Journey into a vital part of Fiji’s past – the Girmit era, and immerse yourself in the Indo-Fijian experience. Welcome to the Indo-Fijian History Gallery at the Fiji Museum, which houses an exhibition of artefacts from Fiji’s Indian community.
Nearly half of Fiji’s current population is made up of descendants of Indian immigrants who came to Fiji during the Girmit era. This was when Indians were brought here to work as labourers on sugar plantations.
And while much of India’s cultural legacy is still alive and thriving in Fiji, the local Indian community has developed a unique society in response to Fiji’s social and environmental conditions.
The museum’s main purpose is having such a gallery to highlight the cultural heritage, traditions and experience of Fiji’s Indians.
There are about eight displays illustrating places of work, home, language, music, dance and the arts, religions, languages and customs of the Indo-Fijian community.
Most of the artefacts on display are from the museum’s own collection – others have been donated by the Indian community after public appeals. The artefacts are mostly from the Girmit period and after.
These artefacts have been handed down from generation to generation – some have been treasured as heirlooms.
There’s the exquisite sari with real gold threads in the wedding artefacts display. The sari has the distinction of being the first of its kind to be brought to Fiji.
It was worn by Mrs Mahalakshmi Naidu, of Tenkasi, South India when she wed Muthuswamy Narayan Swamy Naidu in 1923. The sari was donated to the museum by their son, Mr Naidu of Lautoka.
And then there are those artefacts that people never realised were valuable antiques. For example – there’s an old iron pot (also called an African pot) that is part of the Home display.
It lay in a farmhouse chicken pen until the museum obtained it for the gallery.
The artefacts on display are historical but all tell unique stories of the real people they belonged to. In a way it keeps alive the art, craft, dance and reminds us of an important period in Fiji’s history.
There’s a blouse (underneath the antique charcoal-powered iron in the Home display) that belonged to an old Indian woman – from Togo, Nadi. She came to Fiji during the Girmit era.
Up until she passed away at 112, this old woman led a very active life – she would walk one and a half kilometres each day with a bucket balanced perfectly on her head to fetch water.
There are also artefacts that are more recent (well if you call 70 years more...