Visit of New Zealand Maori
Women's Welfare League to Fiji
An idea for promoting goodwill and friendship among women of the Pacific area which had its beginning at the Conference of the Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women's Association in Tonga, culminated in a visit to Fiji by the Arahina Branch of the Maori Women's Welfare League. Led by Mrs Maraea Te Kawa, whose idea it was, and fostered by Mrs Thelma Robinson, eighteen members of the M.W.W.L. arrived in Fiji where they spent four days and four nights in the village of Narewa as guests of the people. They joined in the life of the village sleeping in bures on mats on the floor and eating Fijian food.
After resting all day the party was officially welcomed at a service in the Wesleyan Church at Nadi by the Roko Tui Ra and the Revd Maika Toro. In her reply the leader of the party said, ‘We are very grateful for this first official welcome to your country. In our group from Aotearoa, we do not all belong to one church, and we do not all belong to one race, but we come to be united with you as one family in the House of our Father, and there could not be a more suitable and fitting place for us to be. The pages of the world's history are written in blood and as we turn each page we read of fighting and bloodshed, so we come in love and goodwill and fellowship because we believe that in this way we can help to bring peace to this troubled world.’
The visiting group was widely representative, composed of both Maori and Pakeha women, their age groups ranging from single girls to grandmothers. From an occupational angle, there were housewives, office and factory workers, Welfare Officers, a florist,
a business woman and telephonists. They came from all parts of New Zealand and represented the seven canoes of the Great Migration.
On the following afternoon guests arrived for the ceremonial welcome in Narewa village, among them being representatives of the European and Indian residents in the area. This began with the traditional Kava ceremony, which has to be experienced by all visitors to Fiji, followed by the presentation of food and speeches of welcome. Arahina replied with action songs and the performance of long and short poi, festivities concluding with dancing in bare feet under the palm trees and stars, to the music of Fijian instruments.
A picnic and swimming at Natadola Beach was held during the day and in the evening the group went to pay their respects to Ratu George Cakobau where gifts were exchanged. Members of neighbouring branches of the Fijian Women's organizations led by Mrs Cakobau, their president, gave demonstrations of cooking, arts and crafts—including basket, hat and mat weaving, tapa making, needlework, and painting with bark oil. Arahina replied by demonstrating the arts of making pois, kit, korowai and piupiu, tukutuku and taniko work and relating the history of New Zealand greenstone.
They then travelled by bus to Suva where for five days they lived with families comprising five of the racial groups of Fiji—Fijian, Chinese, Rotuman, Indian and European. The visitors were fascinated by all aspects of life in Fiji. As a gesture of friendship and in recognition of Arahina's and the M.W.W. League's affiliation to the Auckland Branch of the P.P.S.E.A.W.A., Suva's members of the Fijian Branch had arranged a varied itinerary for the visitors. This included a Mayoral Reception at the Town Hall by the Deputy Mayor, Levi Volavola, where a Maori kit and a message from the Mayor of Auckland were presented. In the afternoon, the party enjoyed the hospitality of Lady Ragg who was also presented with a Maori kit.
They next visited Nasinu Training College, hospitals, Broadcasting House, the South Pacific Commission Community Training Centre and schools, and enjoyed a cruise to see the underwater coral gardens.
A day never to be forgotten was the trip to historic Bau Island, burial place of King Cakobau. At the landing the Maori group, dressed in their national costume, sang, a canoe poi song as the boat glided towards Bau. They were met and entertained by Adi Litia and displays of handcrafts and dances were exchanged. A visit was made to the church where a stone which in the olden days was used to bash prisoners' heads against, today is used as a baptismal font.
A visit to Adi Cakobau College followed, and there the visitors were welcomed with
‘mekes’ and the Waterlily Song. The group, as always, replied with action songs and poi dances.
On the Sunday evening the group attended a combined Church service of all religions. Mrs Te Kawa read the first lesson in Maori and a European read the second lesson. Two hymns were also sung in Maori. An International Concert was arranged by the P.P.S.E.A.W.A. hostesses at which the first half of the programme was supplied by Fijian, Rotuman, Tongan, Chinese, English, Samoan, and Hawaiian members. The second part of the programme was given by the Maori group.
The final function was a social evening arranged by the women of Suva's Indian Clubs. Indian songs and dances were followed by a tasty supper of Indian foods.
Wherever Arahina went in Fiji they were given an enthusiastic welcome which made a deep impression on all. In this mission of goodwill and friendship we have established warm friendships whose results and benefits are hard to assess in words, but there can be no doubt of the deep affection and understanding engendered by the visit of the Arahina Branch of the M.W.W.L. Through this visit Fijian and Indian women have been the guests of Arahina and we hope that more visits will be made in the future. By travelling 3,000 miles and living together for eleven days the members learnt a great deal and look forward to similar tours by other branches of the M.W.W.L. to visit our sister groups in the Pacific.