Fiji Ethnographic Photos 1880-1940

These are ethnographic photographs in my possession that are not postcards but original bromide prints. Dates are as indicated for each group

Rod Ewins © 2008 All of the photographs and this page are copyright, but other websites or authors may publish links to it.



Group of Rokotui

This photograph is mounted on a piece of cardboard on which there is an inscription "A group of Lieutenant Governors. Viti. Roko Tuis or Deputy Governors of stated districts of Fiji 18.." The date has been torn off at that point, but the tail of an 8 is just visible, so this photo is from the 1880s. Also, from the peculiar decoration on the bargeboards it is possible to confirm that this photograph was taken in front of the verandah of the first Government House in Suva.

As the label indicates, these men were all Rokotui, the title appropriated by the colonial government for its Provincial administrators. Most of them were also high chiefs in their own right, the government shrewdly reasoning that the Fijians would be far more amenable to taking directions from high chiefs, even when those appointed were from other parts of the Group.

The individuals here were:
L-R back row: 1. Not known; 2. Ratu Peni, Rokotui Naitasiri; 3.Not known; 4. Ratu Luke Nakulanikoro, Rokotui Nadroga; 5. Ratu Timoci, Rokotui Rewa (and, by Fijian title, Rokotui Dreketi); 6. Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua, Rokotui ? (second son of Seru Cakobau); 7. Ro Matanitobua, Rokotui Namosi.

L-R front row: 1.Not known; 2. Katonivere, Rokotui Macuata; 3. Not known, Rokotui Rä; 4.Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Rokotui Tailevu (eldest son of Ratu Seru Cakobau); 5. Marica Toroka, Rokotui Lomaiviti; 6. Not known.
Note also the two young women, maids presumably, on the verandah.

Armed Native Constabulary (ANC) on Parade

Photographer unknown, This photograph was taken on the parade-ground at Nasova, Ovalau, about half a mile south of Levuka town and site of the first Government House. The range of hills in the centre of Ovalau rises steeply from the narrow coastal strip as can be seen here. The officer on the right is George Le Hunte (Roth & Hooper The Fiji Journals of Baron Anatole von Hügel 1875-77, p.138.


This fine-looking man with his splendid head of hair was a favourite model of JohnWaters, who almost certainly took this photo, around or shortly before 1900. This image and several others in which he featured were reproduced as postcards by a number of publishers. See "Warriors & Warfare" webpage. Here he carries a spur-club (kiakavo) and wears a wasekaseka split-whaletooth gorget, smoked barkcloth waistcloth (i-oro kuvui) and fungus-rhizome black war-skirt (liku wäloa).

Sailing outrigger (camakau)

No provenance, photographer or date, but apparently an early photograph.

The sail is furled but the fact that neither of the men is poling the canoe along the river suggests that the photograph was posed.

Cakobau's double-hulled vessel (drua)

No provenance again for this photograph, but the vessel is Cakobau's personal double-hulled voyaging canoe Vukanavanua, a name that invokes its speed and size.

1900s &1910s:   


Young woman

No identification of the model, photographer or date, but this photograph may date from before 1920 or from the 1920s.


1920s & 1930s:   


Making fire with rubbing sticks

This photograph has no provenance with it, and the photographer is unknown. It was probably taken around 1920, but possibly earlier. The verb for making fire with sticks in this way is nita.

Two women in masi shirts

This photo also has no provenance, photographer or date. It may be from the 1930s. It is interesting mainly because both of the young women are wearing shirts made of masi barkcloth.

PSB Singh General Store, Nausori Fiji, 1937

Photo courtesy Rajinder Nijor © 2008



Two women in ceremonial dress, 1935.

These two young women are dressed in ceremonial regalia such as brides would wear. They wear skirts of masi barkcloth figured in the styles of two different regions. Both wear salusalu flower necklaces, and hold ceremonial fans in their hands.The woman on the right wears a sparsely-printed white masi tutuki overskirt, the one on the left a simple cummerbund. The woman on the right finishes off her finery with a white cowry-shell necklace, taubebulileka.

"Roma of Fiji"

Printed by Co-Op (Stinson Studios) in the early 1930s, but given the hairstyle, perhaps from an earlier negative.

Non-Fijian woman wearing smoked barkcloth

This small photographic print bears no identification at all. It shows a young woman of indeterminate ethnicity (Tongan? Micronesian?) wearing a definitely Fijian smoked masi kuvui wrap-around over a cotton skirt or slip. In her left hand she holds a huge ceremonial/chief's fan. Some sort of vines or bark have been formed into a garland on her head - perhaps paper-mulberry bark.

1940s & 1950s

Queen Elizabeth & Adi Lady Maraia Sukuna, 1953

This is a press photo of the Queen Mother meeting Adi Lady Maraia Sukuna of Fiji during a garden party, held at Lambeth palace. It is dated 26/6/53.