Notes from a Missionary Diary, July 16, 1996
A fund-raising bazaar took place at Raviravi church today. A large multi-ethnic crowd attended, and there were different cultural items presented. We enjoyed a couple of mekes (traditional Fijian dances). Then a young Hindu lady, specially invited by the organizers, performed a classical South Indian dance. As she danced, an indigenous Fijian lady approached her, placed a two dollar note on her ear, knelt, did the cobo (clap of respect) and returned to her place.
Then an indigenous Fijian youth sauntered up to the dancer. He threw a sulu (wraparound cloth) over her head and while holding her in it he began to dance in a mocking erotic style in front of her. After a while he returned to his place laughing. When the dancer finished her dance some organizers and I approached her. We apologized for the young man’s ignorance and gave her a gift. She graciously accepted both.
I was really angry with that young man for the way he insulted the dancer. Classical Indian dances are religious dances and are never interrupted, let alone treated with contempt. As an invited visitor doing a religious dance she would have expected a more respectful reception.
I was also angry with myself for not intercepting and leading the youth back to his place as soon as I saw what he intended to do. I resolved that in future, on such multiethnic occasions, I would request onlookers to understand that cultural practices are different and to show respect for other cultures in their way.
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.