Kato'aga: Rotuman Ceremonies

by Elizabeth K. Inia

Table of Contents


Part 1: Components of Ceremony

'Epa, Apei, and Päega: Ceremonial Mats
Koua: Earth Ovens
'Umefe: Chiefly Tables
Tefui: Garlands
Lolo: Anointing Oil
Mena: Turmeric
Mafua: Knowledgeable Elders
Fumarä'e: The Man in Charge
Etiquette and Manners
Numbers and Measurements

Part 2: Ceremonies

Death and Funerals
Birth Rituals
First Birthday
Hapagsu: Recurrence Prevention
Majau: The Power to Heal
Ag Forau: Farewell to Travellers
Mamasa: Welcoming Ceremonies
Installation of a Chief
Homage to Chiefs
Koua Puha
Ancient Marriage Rituals
Modern Marriage Customs

Rotuman Indigenous Spirituality

Mafua: Knowledgeable Elders

A mafua is an elderly person, well versed in native custom, who must know a good many fakpeje (ceremonial poems) to suit the circumstances of different ceremonial occasions. He or she is a living treasure and an invaluable source of information as to how to conduct a ceremony.

Each district has its own mafua, properly chosen from members of a family with hereditary rights to the position (although nowadays, if no elders from the family are residing in the village, the chief may choose a knowledgeable elder from another family to serve in that role). The same is true of village mafua.

The mafua generally sits behind the chief he represents. Mafua are usually men, although at weddings, a female mafua accompanies the 'a su (chief's female representative) and sits behind her. At funerals, a female mafua sits by the back door and gives permission for visiting parties to enter the house where the corpse lies in state.

The mafua must know how to announce the kava and the food being presented at a feast in the ceremonially proper way. As a reward for playing this very important role, each mafua is given a basket of food that includes the hind leg of a pig (arag ko, or i'akiag ser heta [9] ) from a koua, to thank him or her for the service. After the fifth-day ceremony (teran lima) following a funeral, each mafua is given a mat as an acknowledgment.

[9] I'akiag ser heta (wiping the knife) is the name of the procedure when the man thrusts his knife into the cooked pig's hind leg (arag ko), then withdraws the knife and uses it to cut off the pig's head.

To Fumarä'e: The Man in Charge