Author: timwilly3

UOW journalism and communication and media studies student UOWTV multimedia journalist Daily Telegraph - Digital sports journalist Sports lover (rugby league, cricket), country boy (Cooma), wannabe traveller and uni leaver...

BULA! Kava, Fiji and culture

My opening post on Kava was based on perceptions both personal and societal with minimal investigation. This post is almost completely research based. So what is Kava?

Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub.’ – Dr Edward, Global Healing Centre.

To follow up on my personal interest of the Fijian beverage, I’ll be undertaking a cultural study of how the drink impacts the country’s lifestyle. When attending my brother’s wedding in Fiji, I’ll speak with locals and gather information from the region to assist in unpacking how this iconic drink fits into their society.

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Since my initial interest was sparked, I’ve had time to gather information and reassess my approach to the study. Initially my attention came from the side effects of Kava itself and the reasons why it is such a popular beverage in Fiji. This interest certainly still exists, however I’m becoming more fixated on the role it plays in Fijian society and how it impacts the local’s lifestyle and way of living.

My opening blog post proposed seven questions and beliefs surrounding Kava. After engaging in further research into the topic, I’ve come up with a few answers.

Q) The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?

A) Kava contains NO ALCOHOL! This was news to me. It is however a depressant like alcohol. It is classified as a ‘psychoactive beverage’ made purely from shrub native to Fiji. There are many different strands of Kava creations that have there own profile ranging from sleepy to numb to relaxed.

Q) Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?

A) Kava is not a psychedelic drug in any way and will not give you warped visions that allow you to see different things. The common perception of this derives from the fact that there are hallucinogenic beverages like Kava such as Ayuhuasca that are often confused to be Kava. This confusion has led to the misconception.

Q) Are its origins entirely Fijian?

A) Kava dates back at least 3000 years. While it is prevalent in Fiji, its creation isn’t entirely claimed by the country. The piper methysticum shrub that is used to create it is found across the Pacific Islands and the beverage itself is drunk in places such as Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Polynesia.

 

Q) The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.

A) As previously mentioned, Kava doesn’t contain alcohol. The age limit, if any, of drinkers was difficult to find therefore I’ll ask locals when arriving in the country.

Q) Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?

A) As per previous answer.

Q) Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?

A) Kava comes from the root of the Yaqona shrub. The shrub is used in multiple ways ranging from strained, crushed, grounded or powdered with water into a very big wooden bowl. It is as simple as it sounds.

Q) Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?

A) Another question that will need plenty of clarification from locals. However, its regular consumption at all times of the day and relaxed, sleepy impact on an individual suggests it may contribute. The fact it isn’t as strong as previously believed to be suggests it couldn’t contribute to a prominent portion of local’s everyday attitudes to any massive degree.

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Following up on my initial perceptions of the Fijian beverage I’ve become aware of the huge revelation that it doesn’t contain alcohol and I’ve also come to realise Kava is a VERY traditional and cultural element in Fijian society. The locals engage in ceremonies using the drink as a symbol and method of creating relationships and strong bonds between each other. The ceremonies centring around Kava have rich histories dating back centuries. I’ll aim to attend one of these ceremonies when in the country.

Another area I’ll research that is of new information is that it has many uses including medicinal, sedation, diuretic, muscle relaxant among many others.

Extending on my now base layer of knowledge on Kava I’ll look to further delve into its role in Fijian society. This will be aided by photographs, videos and hopefully audio interviews obtained from the locals.

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“E dua na bilo?” (`Try a cup?’)

BULA, BULA, BULA!

Fijian culture is epitomised by this single word that originated from the native tongue of the Pacific Island nation. However very few foreigners are aware of the actual meaning of Bula, they’re only able to associate it with the country.

Bula means life. It can be used in many contexts ranging from hello, goodbye, thank you, welcome, love among many other meanings. So when thinking of Fiji, you think Bula.

