Bau - Orientation

Identification. The name "Bau" was originally that of a house site ( yavu ) at Kubuna on the Wainibuka River in the interior of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, but today "Bau" usually refers to the small offshore islet, home of the Paramount chiefs, and "Kubuna" to those who claim kinship with the chiefly families, or those who "go with" Bau in the wider politics of all Fiji.

Location. The Kubuna moved down the Wainibuka and then the Wailevu (Rewa) river valleys to occupy the northeastern coast of the Rewa Delta and the Kaba Peninsula Before making a home for their chiefs on the small islet of Bau, at 17°58′ S, 178°37′ E. This islet is no more than 8 hectares in extent and 15 meters above sea level at the highest point.

Demography. When Bau was at the height of its power, the population on the islet is said to have been 4,000. The paucity of available data permits no more than a guess as to the number of its supporters. Mid-nineteenth-century estimates varied between 100,000 and 300,000 for all of Fiji, of whom perhaps half supported Bau, but traditions tell of disastrous epidemics—associated with the earlier arrival of Europeans—ravaging the population by as much as 40 percent. The 1986 census revealed Fijians in the provinces that "go with" Bau totaling 175,000.

linguistic Affiliation. The language is one of 300 "communalects" (dialects largely confined to one community) that exist among the contemporary population of 300,000 Fijians. In the early nineteenth century, a lingua franca based on the communalects of Bau and Rewa was used by Fijians from different parts of the islands when they wished to communicate, and European missionaries chose Bau for translation of the Bible. Europeanized Bauan, sometimes also called Old High Bauan, has now become the basis for Standard Fijian, which is in the Oceanic Branch of Austronesian languages.

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