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The residents of Government House formed close personal relationships, among themselves and with high status Fijians. They also adopted many Fijian protocols.

Cakobau and his family visited often and members of the Nasova household were regularly invited to Bau. Cakobau's daughter, Adi Arieta Kuila, hosted visitors at her home in Navuso on the Rewa River. Von Hügel benefited from Adi Kuila's hospitality and called her nau (mother).

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Rati Tomoci Tavanavanua often invoted Nasova residents on their nautical trips around the islands. Numerous gifts were presented, some formally, others as part of friendly relations. Von Hügel acquired one of his prized spears as a result of a bet initiated by Ratu Epeli over the time it would take to sail from Levuka to Bau.

Governor Gordon and the members of his household embraced certain Fijian practices. Chiefs and other visitors were routinely entertained over nighly yaqona sessions. Writing to her sister in October 1875 Lady Gordon noted:

"We have all taken to yaqona drinking - even I!... We all take great pride in our bowls, and take the greatest care of them, wrapping them up, when not in use, in a piece of white tappa... [The children] are very fond of dressing themselves up in sulus, and winding tappa round their wrists, and strutting about with little clubs..."

Group portrait. Lady Gordon, Constance Gordon Cumming, Rachel Nevil Hamilton-Gordon and Arthur J.L. Gordon at Government House. Photographer unknown, 1875-77. Nasova, Ovalau, Fiji. Courtesy of the Fiji National Archives. P.190: Album 1

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Yaqona cups, Bilo

"Yaqona soon became a nightly institution, a matted room was set apart for the purpose, where a number of the Native Constabulary prepared the drink and chanted their songs the while. The Governor frequently entertained some of the chiefs at yaqona, and the room being also used as a smoke room, these meetings were mostly very successful..."

- Anatole von Hügel’s Journal, 3-8 August 1875.

Many of the men and women living at Government House adopted the practice of drinking yaqona regularly. Most of them owned their own mixing and drinking equipment, including bowls (tanoa) and cups (bilo).

Fiji. Given to A. von Hügel by Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua, November 1877. Z 3323

Nadrau, Viti Levu, Fiji. Collected by Capt. L. Knollys, 1876. Acquired by A. von Hügel from W. D. Webster, 1898, London. Z 3326

Fiji. Collected by Sir A. Gordon, 1875-80. 1918.213.58

Fiji. Collected by C. Gordon Cumming, 1875-77. Z 29946

Nakorovatu, Matailobau, Viti Levu, Fiji. Collected by A. von Hügel, 1875-77. Z 3405


This tabua with a cord of twisted black and white barkcloth was probably presented to George A. M. Hamilton-Gordon (known as ‘Jack’), son of Sir Arthur Gordon, when he was seven years old.

Fiji. Probably presented to G. A. M. Hamilton-Gordon, 1877. Z 3025

Dance paddle, Paki

In April 1876, some Nasova residents attended a day of celebrations and dance on the island of Bau. One of the events was a Tongan paddle-dance performed by 125 women and led by Adi Kuila, daughter of Cakobau, after which she gifted her paddle to young ‘Jack’ Hamilton-Gordon.

Bau, Fiji. Given to G. A. M. Hamilton-Gordon by Adi Kuila, April 1876. 1920.361

"[Adi Kuila] presented Jack with her paddle, which is a particularly nice one, with the name ADI ARIETA KUILA, BAU cut upon it. Jack then consented to sit on her knee, and said that he did like Andi Kuila. He was delighted with the Paddle. Nevil [Sir Arthur’s daughter] had one given her afterwards, and I hear her singing her little paddle mekes with a flower stuck behind each ear."

- Lady Gordon’s letter to her sister, May 1876.

Photographs: Fijian chiefly families

Assembled by von Hügel, this page shows the many Fijian acquaintances he made while in Fiji. They include, from top to bottom, left to right: (1) Ratu Savenaca & his family, (2) Ratu Koroiravulo & Adi Mere, (3) Sinimila, Asenaca & Merioni, (4) Adi Arieta Kuila & Adi Laisa, (5) Ratu Timoci Vakaruru & his son Timoci, (6) Adi Arieta Kuila & Adi Unaisi, (7) Ratu Marika & his family, (8) Adi Unaisi & probably Adi Laisana, (9) probably Ratu Josefa Celui & an unidentified woman.

Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji. Photographed by F. Dufty, 1870-74. P.99913-P.99921.VH

Photographs: Levuka residents and Fiji settlers

These photographs show some of Constance Gordon Cumming’s close acquaintances in Fiji: William & Nelly MacGregor (Chief Medical Officer and his daughter), Dr Mayo (Medical Officer), Captain & Mrs Havelock (Colonial Secretary and his wife), Edgar Layard (British Consul), Rev. & Mrs Langham (Superintendant of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission) and Rev. James Calvert (Wesleyan Methodist Missionary).

From C. Gordon Cumming’s album of watercolour paintings and photographs. Photographers unknown, 1875-77, Fiji. P.98983-P.98991.GCUM