Fiji and the Fijians

v.I, "The Islands and Their Inhabitants"  by Thomas Williams

Published in 1858 by Alexander Heylin, Paternoster Row, London. Reprint 1983 by The Fiji Museum, Suva

Background: 19th Century barkcloth (masi) design, probably from a location in Lomaiviti or Lau-i-Ra

 Etching of Thomas Williams by his grandson, Lionel Lindsay. [Click to enlarge]
The Wesleyan missionary Rev. Thomas Williams has been called, with justification, "the principal authority upon the state of society among the Fijians when Europeans first came into contact with them" (Thomson, The Fijians, 1908, p.56). With his wife and a few other dedicated colleagues he conducted his ministry in the considerable hardship and danger of the cannibal islands of Fiji between 1840 and 1852. We are fortunate that not only was he an empathetic, intelligent and acute observer, but also a gifted artist (one of his daughters produced a family of very famous Australian artists, the Lindsays). Many of his drawings were transformed into wood-engravings or lithographs to provide illustrations for his book Fiji and the Fijians: the islands and their inhabitants, and possibly some of those in its companion volume Mission history by his colleague James Calvert. Further reading - G.C. Henderson's books The Journal of Thomas Williams and Fiji and the Fijians (1931, Sydney, Angus & Robertson). Online see the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Williams, and also "The Wesleyans Enter Fiji".

Click on thumbnails to enlarge

[Title page from the volume in my possession]

"Sa kalougata ko ira sa yalo savasava: ni ra na raica na Kalou. Maciu, Wase 8"

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Mat. Ch.5 v.8)"

Scripture(s) and signature in Thomas Williams's own hand, dated Nov 28th, 1859 [at which time he was minister of the Brunswick Street church in Melbourne, Australia].


 "Chart of the Fiji Islands", lithograph by Anthony La Riviere, circa 1850

"Thakombau [Cakobau], Vu-ni-valu, King of Mbau [Bau] Fiji. Copied, by permission from an original portrtait in the possession of Captain Denham, R.N. made during the Officers survey of the Fji Islands in H.M.S. Herald."

"Spear heads" f.p.57


 "Priests' bowls" p.60

[illustrating both daveniyaqona kava dishes and sedreniwaiwai oil dishes]

"Likus" f.p.67 [Liku Women's hip girdles].

 "Fans and Sun-screens" p.68

  "Fijian pottery" p.70

"Clubs" [I-wau] f.p.77

"Priest's bowl" p.77.

This illustrates the rare priest's kava dish in duck form [daveniyaqona vakaga, or i-buburau ni bete vakaga]


 "Sleeping bures" p.83.

Williams wrote: "Temples, dwelling-houses, sleeping-houses, kitchens, (in Lau) inns or receiving-houses for strangers (bure ni vulagi), and yam stores, are the buildings of Fiji" p.83


Sailing canoe or camakau, p.86.

Williams wrote that, unlike the open-hulled takia or velovelo, the hull of the camakau is "completely boxed up", and "from the small resistance this build offers to the water, it is the 'clipper' of Fiji" (p.72).

[see also Haddon & Hornell, Canoes of Oceania, Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press]

"Mastheads and Pilasters of House-on-Deck of Canoes" f.p.88

"Pandanus" p.98 [Illustrated is the screwpine, or Pandanus odoratissimus, in Fijian called balawa].

 "Veindovi" p.102 [Veidovi, a Rewa chief]

 "Hair-Dressing" f.p.148

 "Heads of Chiefs in Full Dress" f.p.156

 "Modes of Painting the face" f.p.160

"Girl playing on the nose-flute" p.163

  "Drums and musical instruments" p.164

 "Cannibal forks" p.212 [i-cula ni bokola].

 "Bure [temple] of Na Ututu". p.215

 "Sacred stones". p.220

 "Bure [temple] of Na Tavasara, Taviuni". p.222


 "Nut tabus" p.235


 "Takiveleyawa" p.244


 "Savu Falls" p.253