Friday, October 09, 2009

Dakuwaqa -The Mighty Shark God

 Fiji Times Story - 25 July 2011

Safe By My Brother
by Ilaitia Turagabeci

UNDER the fast-flowing currents of the Somosomo Strait, sharks roam free happily.

They do not fear the two-legged predators who come from land and brought their world population after 415 million years of existence to the brink of extinction.

From the depth of the darkness of this stretch to the light blue waters closer to the coastlines in Cakaudrove, they feel free to hunt the reefs for food, free to rule the seas and maintaining its life cycle as the top-of-the-food-chain predator.

This is their home, home of Dakuwaqa, the ancient shark god, protector of the paramount chief of the province, the Tui Cakau.

The waters of Somosomo Strait have been the backyard of this king of the seas, feared, captivating and mystifying. His home, Benau ù an island which closer to Vanua Levu than Taveuni, home of the Tui Cakau ù sits in this strait. Benau is among evidence of a relationship between the shark and Fiji, in this case the people of the mataqali Ai Sokula, the chiefly bloodline of the Tui Cakau, who legend has it was a twin of Dakuwaqa.

When the twins were born, they were put in a basket made of leaves and left to drift at sea. One turned into a shark, the other was rescued by the people of the Ai Sokula. They returned to land with this child from the sea, escorted by the shark god who promised to protect his brother and his people.

The people of the Ai Sokula embraced the child as their chief and today Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, the current Tui Cakau, has given his support to a campaign to protect sharks and push for legislation to turn Fiji's waters into a shark sanctuary.

His gonedau (traditional fishermen) are originally from Rukua in Beqa. They visited Somosomo when they heard news of the twins' birth because they also believed in a shark god called Gone Mai Wai (child from the sea). Today, these gonedau make up the mataqali Benau in Somosomo.

Moved by the Pew Environmental Group for shark sanctuaries around the world as their numbers drop drastically ù estimated at 73 million killings annually ù campaigners are racing against time to create awareness and safeguard the guardian of the reefs on which we depend on for our survival.

Without the sharks, the middle predators will take control, feeding on smaller fish that live off the micro organisms that attack and smother the coral.

The death of the coral, says leading shark conservation campaigner Manoa Rasigatale, will mean the death of the islands.

"We must act now to save the future for our children. The existence of the sharks ensures a balance in the life cycle that sustains our world. The shark is our friend. Our world is still here because sharks survived the ages," he says.

"The dinosaurs disappeared off the face of the planet after appearing 180 million years in the wake of the sharks. Our relationship with the shark is an ancient one, one based on veiyalayalati (agreement) that either will look after their own habitat ù man on land, shark in water."

The overfishing of sharks for their fins, meat and by-products has driven their population down in most parts of the world. While it is stable in our islands, Mr Rasigatale ù Fiji's sharkman ù says we must act quickly.

With the help of The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), and the Ministry of Fisheries which is holding consultation and drawing up proposals on permanent shark protection, the sharkman and Pew hope Fiji follows the island of Palau, which declared the world's first national shark sanctuary.

That led to other shark sanctuaries in other states such as the Maldives, Guam, Saipan, Honduras and the Bahamas. Fiji is now poised to lead the region as the first Melanesian nation to enact similar full shark protection.

"Our relationship with the shark is unique, especially the people of Cakaudrove, Rukua in Beqa, Yanuca in Serua and Kadavu. All their legends involve the shark and his promise to protect them. It is now our turn to do our part," he says.

The people of Cakaudrove have a lot of respect for the sharks. The sharks accompany their paramount chief when he is out at sea, escorting his boat as a naval fleet would a flagship.
And they patrol the waters off Somosomo in unison when he dies. This was evident during the traditional funeral rites of the last four holders of the Tui Cakau title ù Ratu Josefa Lalabalavu, Ratu Ratavo Lalabalavu, Ratu Penaia Ganilau and Ratu Glanville Lalabalavu.
Metres from the seawall, they cruised up and down alongside the village green, as guards would for their king. This was captured in a Fiji Times photograph when Ratu Penaia's body lay in state in Somosomo in 1993.

"It's a phenomenon, a relationship steeped in mana and sacred. The sharks protect these people when they are at sea. They are not bitten, unless they have offended the vanua."
In 2002, while transporting 11 islanders from Vuna to Koro, a boat capsized in treacherous seas. Nine people died, two survived.

