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Collection highlights

Tattoo combs of the Fijian daubati

Fijian Tattoo (Na Vei Qia)

iQia (tattooing comb) Fiji, William O. Oldman Collection. 538b, Deposited 1950. AM 31507.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

In Fiji women were the tattoo artists (daubati) and recipients of revered Fijian tattoo (vei qia). Daubati have been described as hereditary priestesses.

Girls were tattooed at puberty; the ceremony initiated them as women and signified their eligibility for marriage. Vei qia patterns varied between regions. Girls from eastern Viti Levu were tattooed around their loins; while young women from other regions had patterns applied around their loins and mouths.

The ceremony was extremely painful, and therefore was conducted in several sessions spread over weeks and months. The daubati painted guidelines on each girl’s body before tapping the desired geometric patterns into the flesh using iQia (tattooing combs) dipped in soot.

A celebratory feast was held four days after the vei qia was completed. Upon acquiring the vei qia, women received a liku (skirt) called the Vorivori ni susugi tiko (the debut).

Na Vei Qia

iQia (tattooing comb) Fiji, William O. Oldman Collection. 538a, Deposited 1950. AM 31506.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Ko Viti, Ena nodra gauna na qase makawa ena gauna iliu, oira na marama era a Bete (Priestesses) ka daubati (artistes) talega.

Tu vei ira nai solisoli, se na kila ni vei qia (tattoo). Era dau qia na gone yalewa ni ra sa yacova mai na nodra gauna vaka gone yalewa se kana i bure (puberty), oqo e dua na ka Tabu (Sacred) bibi, ka vaka mariqeti (precious).

Ni sa oti na gauna ni vei qia, sa qai solevu (celebration) taki na nodra vaka bogi va (four) na gone yalewa. Oqo e sa vakaraitaki tale tikoga ni sara na vakarau curuma yani na bula ni vaka wati (marriage).

Na volavola (patterns) ni vie qia, era duidui mai ena so na yasai Viti.  Kina Tokelau (Eastern) kei Viti Levu, era dau qia na gone yalewa mai na tolodra kina sagadra ka wavokita taucoko sara.  Ena so tale na yasai Viti a vaka talega kina, iya ka qia talega na gusudra (mouth).

Na gauna era lako curuma kina na vei qia, a sa dua na ka mosi, ka taura e vica na macawa (weeks) kei navica na vula (months) na vei qia.

Na daubati (artistes) e dau boroya iliu na yagodra na gone yalewa me vakarautaka na mataqali volavola (patterns) ni sebera ni tekivu na vei qia.  E dau vaka yagataki nai iQia (tattooing combs) me dau toni inai boro vakarautaki sa qai tekivu na vei qia.

Ni sa oti na solevu (celebration) sa qai soli vei ira na gone yalewa  na nodra liku (skirt) mera dara, na yacana na vorivori ni susugi tiko (the debut).

 


The iQia were selected from our collection by Luisa Keteiyau Tora. Text by Luisa Keteiyau Tora (Kadavu). Translated to Fijian by Joana Monolagi.