This week we’ve travelled all the way to one of the jewels of the South Pacific…Fiji! Uncover the country’s exciting history, unique culture, and much more
Want to learn more about Fiji?
- Capital (and Largest City): Suva
- Population of Fiji (2015): 867,000 (157th)
- Total Area: 18,274 km² (156th)
- Official Languages: English, Fijian, Hindi
- Currency: Fijian dollar (FJ$) (FJD)
History of Fiji
Settlement in Fiji began roughly around 5000 years ago, consisting mainly of traders from nearby areas. The numerous people that travelled here (largely from other Polynesian cultures) eventually came together to form a fairly uniform Fijian culture and way of life based around tribes and chiefdoms. Morbidly however, this also involved widespread warfare and cannibalism (even as late as the 19th century). Ritual sacrifices were also common in activities such as boat building. The fearsome reputation of the tribes resulted in Europeans generally giving Fiji a wide berth for many years.
Europeans and Independence
Europeans eventually did begin to settle in Fiji the 19th century (though the Dutch had discovered the island about 200 years previously). A bit after this the country was united under a Fijian warlord, but it was ceded to the British in 1874. Over the course of about a century of British colonialism many Indian labourers were brought over on contract to man the plantations.
The Brits granted Fiji its independence in 1970, though this new found freedom was interrupted by multiple military coups in the late 80’s (a result of perceived Indian ethnic dominance in government). Over time, Fijian ethnic rule was institutionalized. Through the 90’s and 2000’s, there were more coups (with the latest in 2006). After the coup was declared illegal, a constitutional crisis erupted which eventually resulted in one of the architects (Bainimarama) being reappointed prime minister. Though the government has the power to censor press and impose other limitations, Fiji has been fairly stable since then.
Culture of Fiji
Fijian culture is based on indigenous traditions with some Indian and European influences. Overall though, Fiji has much in common with other Pacific island nations when it comes to tradition, dress, music, and more.
Flag of Fiji
The Fijian flag is similar to many other former British colonies in that it features a Union Jack in the top left corner. The rest of the flag is a light blue background with the Fijian shield-of-arms on the right side. There was a recent attempt to change the flag (and get rid of the Union Jack), though it was abandoned in September.
Modern food in Fiji is influenced heavily by Indian cuisine. Indian spices and dishes are often mixed with traditional recipes. In addition, Chinese and European characteristics can also be seen in Fijian cuisine.
Sports in Fiji
Sports are very important to the people of Fiji with the most popular being rugby union. The national team is strong and is considered one of the best ‘Tier 2’ teams – alongside countries like Tonga, Japan, and Canada, but below New Zealand, Wales, and the other ‘Tier 1’ nations. Rugby Sevens is very popular in Fiji – with the country recently winning their first ever gold medal during the sport’s Olympic debut. Soccer is also popular in Fiji, as are netball, rugby league, boat racing, and wrestling.
Geography of Fiji
Fiji is made up of 332 islands and 522 small islets. The main two islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu) consist of about 75% of the country’s total land area. The weather is tropical, with average temperatures rarely dropping below 22 degrees celsius. The landscape is mostly covered with mountains and thick forests.
Cities in Fiji
The capital Suva is the largest city in Fiji, but Nasinu may be slightly more populous (though it’s classified as a town). The urban area around Suva (including other cities) is home to about a third of Fiji’s total population.
Facts About Fiji
- Many former Fijian military personnel served as security contractors in Iraq
- Only chiefs can wear sunglasses and hats in villages
- King Ratu Cakobau is credited with ending cannibalism in 1871
- Village women play ‘kick the orange’ on New Year’s Eve
- Having a coconut fall on you is meant to bring bad luck
- The land area of Fiji is smaller than New Jersey
- 24 of the 28 airports don’t have paved runways
And that’s all for now! Be sure to join us throughout the week as we explore Fiji in more depth.
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