fiji hosted the Pacific Games in 2003.
On New Year’s Eve, many Fijian village women play a game called veicaqe moli (loosely translated as “kick the orange”), in which the winning team is required to present a gift of new clothes to the losing team.
Fire-walking is a popular activity in Fiji that nowadays is mainly used to entertain tourists.
The official name of the Fijian islands is “The Republic of Fiji.”
If one counted every single island (including coral outcrops) that belongs to the Fijian archipelago, this number would be in the thousands. However, only about 322 are seen as big enough to support human habitation. Of these 322 islands, only 106 are inhabited.
Fiji is situated on the International Date Line (on the 180 degree meridian), which means that it is one of the first places in the world to usher in a new day. There is a particular spot on Taveuni Island where a person can stand with one foot in the current day and one foot in the day before.