Henry Dyer remembers
The Sea God Visits Namoli Village / Basketball at Chinese School
The players who made it to the Fiji team from basketball came from Namoli Village and most of them succeeded because of their early years at the Chinese School’s basketball court. They played with the Chinese basketball team from Lautoka. Then they formed a team of their own. Players such as Apolosi Tora made it into the Fiji team. Of the ladies there was Kesaia and Mere Satala. They made the team because the Chinese community was very small and the Chinese could not make up two teams for training. So the village boys would make up the numbers for the second team. The village ladies got involved because of their interest but the Chinese ladies did not participate. So the Chinese School basketball court made some impact into the lives of the Namoli youth at one stage back then. Their interest was very high. We used to stand on the side-lines near the seaside watching until it was so dark we could not see the ball. It was just a wire-fence at that time. They let us in because we were also contributing to guarding the school. Now there is a brick wall there but then it was just wire. We played until dark or until you could not see the ball. If it was a full moon I remember we played for much longer. I played just for fun but there were much better players than me who understood the game more and had the rhythm for the game. When the first basketball team started that was way before the 1970s. I started using the court as a child in the early-1970s.
|Henry Dyer @ Renee's Pub, Naviti Street (2015)|
The Chinese School is one of the oldest schools in Lautoka. Back then for a (non-Indian) local to school in the Chinese School it was an unusual event. We knew the culture of the Chinese education system there. Behind the Chinese School, where the minibus stand is located today, there were bushes and a wild guava plantation.
Fiji has a long history of the sea gods and as kids we knew about this because, being brought up by the sea at Namoli Village, there was this young lady (just a little older than us) who, at twilight of the evening was possessed by the sea god who appeared on land. He was the sea god of the low tide. We had to take this young lady to her family. They asked the sea god to please leave her alone. They did the Fijian ceremony and asked the sea god: “Why are you giving the young child trouble?” He answered back through the young lady saying: “you are all making too much noise at the place where I surfaced [i.e. the basketball court at the Chinese School]”. I experienced this myself. The sea god’s name was Rateciyavi (meaning “the twilight low tide”). Twilight was the time when he came up to the surface.
Straight after this incident the Chinese School became empty at that time of the evening. The belief was really high and sports training used to be affected. This continued until such a time as some stronger boys came through who said not to believe in it and to carry on training regardless. The girl was set free and the devil disappeared. The sea god used to attract the ladies more. He used to choose the pretty ladies in particular as his victims. I remember that Namoli Village was full of belief because many strange things occurred there.
|Basketball at Chinese School in recent days|
Sometimes when you are a young teenager (aged 14 to 16 years) you want to explore what life is about. We used to walk around the streets of Lautoka and we were open to all kinds of mischief. However, belief in the ancestral gods was always there in the back of our minds. The Fijians believe that before Christianity came they had their own ancestral gods. Those gods had power and gave them strength. The Christians today (the orthodox ones) treat the Fijian ancestral gods as demons. However, the real native iTaukei person (the hardcore villagers) still believes that the ancestral gods exist even though he goes to church. He can mix them with the Christian God in his understanding of the world. However, the (indigenous) Fijians who are really into Christian belief opt to stay away from mixing the two gods. They can mix the two but they opt not to because it is a very dangerous thing. They know that it is a demon.
While walking in the streets of Lautoka we would be talking about all the collective stories from our individual families. We would be talking about different episodes of the gods. It used to be really scary while walking the streets of Lautoka. There were very few lights on the streets then. When we reached the villages we used to just split up and run to our individual houses. We were afraid that the demons were waiting for us. Sometime we would crash into the front door. These are very funny stories.
|Henry Dyer and Wally Mausio @ Lautoka Club (2014)|
Talking about the ancestral gods, I had to spend one of my school holidays with my grandma’s household at Tukuvuci. This is close to the Fiji Bitter beer factory. At this same time, as soon as it was dark, my grand-mum (the mother of the Ratudradra brothers) would tell her grandchildren to run up a small hill with a kerosene lantern for 40 metres. She would tell us to run down with the lantern again. She would say: “He’s there.” We would say: “Who’s there?” She would tell us: “Look towards the hills” (Tavakubu Hills and beyond). Up above the pine trees we would see a light floating over the ridges and the trees in the dark. She would tell us: “There, you see he is playing with us”. As a child, I ran up and down that small hill and played with the ancestral gods. I don’t know whether the children today will see what I saw then with my own eyes. We children living in that generation at that time were quite fortunate to see a lot of things from the ancient past. We could see it with our eyes. I don’t know whether people can see that today or possibly not because Christianity has seeped into every house today. The upbringing in those days was very special. You were taught to obey and to be respectful. You were taught to dress to the occasion. You were taught to always say the right things and not to be rude or offensive. We were taught to respect the older menfolk (the uncles) as they were the next in line to take over in the house. The youngest uncle was respected in the same way that the eldest uncle was. The (indigenous) Fijian protocol was indeed something else.
[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji, 23 April 2015.]
|Left to Right: Top Row: Aunt Sarah from Vunavaivai Family and Henry Dyer. Bottom Row: The late Uncle Timoci Waivure (Rest In Peace) and Cousin Nawaqaliva with daughter @ Namoli Village. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Timoci's parents were brothers.|
|Henry Dyer (left) and Uncle Siveniasi Rasaqiwa ("Bosoni") with nephew from Nakavu Village Jone ("Geese") (left) and Uncle Sive's grandson. "Geese" was originally from Nawaka Village (back road of Nadi).|
|Henry Dyer with his two cousins. Second from left is Uncle Simione Tora's daughter. Third from left is Vaseva (Uncle Diri Yalayala's daughter).|
|Left to Right: Kieran James, Henry's eldest son Anare Tuidraki ("Fella"), and Henry's cousin Nawaqaliva. He resides in Naviago Village on the outskirts of Lautoka.|
|Left to Right: Kieran James and Henry's mother Vasiti Suvewa Yalayala (third of the girls in Henry's family). In the background on the right in the green dress is Henry's Aunty Vaseva. She was married to the eldest of the brothers Diri Yalayala.|