Meke UK 2022 - A Success!
Happy International Day of World's Indigenous People! We are thrilled to celebrate the theme for this year; The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge. This year’s theme is timely as Marama Alliance marks the end of the Meke UK 2022 project which was largely led and implemented by Fijian women in the UK and their families.
The inaugural Meke UK performance took place on Sat 6th August, at the Bula Festival, in Aldershot. This followed months of preparation and an intense weeklong Meke Bootcamp. The idea of Meke UK was birthed out of our 2020 Intergenerational Dialogues on Culture and Identity. One of the key messages from the discussions was that there was a need to create opportunities for Fijians in the UK to take part in, learn and share knowledge on cultural practices.
We decided to consider Meke as a possible avenue where people could gather around to learn and exchange cultural knowledge. We believe that cultural knowledge is a birthright for every person, and we need to always be creating opportunities for it to be passed on and shared among the different generations that make up our Fijian diaspora community in the UK. We also strongly believe that this learning process needs to be carried out in a way that is accessible for everyone and conducive to their changing needs.
While the final performance was the key part of the project, we were also deliberate in ensuring that learning was also taking place around the other cultural practices surrounding Meke. This included the making of Meke costumes, marking the first Meke of the eldest child, learning and singing the chants and learning under the guidance of a Daunivucu, who is a traditional composer and choreographer.
We also encouraged family members to sign up together so that parents were able to pass on what they know to their children while they took part together, and for the younger ones to teach the elders on how to effectively work with them in sharing cultural knowledge. Their contexts are very different as young Fijians growing up in a metropolitan world, we need to constantly re-learn how to pivot to ensure that they also receive their cultural heritage.
The two Mekes that were performed at the Bula Festival were composed by Turusi Rokilibau who is from the province of Naitasiri.
Pictured right: Daunivucu, TuRusi Rokilibau.
Tonivala which was performed by the females is a Seasea. This type of Meke is performed in a standing formation with the use of hands and iri/fans. The Meke commemorates a victorious return from war and the celebratory dance that ensued by the women in the village. There were a number of mother-daughter teams who performed together in Tonivala.
The males performed a Meke Iri, which is also done in a standing formation with the use of the iri/fan. Although they were small in number, their performance was powerful and intense. A special shout out to Sisa and Jeke who did their first Meke, and did so well. It was notable that we did not get a lot of sign up from men and boys for Meke UK, and we look forward to seeing more interest in future.
There were a number of young people who performed their first Meke at the Bula Festival. We are so proud of them and were privileged to witness their families follow traditional practices of endearment to mark their first Meke. The Fijian culture is communal and relational, and when cultural practices like this are implemented, kinship ties are strengthened between families and also passed down to the next generation.
While Meke UK is in its inaugural year, we aim to improve as we go along. The final performance was a culmination of months of hard work and planning. There were a lot of sleepless nights and even more love and generosity that was exchanged.
Marama Alliance would like to take this time to thank each and everyone of you who have taken part and supported the Meke UK project in any way. Vinaka vakalevu na veitokoni kei na weiwekani vinaka.
Thank you to the National Lottery – Heritage Fund for supporting the project with the resources we needed.
Vinaka Vakalevu as well to the Bula Festival organizers for providing us with the space and platform.
We could never thank everyone enough and extend full appreciation where it's due. We apologize if we have failed to mention any names, but please know that we are indebted to your presence, generosity, and spirit at Meke UK.
We thank everyone who showed up with pies, snacks and refreshments at Bootcamp while we burnt the midnight oil. Everyone who popped in to say hello, encourage us and pray for us. We pray that you will get back tenfold of all that you have gifted us with.
A very special thank you to the dancers and chanters, we could never thank you enough.
Ana & Kate Wasa
Celine & Isikelu Tuivanualevu
Dee Bolakoro & Marie Bui
Elenoa, Bulou & Ben Makavu
Lana, Faye & Annable Nuku
Lela, Nate & Lagi Lotawa
Ruci, Joyce & Abigail Veibulinaturaga
Sally, Lote & Dee Bacogacoga
Waisake, Philliann & Jeke Waqa
Mr & Mrs Junior Koroi
Mr & Mrs Paula Bacogacoga
Roko Mala Draunidalo
You have set the bar for Meke UK and we are excited to see each and every one of you, along with family, friends and other fellow Fijians in the UK at Meke UK 2023.
The Meke UK Working Group & Advisory
Marama Alliance Committee and Trustees