Men Display ‘Drua’ Skills in Fiji

The Fiji Times ran an interesting article written by Ana Madigibuli about how traditional Fijian canoe craftsmen shared knowledge that intertwines their appreciation for the ocean and their cultural abilities.

Most of these craftsmen were from Naikeleyaga Village on Kabara, Lau, who were traditionally known as master craftsmen in “drua” (double hulled canoe) construction.

The Fiji Times on November 14, 1978, reported that villagers from Naikeleyaga were reviving the art of drua making. A 50-foot long drua was under construction by the villagers with original materials being used. This newspaper highlighted that it was going to be the biggest canoe to be built by the villagers since the turn of the century. Since the canoe was used the most by islanders for transportation in the past, it was rare to see the canoe in the 1970s as reported by this newspaper.

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A Fijian Drua- picture from humboldtforum.com

According to the article, a researcher said the last drua made from traditional materials was built in the early 1900s. The villagers of Kabara Island had constructed a large one in 1964 to be used by the island minister when visiting villages around the country. A drua, which is made from modern materials, was ruined by a small tidal wave three years later as The Fiji Times reported that it had a hole in the hull and was impossible to repair.

The Naikeleyaga villagers then built another smaller canoe in 1972 to be displayed during the South Pacific Festival of Arts in Suva. The drua was sailed by the villagers to Suva but sank on the way and had to be transported to Suva on a government ship and was later purchased by an American. The Naikeleyaga drua was built from two vesi trees grown in the forests of Kabara and the villagers used traditional materials to build it.

The article reported that the magimagi or sinnet would be used for bonding parts for the canoe, and gum from local trees would be collected for sealing and mats used as sail. The villagers began constructing the drua and it was to be completed the following year. When completed the drua would then sail to Orchid Island near Suva by the men to be commissioned.

t would be permanently displayed at Orchid Island where old artifacts were being preserved. The manager of the island, Gwyn Watkins, said the drua would be a valuable addition to the collection of old arts and crafts already preserved on the island.

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