Faculty of Arts, Law and Education

History field trip to Colo West, Interior of Viti Levu and Ba Civic Museum

Date: September, 26, 2018 08:54 Age: 21 days

HY302/HY304 History fieldtrip to Colo West, Interior of Viti Levu and Ba (Sorokoba) and Ba Civic Museum

Dr Nicholas Halter and Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano, Veniana Nacolarara, Ariti Taufaga and History students.

On Friday 7 September, USP History students travelled by bus and carrier to Nabutautau village  in the district of Navatusila in Navosa to investigate the history of the Colo region and record oral histories.  The visit was the first by USP to Nabutautau in Navatusila district and as such was of historical significance in 2018 being USP’s 50th anniversary year. For many Fijian students, it was their first visit to Colo.

Nabutautau is infamous in history as the place where Reverend Thomas Baker was killed, the only foreign missionary killed in Fiji on 21 July 1867 along with five iTaukei teaching assistants. The students were relieved to arrive safely in the village after an arduous journey which included towing two carriers up slippery mountain roads. 

Over two nights, students and villagers shared food, prayers and stories in the mountain valley. Highlights included a village tour by Mr Vilitati Rokovesa, elder and Mata ni Tikina and district representative in the provincial council of Nadroga/Navosa. 

I-Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Fijian songs and hymns were performed by the students at the SDA church; and evening discussions were held by the fire in the Bure ni Vanua. Before setting out on Sunday 9 September, students were tested on Nabutautau’s geography and history and a final question and answer session with village elders. 

On Sunday, the group moved across the interior by carrier to Ba. On Sunday evening, they were received by the Chair and Committee of Sorokoba and rested in Sorokoba. During the evening and the following morning they continued to record oral history with the assistance of village elders and a little known oral history recorded by Ba historian, Mrs Raijeli Racule in 1976. Her oral history was part of a history project for course SE331 and published in 1976 by the Journal of Oral History at the University of Papua New Guinea. 

The following day, Monday, with permission of Tui Ba, they were given a guided tour of the chiefly bure by Turaga ni Koro, Mr Koliaci Kutalivaliva, and a veteran of 36 years teaching, Mrs Nunia Talatoka. Inside, the two guides led a group discussion on village and family history including the historical relationship between the two ruling families, namely the Tui Ba in Nailaga and Tui I Bulu (Sorokoba). Mrs Talatoka indicated there was a strong and positive move to unite the two families under one Tui Ba. 

The visit was concluded with a trip to the Ba Civic Museum to discuss the significant contribution by the Girmitiyas and their descendants to Fiji’s history. After an observation of the comprehensive and painstaking collection of historical artefacts inside the museum, the group spent an hour reflecting on the visit and what they had learnt from the trip before setting out for Suva. 

Many shared their thoughts with some thought provoking observations by fieldtrip coordinator Dr Nic. He said one of the most exciting thing about fieldtrips like this is the way communities respond so enthusiastically and naturally to students’ inquiries. And in his words, ‘that was because of the excitement, exuberance and youthfulness that young faces bring to the research enterprise in the field’. Esita Prakash from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands with Fijian connection summed it up for many with a few reflective words; ‘it was the best ever fieldtrip that I had been on’.

The USP History group acknowledges with gratitude Mr Etuate Tesi, Turaga ni Koro, Mr Vilitati Rokovesa, elder and Mata-ni-tikina, and the villagers of Nabutautau; and Mr Koliaci Kutalivaliva, Turaga ni Koro, Mrs Nunia Talatoka, and the villagers of Sorokoba; as well as all the mothers in Nabutautau and Ba for their generosity and hospitality. We also acknowledge Talanoa Treks for their supportive role in this memorable fieldtrip.


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