When engaging with the traditional Fijian way of life, there’s no more culturally enticing element of their society than Kava. When you think of Fiji, you think of Kava. But what do we actually know about the traditional alcoholic beverage? Common beliefs and questions arising with it include:

kavv

  • The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?
  • Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?
  • Are its origins entirely Fijian?
  • The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.
  • Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?
  • Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?
  • Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?
NGS Picture ID:1422477

Fijian men in traditional clothing powder kava for a ceremonial drink.

Many Australians including myself ask these questions, so why is this?

Australia has a strong drinking culture dating back generations where binge drinking is an issue within society. Beer, wine and spirits are highly popular and a prevalent part of the country’s economy. So naturally, the idea of a strong alcoholic, possibly hallucinogenic foreign beverage appeals to our society. Is this a good thing? Probably not when considering the big picture, but it clearly reflects the Australian way of life. I’ll answer these questions to clarify the role and importance of Kava to Fijian society.

My personal interest surrounding Kava stems from several areas. Matt Whitehead, A close friend from Hay (country NSW), had a group of native Fijian men join the local rugby league team. The men were flown in from the country on a working Visa where they spent the next six months. Matt told me the men made Kava for him and his family from local growth and ingredients. He told me the alcoholic content was strong, the methods of how they made it and why they all new how to make it with such ease.

I’ve always had an interest in Kava stemming from Matt’s experience without ever acting on it. Fortunately for my personal interest the Digital Asia subject coincided with my brother’s wedding, conveniently in Fiji mid-semester.

During my week stay in the country I intend to investigate Kava for the final assessment task of the subject. I will aim to convey the importance of Kava to the Fijian people using a multimedia project including images, Tweets, video and local knowledge. I will analyse how and if the beverage is advertised and sold to the general public. I will speak with locals about the manner, volume and frequency in which they consume Kava. I will provide a gallery of original images to aid the presentation of how the Kava is made. Raw video footage will also be gathered to further enhance the appeal of the project as well as audio from interviews if the locals are willing to comply with the recording.

Furthermore, I will create a comparison with popular Australian beverages such as beer and wine. I will compare the different attitudes locals have towards alcohol and how each fits into both their lifestyle and economy. I will provide a brief study of alcohol consumption and production in Australia as a reference point to Kava’s influence on society in Fiji. With alcohol playing such a huge role in Australia and being the source of numerous debate topics in the country, this cultural comparative study will shed light on the issue.

The large majority of my autoethnographic encounter won’t be available until the trip is completed, allowing me to come back to Australia and reflect on the experiences.

Autoethnography: The Medium for Original Thinking

timwilliams13

My opening post on the definition of autoethnography focused on a researcher’s ability to revise his work at a later date to create a more in depth and coherent study. Having been a late starter to the subject and blog posts I’ve only had a week to let the thoughts of my initial blog post simmer in my mind. I have however investigated the concept of autoethnography prior to the commencement of the class and within the opening weeks via online content.

In this time my perception of autoethnographic research has remained similar with several variances arising. Initially I thought that autoethnography was purely to clarify the research initially obtained and to ensure it was valid. Since reviewing my first post titled “Autoethnography and Japanese Culture,” I’ve formed a new insight into the research method that places emphasis on the concept being a progressive reflection on research rather than simply…

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Autoethnography and Japanese culture

timwilliams13

Autoethnography to me is a revolutionary method of analysing and investigation a product or concept. While it can’t be said that it is a completely modern method of research, I believe it can shape the way of future research processes.

Custer 2014, describes autoethnography as“research that requires that we observe ourselves observing, that we interrogate what we think and believe, and that we challenge our own assumptions, asking over and over if we have penetrated as many layers of our own defenses, fears, and insecurities as our project requires.

My take on the concept is that it is an immensely unique research method that allows an individual to make breakthroughs based own their own experiences. For example, if I’m looking into the work of renowned scholars I’m generally only enhancing my own knowledge with a minimal chance of providing further substantial insight into a research area. However, if I am…

View original post 345 more words