Fiji Friday – Family Relationships

This week’s post is a bit late sorry, let’s just blame Fiji Time for that. It’s been difficult in recent weeks with not having much if any access to technology (I’ve been working off J’s old work phone because mine died and his work laptop because mine was stolen). Today we’ve splurged and bought the cheapest smallest laptop possible to tie us over and keep me from driving J crazy.

I’ve officially finished Semester 1 one of my Fijian language and cultural classes and this week had some of the more interesting content. Whereas in Australia and most western societies I guess our family relationships are quite simple. Mum, Dad, brother, sister, aunt or uncle. In Fiji because they have quite large immediate families they have very specific ways of identifying brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles.

Firstly, siblings are identified by whether they are the same sex as you and if they are the same sex, whether they are older or younger.
For example:
same sex older sibling = tuakaqu (too a ka n gu)
same sex younger sibling = taciqu (ta the n gu)
sibling of the opposite sex (regardless of older or younger) = ganequ (na ne n gu)
*gu at the end of each of these words means you’re talking about your own sibiling

A similar theory applies to aunts and uncles. They are primarily differentiated by whether they are the same or opposite sex of your parent. Siblings of your parent that are the same sex of your parent are also considered your parent. So your mum’s sisters are also called your mum and your dad’s brothers are also called your dad.

Interestingly though, you can marry your first cousin in Fiji! When discussing it with my teacher she mentioned that’s it’s not as common with the current generation however in previous generations the parents were more active in arranging marriages and looked at first cousins first.

Now, there are restrictions around which cousins are suitable for you to be married. This is where it gets even more complicated. So, because your mum’s sisters are considered your mum and your dad’s brothers are considered your dad, their children are not appropriate to marry. However, children of your mum’s brothers and your dad’s sisters are suitable for marrying. This doesn’t appear to be as common nowadays but it was definitely quite common a couple of generations ago.

This lesson definitely made me appreciate how simple our family relationships and labeling them are. Also, extremely grateful that we were able to choose our partners.

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