Joji Marau: Going to London to see the Queen
OGEA ISLANDER WILL BE EXHIBITING CANOE HE DESIGNED AT THE HER ROYAL HIGHNESS’ 90TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
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.
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.