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Ulu Cavu Kei Na I Seru Kau: Wig and Wooden Comb

Ni sa bula vinaka!

In celebration of Fiji language week (5 – 11 October 2015) we have installed a ulu cavu (wig) and a I seru kau (wooden comb) in our Te Kākano display case. Daren Kamali has composed two poems in response to these two works in English and incorporating Fiji language.

Ulu Cavu (Wig)

In most Pacific cultures especially Fijian
The ulu is Tabu
It is a very respected and sacred part of the body
In times of old the process of the dead dreaded hair of the Ulu Cavu
Was a result of a Turaga shaving their head in mourning
His locks are cut and lashed together by a netting of magimagi sennit
made from the Qanibulu
This is ulu cavu mai Viti makawa
The fighting warrior wig was normally
worn by Tuis or Ratus
Like Tui Cakau in ancient Melanesia
Ulu Cavu can also be worn as a disguise
Ulu Cavu is the hair of the slain enemy
The late Tui Cakau, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau
Wore this similar Ulu Cavu in Cakaudrove
All the way from Somosomo to Suva City
It is sometimes worn on the head of the tamata
While his hair grows back
When not worn the Ulu Cavu is stored inside - out

Ulu Cavu (Wig). Fiji. Deposited. Department of Internal Affairs.

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira. AM 31553. W. O. Oldman 619a.

I Seru Kau (Wooden Comb)

Kai Vitis are known for their thick, curly hair
I Seru kau combs are used
To seru the chiefs hair, keeping it neat and tidy
I Seru sasa is made from a raft of niu midribs
Lashed together also by magimagi
Used as vakaiukuuku-taka or hair adornment
Mainly for high chiefs and ranking warriors
Also a last resort for a weapon
I Seru kau is more commonly worn
Around the vale or matavuvale
Special occasions will see the late Tui Cakau adorned
with the I Seru Kau
Stuck firmly into the ground of his Ulu

I Seru Kau (Wooden Comb). Fiji. Gifted. T. W. Leys Memorial Collection. 1924

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira. AM14858.1. James Edge Partington O183.


Ulu Cavu: Wig made of human hair

I Seru Sasa: Fijian comb made of coconut midribs

Ulu: Hair or head

Tabu: Sacred

Qanibulu: Coconut husk

Magimagi: Lashing using coconut fibre

Mai Viti Makawa: From Ancient Fiji

Turaga: Man

Tamata: Person

Tui: King

Ratu Levu: High Chief

Cakaudrove or Somosomo: Villages / islands in Fiji

Kai Viti: Fijian

Seru: To comb

I Seru Kau: Wooden Fijian comb

Niu: Coconut

Vale: House

Matavuvale: Family


Vaka nuinui vinaka na loma ni macawa.