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Kava history / Lore - Kava Gold

Kava or “yaqona” (pronounced yanqona) ceremonies have been part of Fijian life since its written history. And it's a long and treasured history. Even today, in the sand dunes of Sigatoka, archaeologists are discovering artefacts establishing Fiji as having one of the oldest civilizations in the South Pacific.

Having lived off the land since the dawn of time, Fijians have preserved their unique culture and most continue to live in traditional villages, farming and fishing the same way their ancestors before them did.

In history, kava ceremonies were performed as a sacred ritual to mark births, deaths, marriages, official visits, installation of a new chief, etc . Now, kava is part of everyday life, and while adhering to ceremony, Fijians have become more relaxed and less formal in their approach.

A hand woven mat is spread on the floor. In the middle of the mat is placed a large (almost one meter wide) carved wooden bowl known as a “tanoa”. These ‘tanoas’ are traditionally hand carved out of a solid block of tropical vesi hardwood, by the islanders living in the Lau group, the farthest island group in the Fijian archipelago. A long fiber cord is attached to the bowl, and at the end is a cowry shell. The shell symbolizes a Fijian’s link to his ancestors and the cord must never be crossed to break this link.

Much ceremony surrounds a kava gathering. Men gather around the bowl. The pounded kava is placed into a cloth sack and tied. The sack is lowered into the tanoa, where water is added. The cloth sack is squeezed and massaged in the water until the proper balance is reached. Words of encouragement are uttered, and specific chants are spoken. When all is complete, the master of ceremonies scoops up the kava drink in a half coconut shell, called a “bilo”, and offers it to the first guest of honor, amidst much ceremonial clapping and cheers. After the elders and officials of the ceremony receive their first bowl of kava it is offered to the rest in the group.

In modern times, the kava roots and flesh are pounded by hand or by machine and enjoyed by all. But historically, kava was only consumed by the chief of the village, and the kava was processed by the young virgins in a village, who broke down the fibrous roots by chewing them and spitting them into the bowls.

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