Ravuravu – Mentor and Protector

Many narrators of stories of the past will relate the Cici ni Turaga, “Race for the Chiefly Title” that was held on a beach called Walu at Ucunivanua, Verata, Tailevu, to settle who would replace Rokomautu as the Ratu, the paramount chief of Verata.

Rokomautu (the eldest son, Buisavulu being the eldest child) had assumed the Ratu title from his father Lutunasobasoba. Ravuravu (of the Degei side of the extended family) had a hand in the aftermath of the race; and as such, played a conciliatory and mentoring role to appease and consolidate relations between the families of half-brothers: Lutunasobasoba and Kubunavanua, on one hand and Degei and his siblings, on the other, all sons of Tura.

Rokomautu had four children. He was considering his succession plan after a meeting of the chiefs that had resolved that successors to chiefly titles did not necessarily have to go to the eldest sons. This resolution was specifically directed at Rokomautu’s eldest son Buatavatava who was regarded as weak and not of chiefly material. Rokomautu thus opted to have his grand-children participate in a race to determine his successor. The race was part of the celebration of Buatavatava’s return from Bua to where he had been expelled. The winner would then be declared as the next holder of the Ratu title. Seventeen of his nineteen grandchildren participated in the race. Two were considered too young to participate, but were directed to accept the eventual winner.

The eventual winner was Tuivanuakula who was not the eldest of all the runners. On crossing the final line, Rokomautu embraced him in enthusiastic congratulations and said: “My son, the honour is yours today and your name shall be Kubunavanua or Uqenavanua….according to my blessings and you can occupy the bure called Naisanokonoko”, (see E. Rokowaqa & K. R. Meo).

However, the victory was not popular especially the honorific readily offered to the young victor. This led to disagreements and much recrimination. Rokomautu thus found it difficult to make a final decision on his succession plan. The young victor was embarrassed and disgusted by what was unfolding with his siblings and cousins. He opted to leave Verata. He headed for Moala, home of his now namesake, Kubunavanua, his great grand-uncle.

Journalist Paula Tagivetaua picks up the story as published in the Fiji Times on 27 March and 24 April 2011. Ravuravu accompanied Tuivanuakula aka Kubunavanua from Verata essentially as his protector. But he was the young chief’s mentor as well.

On reaching Moala, dissension took hold and a rebellion was brewing as to Kubunavanua’s entitlement to the chiefly title on the island. A meeting was convened and resolved that claimants to the chiefly position would participate in a vakalade sau, trial or test. The test was to jump off the highest point on Moala and to land on rocks below. The winner would be declared the chief, the holder of the sau, or mana.

Ravuravu, as protector of the young Kubunavanua, opted to jump on his behalf. It was his duty to do so.  As it turned out, he was the sole survivor of the jump. All others perished on the rocks below. It is told that he landed on one foot, and how that saved the warrior, it will not be known. But survive he did. Moreover, he decreed that the sau was to remain with Kubunavanu.  He was not compelled to desire the position that was someone else’s entitlement.

It was on Moala where the entourage separated. Kubunavanua went on to settle on Totoya. Ravuravu, having achieved his mission, opted for Vanuavatu where, he said, he was going to plant his own food and catch his own fish. He added as a personal message to his young apprentice: “I’ll do all that but will not bring any isevu, first harvest, to you”, (Tagivetaua, FT, 27 March 2011).

In a previous history posting, I had discussed that Ravuravu and his clan landed and settled on Vanuavatu whilst on their long travel of land occupation that started way back below the Medrausucu Range near Nadakuni, in Naitasiri today. It can be envisaged that when Ravuravu opted to go to Vanuavatu, he was returning to his own close clan members. He may have been there already when he was requested by Rokomautu to accompany the young Tuivanuakula after the Cici ni Turaga.

But why Ravuravu? Clearly, his reputation as a warrior and leader was widespread. This posting serves to bring another aspect to his essential quality, that of obligations to duty and traditional protocols.

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