They were the boat captain Umu Vulakoro from Yacata, a subject of the Tui Cakau, and a man from Kadavu, whose link with the shark god stems from a promise Dakuawaqa made to the people of Kadavu when he lost a challenge to the guardian of the reef at the Naceva bay, an octopus called Bakaniceva.

In a documented interview in Fijian with the sharkman, Mr Vulakoro tells of the horror of losing his passengers as they battled the waves to stay alive. They prayed to God to save them and in desperation yelled out across the sea that threatened to engulf them for help from their ancient friend.

Then out of the water, a great white shape appeared and pushed them across the waves. Tired and exhausted, Mr Vulakoro and the Kadavuan were taken close to land and thrown on to a reef. They lived to tell their story and still travel the seas where the shark god is said to roam.

"These two men had links to the shark. In their moment of desperation, their prayers were answered. It is no coincidence, it is an understanding that we must respect and continue. Conservation is not a new thing. Our ancestors practised it to control fish stocks for their future, we must also for ours.

"The sharks keep the marine life cycle intact, they keep our reefs healthy, they bring in the tourists and their dollars and they ensure our sustainability. "The world can't do without them, certainly not we in Fiji."

Ratu Naiqama's decision to protect the sharks in the waters of his jurisdiction is really the continuation of what his ancestors have done.

From the tiny island of Benau to the borders of Cakaudrove, the sharks have a home.The reefs remain full of life and the people feel safer in the water with friends they are helping in their time of need.

Kubuna, Burebasaga and Kadavu have also offered their support and protection in their waters.

The sharkman is happy.

After sailing the Pacific Ocean on the historic double-hulled Uto Ni Yalo last year in the wake of our ancestors who journeyed from island to island, nation to nation, finding common ground between cultures and languages, the sharks have taught him a simple lesson.

Without them, we'd be just like the dinosaurs.
Here today, gone tomorrow.

The mighty shark god
Dakuwaqa was extremely powerful and greatly feared by all
Dakuwaqa, the arrogant and aggressive shark god, was the most agitated and feared of all sea creatures that guarded the islands' reef entrances.

He was stubborn, daring, and jealous of other reef guardians, always on the lookout to challenge their authority and fight those he had not yet encountered.

It was his agenda to stir up trouble and take over the reefs around Fiji.

After causing chaos and dominating the guardians of the reefs in the Lomaiviti group, Dakuwaqa headed to Suva for his next match.

On the way, he was confronted by a local sea monster. Anger and excitement of another chance to prove his strength stirred Dakuwaqa and he immediately stepped up to the challenge.

The two sea monsters attacked each other with full force, seizing each other and struggling to overcome the other.

Their wild thrashings caused unrest below and above the water as great waves formed and rolled into the mouth of the Rewa River. These great towers of waves crashed on shore and flooded the land, waters even reaching the valleys, many miles inland.

Fiji Times Story
 July 18 2011

Hunters become the hunted

WHEN Manoa Rasigatale talks about sharks, he is passionate.

He oozes with admiration for this ancient predator and has made it a personal mission to make people give sharks the respect they deserve. "They are very intelligent, very sophisticated, beautiful, loved and they're feared. "Sharks are among the most friendly, inquisitive and very smart. Humans fear them because they don't know them. They are an ancient species who have been around through the ages and seen the changes to their world. They should be respected.

"The Fijian people are related to the shark. We have evidence of this in Fiji. The first is the chiefly yavusa of the Ai Sokula from Cakaudrove, home of its paramount chief, the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

"The second is at Rukua in Beqa in the province of Rewa. The third is the province of Serua on the island of Yanuca. The fourth is the province of Kadavu, a relationship forged between the shark god Dakuwaqa and the octopus Bakaniceva.

"In the old days, man and sharks communicated. Man could send the shark to do what man needed done to survive. "In most of these places, these things could happen because of an understanding between sharks and man. This is where the relationship between sharks and our ancestors were forged." Mr Rasigatale says our early fathers had loyalty and belief in the mana of the land and in the "qio" (shark).

"The idea of conservation in Fiji is not new, it is from our early days. Our forefathers believed in vakatatabu (to abstain from fishing) in certain areas to allow fish stock to grow. They would fish in one area and allow other fishing grounds to grow and then move on. They did this so they would not be poor.

"God gave them everything in our wasawasa to use properly, and smartly. They were not given these resources to be cruel to or to kill them all at once. Their belief was that if you looked after them, we'd be looked after too. This applies to us today.

"The shark is the top predator in the sea, it is god of all the fish. Without it, there is no survival for the species in our seas. Without the shark, the wasawasa will be poorer, the coral will disappear, the reefs will disappear, the sand will be disturbed, the fish that we rely on for our meals will run for their lives from predators in the middle of the marine food chain.

