Plotting history, piece by piece. Of all Fiji’s rich and diverse culture, the art of pottery making must be one of the most significant in terms of understanding the country’s ancestral migrations. Pottery lasts an extremely long time and it is through pottery that we learn much about the past. Read on for a brief introduction to Fijian pottery, local history and where to see traditional pieces still being hand made in villages today.
Lapita is the name given to an ancient Pacific culture that colonised many of the islands more than 3000 years ago. The Lapita people are believed to be the ancestors of modern Pacific Islanders and were the first to settle across much of the region. Much of what we know about them comes from their pottery, which was decorated in highly distinctive ways and provides insights into where and how they lived. The intricate patterns that adorned cooking pots, bowls, serving stands and implements were created with a
combination of stamps and a small comb like tool.
In Fiji there has been continuous pottery making activity for more than 3000 years. However, like fashion in the modern world, pottery styles changed, and these changes are used to define different eras in the Fijian past. While the styles changed, the methods of making pottery have remained largely the same. Unlike many other parts of the Pacific where the knowledge of pottery making has vanished, Fijian pottery skills are still being passed on from mother to daughter.
Saqa drinking vessels ranged widely in form and shape. Regardless of form they were held at arm’s length and tilted so that a stream of water flowed from the spout to the drinker’s mouth. Interesting fact: the art of making pottery ceased in Tonga and Samoa approximately 2000 years ago and they became dependent upon trade with Fiji for supply of their pottery.
Fijian Pottery Village Tours
Keen to see traditional ceramic art being made before your eyes? Then opt in for a tour that will introduce you to old world Fiji, where the local village women still practice their pottery skills.
Sigatoka Cultural and Historical Eco Tour
Enjoy a full day exploring the stunning Sigatoka region, known as Fiji’s salad bowl due to the river and surrounding landscape providing fertile soil for bountiful vegetable and fruit harvests. The tour transport will pick you from your hotel and take you to its first stop – the famous Sigatoka Sand Dunes. The dunes are a National Archaeological Heritage Site and the location of culturally significant pottery findings. Not to mention a fantastic photo opportunity where the sand meets the sea.
Then it’s off to Nakabuta Village, known as home of Lapita pottery making. Witness the women of the village creating genuine handmade clay artifacts and score a souvenir keepsake if you like. The Nakabutu villagers also perform the traditional Fijian meke dance for guests, as well as sharing their art of making pottery.
The journey continues to Kula Eco Park, where you will see some of Fiji’s endangered species and culminates at Tavuni Hill Fort, a spectacularly scenic location known for its Fijian/Tongan warrior history.
Discover Coral Coast Tour (Lawai Pottery Village)
Experience the real Fiji on a half-day exploration of the Coral Coast. Bargain like a local at the market in Sigatoka. Learn about traditional methods of crafting Fijian pottery and take part in a customary kava ceremony. After you’re collected from your hotel, cruise past the island’s enticing southern beaches as you make your way along the Coral Coast. Reach the Sigatoka River and township and immerse yourself in the bustling, colourful local food and craft market.
Next stop the Lawai Pottery Village. Here villagers greet you with a traditional kava ceremony, pounding the kava root to make an earthy liquid and then sharing the drink as a sign of welcome. After the ceremony, observe the locals at work crafting pottery from the silty clay of the riverbed. Learn how resin from local plants like eucalyptus are used to glaze and decorate these traditional wares.
Of course, visitors to Fiji can always see and buy pottery in gift stores and at market stalls but there’s something to be said about watching it being hand made before your eyes. This art form has been passed from generation to generation and is a beautiful example of how pottery and history entwine to create stories via tangible objects.
To learn more about this ancient craft and to view an original collection of Lapita pottery items discovered throughout the region, please visit the national Fiji Museum in Suva.
Etiquette when visiting a Fijian village
It is always important to respect local customs when traveling. Best dress modestly when away from your hotel or the beach – especially when visiting a traditional village. Cover your shoulders / chest with an appropriate shirt or keep a sulu (sarong) on hand to cover your bathing suit, shorts, dresses etc.
Note: it’s considered an insult to wear a hat in the village and donning sunglasses isn’t ideal either. Please remove your shoes if invited to enter a Fijians home. It is also an insult to touch someone on the head – so definitely don’t do that.
We love the luxurious Nanuku Resort Fiji in the Pacific Harbour region. It’s a great place to base yourself if Fijian cultural and adventure tours are your thing. A veritable haven for sophisticated eco-travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, dive aficionados and nature lovers. Hint: there’s stunning waterfalls to explore here.
Same goes for the InterContintental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa located on the Coral Coast. It’s an excellent choice for families seeking interactive Fijian activities in a majestic seaside setting.
Budget conscious? We suggest you book into one of Fiji’s best kept secrets aka the Fiji Beachouse for an affordable Fiji holiday. As the name suggests it’s smack bang on the beach and appeals to surfers, and adventure types alike. Fun vibes!