Most recent Book by Rod Ewins

[Best viewed at 1344 x 1840 or higher]

My latest book Staying Fijian, co-published in 2009 by Crawford House Australia and the University of Hawaii Press, is now available direct from me within Australia for A$45 including postage. I will sign copies on request.

Alternately, Australian customers may purchase by fax, phone and mail from the publisher — see CHP website for details, or online from various retailers including Hobart Bookshop.

For customers in other countries the most economical way to purchase is generally through which offers it at a very competitive price, and within USA or UK postage is free.

NZ customers may prefer to purchase through South Pacific Books in Auckland.

Customers elsewhere may order on the University of Hawaii Press entry for the book.

ISBN Australia: 978-1-86333-302-9    ISBN USA: 978-0-8248-3112-7

The book is in hardback, 402 pages, and measures 24.7 x 18.5 cm

Illustrations include 4 dustcover colour photos and 8 colour plates comprising 28 photos, plus 64 b&w photos, 4 maps, figures and charts.

Please click to see List of Contents and sample Colour Plate.

The following are the front, back and endflaps of the dustcover





Bark-cloth or masi (generally called tapa by non-Fijians) is the traditional art of the women of Vatulele. While many other Fijian art forms have declined or disappeared, and barkcloth is no longer produced in some places where it once was, and despite its utilitarian functions having been totally usurped by Western cloth and paper, its production on this small island has increased steadily for over forty years. This book looks at the implications of this apparently paradoxical cultural vigour.

It is argued that the florescence of barkcloth manufacture cannot be convincingly argued or statistically shown to derive from its commoditisation as a tourist souvenir, the explanation most commonly advanced. Rather, it is shown to reflect an increasing mobilisation of traditional mechanisms of art and ritual to mitigate increasing social and cultural stress, most blatantly evidenced by Fiji’s recent political upheavals.

Historical and empirical evidence is produced to show barkcloth as one of the most valued of Fijians’ ritual goods, both as prestation item and as ceremonial trappings. As the most deeply symbolic of women’s goods, it is seen to play a crucial role in maintaining the gender symmetry that defines Fijian cultural mechanisms.

Finally, such cultural vigour is shown to be problematic. The increasing demand for their product from other Fijians has profound economic implications for Vatulele, as social and economic roles become intertwined. Traditional gender roles are challenged as women become the principal breadwinners of the entire community, at once empowered and shackled. There are also ecological impacts. Ultimately, however, it is presented as a strong unifying force for a small community facing many local and global challenges.

This book places a very local activity in a global context, not only sociologically, but also theoretically. As well as presenting a theoretical and empirical study, it includes a number of photographs, historical and from the author’s own fieldwork, of barkcloth production and usage, and relevant ritual