Culture is fluid, it changes over time and we are constantly looking at ways to preserve the threads of our cultural identity whether it's through new forms of art or through the ever evolving digital space.
We, Fijians love a good story, we love to sit around the tanoa or congregate with a fresh loaf of bread and cup of tea and 'shoot the breeze'. But most importantly it's a rich part our culture and tradition. Generations of traditions and folklore has been passed down orally or through dance and music and here in the heart of Suva city , the fashion capital of the Pacific, one fashion designer is using his creative process to re tell the story of 'Bulou ni Ceva'. I caught up with Samson Lee to see what he was concocting in his magical shop on Butt Street.
‘Bulou ni Ceva’ is one of the ancestral Goddess (‘Vu’) and protector of the island of Kadavu who took the form of a giant octopus.
Legend has it that she was the only God strong enough to capture and defeat the shark-God ‘Dakuwaqa’. She did so by almost suffocating him with her tentacles, when Dakuwaqa realised that he had no escape he begged for mercy and made a promise that he shall not harm and will always protect the people of Kadavu.
He promised that no person from Kadavu or any of its descendants would ever be bitten or attacked by sharks.
How can you not be inspired by that story but most importantly the take away message that 'women, do it best', and it's no wonder Samson decided to take that legend and weave it into one of his masterpieces.
Samson Lee Fiji pays homage to the ancestral Goddess of Kadavu ‘Bulou ni Ceva’ celebrating the power of Fijian women especially as Fiji is gearing up for elections and has three young dynamic women from Kadavu running for office.
Lenora Qereqeretabua, Lynda Tabuya and Tanya Waqanika are standing in the upcoming elections and as a Fijian woman and mother to a daughter irrelevant of their parties, stance and policies we need more women to step up to the plate and represent us in government.
Samson Lee, explains his interpretation of the legend to dress.
"The sleeveless halter neck dress with a racer back is in line with Fiji’s modern woman; the earth toned chiffon cape has my ‘vanua’ print (masi motifs) a nod to our cultural fashion, infused with gold shimmer fit for a Goddess.
I believe in sustainable fashion and use natural fibres and elements to tell my story through fashion. The neck adornment is a ‘Tiger’ cowrie shell commonly collected for food in many parts of Fiji, surrounding it is tiny white conch shells attached to ‘magimagi’ a fibrous rope made from coconut husk.
The magimagi on the bottom of the dress represents the tentacles of ‘Bulou ni Ceva’ the seashells are the beach and sea of Kadavu."
As I sit here writing this, this gorgeous dress which pays homage to our legends is on it's way to Sweden to it's new owner for her prom where she will no doubt regale the story of 'Bulou ni Ceva' through her dress and that right there is culture and art being fluid, it's constantly changing.
List of vendors
Photographer: Niyaz Dean Makeup Artist: Atelaite Daunibau of Sugarose Wardrobe: Samson Lee Fiji
Models: Serenia Rainima