"If there is no shark, all these will be affected. What will we eat? What will the world survive on?

"It's time we united and work together to ensure our survival."

The sharkman, as Mr Rasigatale has been dubbed because of his passion for them, made a traditional approach to the Turaga Na Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, to seek his support for the campaign ù led by the Pew Environment Group and the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) ù which are working with the Fiji Government to safeguard sharks in Fiji's waters .
"This relation between man and shark, in the chiefly province of Cakaudrove, is very important. The Turaga Na Tui Cakau stressed the importance of this tie. It is said when twins were born from the yavusa of Ai Sokula, it was decided that they be put into the sea. The one that would turn into a fish would become their god, who is now known as Dakuwaqa.

"The one that would be human would be from where the bloodline of the Ai Sokula would come from.

"When that child was put into a basket, made from leaves, and as it drifted out, his relatives out at sea saw it, took him out and carried him to a stretch of sand where they rested by the trunk of a very large tree that had beached there.

"They didn't know that this trunk was Dakuwaqa. It was here that Dakuwaqa turned into a shark and escorted them back to land. He became their vu (god) and promised to protect the people of the Ai Sokula when they go out to sea. He would not bite them."

When the twins were born, hundreds miles away on the island of Beqa, a mataqali of gonedau (fishermen) was alerted.

The clansmen from Rukua Village hurried to Cakaudrove to go and see this special child.

These people from Beqa also had a shark god but they called it the Gone mai wai (child from the sea). They believed this was the same god so they went to Somosomo to visit and stayed.

They became the members of the mataqali Benau, the name of the island drifting off the coast which was also the residence of Dakuwaqa.

The mataqali members from Rukua lived on in Somosomo while the rest remained in Beqa.
"This is their tie. Dakuwaqa and the Gone mai wai are the same."

The third evidence of our link to the sharks, according to Mr Rasigatale, is in Yanuca Island, Serua. Legend has it that there was once a discussion between two brothers from the yavusa Nukutabua. After seeing the destruction of their reefs, the younger brother promised he would look after the reefs and the elder one to look after the land and its people. The younger brother became a shark and was called Masilaca (meaning his sail was made of masi). "This shark was related to the same shark that Rukua and the yavusa of Ai Sokula served."

The Kadavu link to the shark was born out of a challenge Dakuwaqa made to the octopus Bakaniceva on the reef in the bay of Naceva. "Dakuwaqa wanted to prove to Bakaniceva that he was king of all living things in the sea. Bakaniceva made Dakuwaqa promise that he'd do what he wanted if he lost. So they fought. Bakaniceva then grabbed Dakuwaqa with four of his tentacles and held on to the reef with the other four. Dakuwaqa lost and then agreed that he would not attack anyone from Kadavu when they are at sea. "From that day, no one from Kadavu has been bitten.

"These four places ù Kadavu, Yanuca, Beqa and the people of the Ai Sokula, from the home of theTuraga Na Tui Cakau ù are related to the sharks and are never bitten, unless these people have done something wrong and offended the vanua."

Mr Rasigatale says this special relationship exists today.

When the former President, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, passed away, sharks escorted his body to his chiefly home in Taveuni. They patrolled the waters off the village. "The evidence of this mana, this loyalty of the sharks for these people, is amazing." For this Rewan shark campaigner, his mission is not over until all Fiji's people know the story of the shark and its link to our survival.

"We need to keep these stories alive, and the sharks alive, so we can better understand what they mean to us, they are our protector." Pew, which Mr Rasigatale works for, has pushed for protection of sharks around the world as their population plunges. It estimated in a study of the Hong Kong shark fin market that humans kill up to 73 million sharks each year simply to supply the fin trade. Many scientists believe that there are more than 100 million sharks killed annually for fins, meat and other shark products. The sharkman has lobbied for support from around the country. He has traditionally sought the support of the three confedaracies ù Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata ù and was received by Ratu Apenisa Cakobau on Bau, the Marama Bale Na Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa in Rewa and Ratu Naiqama. He also held discussions with the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of iTaukei "with great success". "This is a lot of work and we need to move fast. "We need to listen to the advice of old ù lako vakamalua, vakatotolo (walk fast, with caution)."

1 comment:

deedee said...

my name is deedee alice white my married name is moceiwasa my hushband jovili is dakawaqa the shark god is tiger shark not bull please check suva museum achives and somosomo village history vinaka moce