4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
The islands of Fuji deep in the Pacific were known as the Cannibal Isles. It was a feared place by many, and they were subject to many influxes of Europeans and Indians over the past 150 years. These slavers, traders, missionaries and those with imperial intentions all had planned on what to do with the islands and its people. The Fijians absorbed these people and have emerged out of the other side with their society, language and lands intact and still their own.
In the early 1980s, Ronald Wright arrived there with his companion, Derek. It was much less of a shock that when he had arrived in Lima together. Even at 3 am the airport seems to be organised and refined and this could be seen in the landscape as they headed out to their hotel. After breakfast Derek popped out to get a paper and appeared back with a young Indian called Krishna, he was offering to be their taxi driver for the day. Setting off they arrived at a cultural centre and had guided tour of a village. The houses were arranged in a circle and it was so quiet they could hear the sounds of the waves.
It’s hard to be a Methodist after eating one
They would spend their time there travelling around to the different islands and learning first hand about the history and culture of the islanders, meeting various people and seeing different places. Cannibalism was a ritual that was carried out to both honour and insult a person and Wright recounts details from his visit to the museum. They developed a unique culture, and they have thankfully still had it for the most part (they have stopped eating people now!).
Most Fujian’s believe that rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and economic advance would cost them their cultural identity. They see land as more substantial than capital, subsistence farming more worthwhile than cash crops and they have been able to continue in these ‘old fashioned’ ways by developing a political system that defends them.
Before starting this review I spent a little while looking up some details about the islands of Fuji. All I can say is that it is utterly beautiful with their idyllic beaches and azure blue seas. Reading this, I get that impression from Wright too, that he loved being on these tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific. Even though he is moving around the islands, it doesn’t completely feel like a travel book as there is a mix of history, culture and his take of the people of Fiji. It is an interesting read though and a good starting point for anyone wanting to know a little more about the place.