Joji Ma­rau: Go­ing to Lon­don to see the Queen


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Over the moon, would be the best way to de­scribe Joji Ma­rau’s emo­tion. The head of School of Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing – Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, of the Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing, Science and Tech­nol­ogy at the Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity is still com­ing to terms with the ex­cit­ing news. He will be meet­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth II, at her home town in Wind­sor Cas­tle in the United King­dom. Mr Ma­rau has been in­vited to at­tend the Queen’s 90th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions to be held in May. The man from Ogea Is­land in the Lau Group will be no or­di­nary guest.

He will be ex­hibit­ing this pres­ti­gious hand­i­work; the authen­tic tra­di­tional ‘drua’ Adi Eta, which will be one of the cen­tre pieces dur­ing the birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

“I just can’t put in words to de­scribe how I felt when I was given the news,” Mr Ma­rau said.

“I never thought that I will be in­vited by the Queen for her birth­day and to have my ca­noe dis­played for the whole world to see. It’s in­deed a great hon­our for me.” De­signed and built by Mr Ma­rau and four other crafts­men, Adi Eta will be the cen­tre­piece to rep­re­sent Fiji dur­ing the three day spec­ta­cle. It was marked to cel­e­brate an­other sig­nif­i­cant date in the Queen’s Reign. We are one of four other coun­tries from the Com­mon­wealth in­vited to take part in the aus­pi­cious event. When asked about his in­spi­ra­tion for his piece, Mr Ma­rau said said ca­noe­ing was a hobby from a very young age.

In 2012, with the sup­port of Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity, he got his big­gest break­through when FNU spon­sored him in his re­search work to de­sign and built a tra­di­tional ca­noe – Ca­makau. This ca­noe was recog­nised glob­ally fea­tur­ing in the lo­cal news­pa­pers and also in the New York Times. “Ca­noes have al­ways played an im­por­tant role in the his­tory of Fiji. “Trans­porta­tion from an is­land to an­other was only pos­si­ble by sea and that with the use of ca­noes when the first set­tlers of Fiji ar­rived, how­ever, with mod­erni­sa­tion tak­ing over, tra­di­tion and tra­di­tional means quickly died out, and ca­noe build­ing and sail­ing was two of the un­for­tu­nate,” he said. In 2014, he was ap­proached by Pro­fes­sor Steven Hooper from the Univer­sity of East Angli in the United King­dom to work with a Non-Gov­ern­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion in Ger­many in the designing and build­ing of a two hull ca­noe to fea­ture in an ex­hi­bi­tion or­gan­ised by the or­gani- sa­tion. Thus, the birth of Adi Eta tran­spired.

Built in 2014, the drua - Adi Eta is said to be the only authen­tic tra­di­tional dou­ble hull ca­noe to have been built af­ter the Ratu Finau, which is now kept and dis­played at the Fiji Na­tional Mu­seum.


Adi Eta, the dou­ble hull ca­noe stands at eight me­tres in length and 2.15me­tres in width and is made from Da­manu tree from the in­te­rior of Viti Levu in Nako­ro­sule, Naitasiri. Due to un­fore­seen cir­cum­stance, Adi Eta was not ex­hib­ited at its planned venue, but it was not the end of the road for the dou­ble hull. Adi Eta was then used lo­cally in ca­noe rac­ing where it hailed vic­tory in the 2014 dur­ing the Hi­bis­cus Ca­noe Race. In 2015, Adi Eta was used as a float by the Fiji Broad­cast­ing Co­op­er­a­tion to trans­port their Queen for the Voda­fone Hi­bis­cus Festival.

As its suc­cess story con­tin­ues, Adi Eta will now fea­ture as Fiji’s dis­play mas­ter­piece at Queen El­iz­a­beth’s Birth­day Pageant sched­uled from the 12 – 15 of May. Proud of the achieve­ment, Mr Ma­rau said the pas­sion and in­ter­est in tra­di­tional ca­noes has been revived. “The suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the mak­ing of the drua was a break­through in it­self. Now with the pageant, it shows we have achieved what we started years ago and that was to re­vive tra­di­tional sail­ing,” he said.

The head of school said, the in­vi­ta­tion from the UK brings him a lot of emo­tion and hap­pi­ness be­cause it shows they are in­ter­ested. “In designing Adi Eta we had to re­fer also to the li­braries in Lon­don to help us be­cause we don’t have records avail­able lo­cally on lit­er­a­ture as­pects in mak­ing a Drua. My four mem­ber team of crafts­men was too good be­cause they knew ex­actly what they were do­ing.

In the fi­nal day of the pageant, the Queen, Mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily, gov­ern­ment and in­ter­na­tional del­e­ga­tions will tour and in­spect the dis­plays.

Af­ter the birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, Adi Eta will then be trans­ported down to Nor­wich where it will be show­cased in an ex­hi­bi­tion later in Au­gust be­fore it moves to its new home the Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum, where it will be main­tained and kept.

I never thought that I will be in­vited by the Queen for her birth­day and to have my ca­noe dis­played for the whole world to see. It’s in­deed a great hon­our for me.

Joji Ma­rau


Photo: Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity

Univer­sity of East Anglia in United King­dom’s Pro­fes­sor Steven Hooper (left), and Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity head of School of Mechani

cal En­gi­neer­ing – Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Joji Ma­rau.

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