A traditional Kava ceremony has once again brought a taste of the Pacific to the world stage at the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. The Kava ceremony, or the Yaqona in Fiji, is an important part of Pacific culture.
Last year in Bonn, Germany during Fiji’s Presidency of COP23, the Kava ceremony successfully united people of all cultures and nationalities through the witnessing and experiencing of this important tradition in Fijian, and Pacific peoples, way of life.
The Yaqona is one of seven important ceremonies that make up Fiji’s traditional welcome ritual. The presentation and drinking of Kava is a symbol of the respect and reverence given to the guests being welcomed, usually Chiefs, tribal leaders and dignitaries, and extend to their people and their land. By the end of the Kava ceremony, the hosts and guests who have shared the Yaqona are now considered one people sharing the same purpose.
“Kava, or Yaqona, is a plant native to Fiji and many Pacific islands. The root and stems are powdered and prepared for drinking by mixing with water,” explained Mr Taholo Kami, Special Adviser for Pacific Partnerships and International Civil Society of the COP23 Presidency Secretariat, during the special side event held at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion.
“This Kava we are drinking is Fijian Kava – and Kava itself is a non-alcoholic beverage which has social and ceremonial significance in many other Pacific islands, for many hundreds of years.”
The Kava ceremony side event was a unique opportunity for COP24 participants to have a personal experience of Pacific culture, as well as to learn more about a region at the frontline of climate change impacts.
“The visibility of our people and our culture here in Katowice is just as important as our messaging because as large ocean states we are unique – we are one pacific, we have one chance at survival and we must support the goal of 1.5,” said Ms Tagaloa Cooper-Halo, Director of Climate Change Resilience Programme at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), who was present at the ceremony.
As per Pacific custom, the Kava ceremony continued until the bowl was empty, with many visitors coming in to join the ceremony at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion. You can learn more about the traditional Kava ceremony by visiting the COP23 website.