IN this land of lore and legend, of caves, coconuts and conch shells, kava, chiefs and tradition carved deep, they have become the unlikely faces of Fiji’s feminist movement. They probably don’t even call themselves feminists, western labels as unnecessary in paradise as a three-piece suit. But these are the women who are carving a new path. These are the strong, smart women of the South Pacific.
This story begins with Una Murray, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji’s Public Relations Manager of 32 years, who died late last month. If you love a good legend, you’ll adore the tale of Una, who was 70 but told everyone she was 60. Why? Well, Una liked a party as much as she loved rugby and could be found in the resort’s Vakavanua Lounge seven nights a week, often till 1am. We’re sitting in the very same bar, which has introduced the Una Boogie Boogie cocktail in her honour, discussing her life and death.
Executive Assistant Manager Lindsey Palmer says Una knew “everyone” on the island from the Attorney General to Fiji’s International Rugby team who would drop in and find her in a spot in the bar.
“She used to hang out here. We used to have to kick her out. She’d just sit here with a glass of red wine and relax. She was spoilt rotten and she would spoil us,” he says.
So revered was Una, that during her illness the resort supplied their own nurse to her Sigatoka Hospital room, sent down their maintenance team to fix up her room, and brought her breakfast, lunch and dinner, and much-needed morphine. When she died on May 22, the Outrigger negotiated her beachside burial with two separate chiefs, offering copious kava, a suckling pig and gifts to ensure Una’s passage on her next journey.
Want more feisty females? Well, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji Communications Manager Talei Tora also happens to be the first Fijian woman to be trained by the Australian military in Duntroon. She was forced to quit the army due to a leg injury but as she says “I’ve done my bit for my country, now I can have fun.”
Fun includes promoting some of the resort’s other fabulous females, such as Sous Chef Priya Darshani, who you’ll find in the upmarket Ivi Restaurant. In 2012 Priya was named Fiji Chef of the Year and won third place in the Global Chef’s Challenge in Perth. Priya was also named the resort’s Manager of the Year; and she and her team won best team among all of the Outrigger properties world wide. Which is all pretty remarkable given she started as a trainee chef straight out of school at the resort in 2005 and had never seen a hotel before.
“2012 was a good year,” Priya says simply.
These days when she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her hosting a cooking class with the resort’s Executive Chef Shailesh Naidu, who also happens to be the country’s most awarded Fijian-born chef. Shailesh, who is an Indian-Fijian man, says while coconuts are one of the crucial elements of Fijian cooking, chilli also plays an important role.
“Never joke about chillis with the locals, particularly the Indo-Fijians. Even if we are having a breakfast omelette, we have spoonfuls of chilli,” Shailesh says.
“We tell people to put some love into the plate.”
Love. Lore. Legend. All part of this land. Just like the fabulous females who form the fabric of Fiji.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji
Outrigger on the Lagoon_Fiji http://www.outriggerfiji.com; Bebe Spa Sanctuary http://www.bebespafiji.com; Off Road Cave Safari http://www.offroadfiji.com; Coral Coast Tourism http://www.coralcoastfiji.org; and Kula Ecopark Fiji http://www.fijiwild.com