Easter in Silana
In the week proceeding Easter weekend the village springs into life; fishing and harvesting, pounding kava, selecting fabrics for new outfits, hymns rehearsed and everywhere are the snatches of something good cooking. Structures spring up throughout the village; bamboo poles topped with roofing iron, lashed together with plant fibre which act as porches, extending the family homes to accommodate the anticipated guests. Mats are spread underneath and the structures are carefully decorated with palm fronds and flowers.
Back in the village, as dusk fell, women sat huddled together in small groups preparing coconut buns, filled great baskets created from woven palm fronds with casava and dalo or stirred great pots of curry over wood fires and fried fresh river clams over blackened kerosene stoves. The preparation of the feast went on well into the night as did the kava session outside. As I crawled under my mosquito net, ready for bed, I could still distinctly hear the clang of pounding kava, the strumming of ukuleles and guitars and far off laughter as I drifted into a deep sleep.
At 6am on Saturday the party really got started. Guests arrived in minivans and buses from across Fiji and with them brought reams of bright colourful fabric, beautiful woven mats, bundles of kava roots tightly wrapped in newspaper and string. As the guests, they formally present four whales tooth’s, chipped and yellowed with age to village. By midmorning two-hundred guests lean back to back in their best dress, calling out, sharing stories, crying with laughter and then, when the band rouses, they begin to dance and sing.
That afternoon we feasted on curried crabs, fish soups, sticky rice, ferns coiled in coconut milk, chilli, garlic and lemon, beef stew, banana leaves spread with breadfruit and dalo, and large pink octopuses boiled in rich coconut cream. The feasting, dancing and kava continued into the early hours of the morning.
It is an evening which celebrates the beauty of Fiji; its generosity, kinship, humour and food! And, what I realise as I clap and take another bowl of kava, is that this is only Saturday night and there is more to come tomorrow on Easter Sunday.
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