Roko Tui Bau

Turaga na Roko Tui Bau is a vassal chief to the Vunivalu of Bau, Paramount Chief of the Kubuna Confederacy.[1]

From his seat at the chiefly residence of Naicobocobo, the Roko Tui Bau is Suzerain of the Vusaratu chiefs which include the Roko Tui Viwa, Roko Tui Kiuva, Tui Nuku and has special relationships with the related titles of Roko Tui Dreketi, Ratu Mai Verata, Roko Tui Namata, Roko Tui Veikau, Tui Vuya and many other chiefly titles in Fiji's Chiefly Households.

The succession to the title does not follow primogeniture, but the candidate must be a high-ranking member of the Vusaratu clan. Although the Roko Tui Bau is technically a subordinate chief, the selection process is completely independent of the Vunivalu and his Tui Kaba clan.


The Vunivalu was not always the senior Chieftain in Kubuna and Bau. The title was considered subordinate to the Roko Tui Bau.[2][3] Power struggles between the various chiefly households came to a head with the exile of the Vunivalu Tanoa Visawaqa in the early 19th century after a series of murders and reprisals.[2][4] His son Seru Epenisa Cakobau however was allowed to remain in Bau during his fathers exile. Cakobau gained power by subverting the Lasakau people to plot and execute the overthrow of the ruling group, led by Ratu Ravulo Vakayaliyalo, in 1837; Seru Epenisa Cakobau then reinstated his father as ruler.[5]

After the expulsion of the tokatoka Vuaniivi, they re-established themselves at Vanua Balavu as the Rasau line of chiefs of Lomaloma.

The leadership of the Mataqali Vusaratu and that of the wider Vusaratu chieftains was reestablished under a new dynasty led by the Tokatoka Nacokadi. To cement this relationship, Cakobau took two of the new Roko Tui Bau's daughters as wives: Adi Salote Qalirea Kaunilotuma and Adi Litia Samanunu.

A third dynasty was established when the title passed to Ratu Dr. Jione Atonio Rabici Doviverata, by blood a scion of the Tui Kaba, the chiefly clan of the Vunivalu of Bau but traditionally adopted as heir by the previous title-holder.

Ratu Dovi's eldest son, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, who served as a High Court judge, Vice-President of Fiji, and Chief Justice of Nauru succeeded him when his father passed.

On the 29th of September 2016, the "Turaga na Roko Tui Bau" Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi passed away after a short illness.

The legacy left by Ratu Joni was typical of a true Bauan chief as the soft spoken and humble chief commanded the respect of his fellow chiefs, colleagues, family and the vanua.

As of November 2016 there has been no official word of a successor pending official talks in the "Vusaratu" clan but Ratu Joni's younger brother, Ratu Timothy Tavanavanua is believed to be the most likely candidate.

Origins in Folklore & Early Recorded History

The ancestral Chief Vuetiverata, more commonly remembered as simply Vueti[6] (aliases Koroi-Ratu mai Bulu, Serui-Ratu mai Bulu) was the first Roko Tui Bau and according to legend he was the grandson of Lutunasobasoba. The title derived from the name of a shrine in the Nakauvadra hill range in the province of Ra

Nakauvadra Mountains 1860


Kubuna is known as a confederacy or Matanitu in modern Fiji but in pre-colonial times Kubuna was a physical location. It was at Kubuna that the Kingdom of the same name was first established by several groups migrating out of Nakauvadra.

Vueti founded one of the earliest known Fijian settlements after hostilities with the people of Nakauvadra had ceased. Initially at Nayavu, in Wainibuka (although at the time it was considered part of Verata). From there some moved to Moturiki and the rest to Moala.

The Moturiki group were direct lineal descendants of Vueti's three sons. They became the three Tokatoka of Vuaniivi, Nacokadi and Nadruguca and comprised the Mataqali Vusaratu and were the first to settle at Kubuna. Vueti is buried at Kubuna in a mound called Tabukasivi, and was deified and became the ancestral god of the people of Kubuna, they worshiped him in the form of a serpent. After his death a division arose over the installation of a successor to Vueti. Eventually a new Roko Tui Bau, Ratu Serumataidrau, was selected from the Vuaniivi, which was the senior line.[7]

Those that went to Moala travelled considerably more and were led by lineal descendants of Roko Nadurucoko and therefore claimed collateral descent from Vueti. They dispersed to Totoya and even to Tonga. Some returned and they gathered once again first at Verata then at Nayavu (second time). From there they split, one group left Nayavu to settle at Kaba peninsula, they took the name Tui Kaba. The second group called the Vunivalu continued travelling first to Viria, before ending up at Ovea.[8]

All groups acknowledged the Roko Tui Bau as paramount but due to their separation, they were quite independent as well. At some point, the Roko Tui Bau settled on the island called Ulunivuaka that was already home to the Butoni and Levuka people [9] The island was renamed Bau in honour of the Roko Tui Bau. The Vusaratu and the Tui Kaba, together with their warriors of the Vusaradave were the first to settle the island, the Butoni were expelled to resettle at Namacu in Koro. The Levuka remained and served as fisherfolk and navy, moving to the hill on the center of the island to leave the more desirable spots to their social betters.[10] This was probably allowed because as a tribe recently settled on the coast, they were distrustful of the sea.

In 1760, legend has it that the Vunivalu people found that the Levuka were keeping the choicest seafood and deepsea fish for themselves and presenting smaller specimens for the Sevu or tribute. In retaliation, Nailatikau, chief of the Tokatoka Vunivalu promptly expelled the Butoni (who eventually settled at Lakeba). In the same move, he took the additional name Nadurucoko established himself as the first Vunivalu of Bau or secular chief, reunifying the two groups that had originally split at Moala and aggregating to himself the title of Tui Kaba, much to the chagrin of the latter as they were the senior line of Nadurucoko I.[11][12][13]

The Roko Tui Bau was now a spiritual leader and considered sacred, temporal power had shifted to the Vunivalu.

Nailatikau was succeeded by Banuve, who in the 30 years as Vunivalu, reclaimed wide areas of the adjacent reef flats and built up stone docks and sea walls. He allowed new fisherfolk from Beqa and Kadavu to settle on the island and establish the villages of Lasakau and Soso. Those of Lasakau were the core of the new Bauan navy.[14]

Banuve was succeeded by his son Naulivou (literally a new oar) who enjoyed yet another long reign spanning nearly 30 years. This long period of stability facilitated the rapid rise of Bau.

The Roko Tui Bau Raiwalui chafed in the restrainsts of priestly duty and wished more direct control. He was eventually expelled from Bau and eventually killed at sea near Vanua Balavu by Naulivou's younger brother, Tanoa Visawaqa.

The entire Vuaniivi was eventually exiled and Nacokadi became the ruling Tokatoka.

Tanoa was the father of Cakobau, the Vunivalu who eventually wrested absolute control and relegated the new Roko Tui Bau from Nacokadi to an exalted position as Spiritual Supreme Chief, Roko Tui Bau na Turaga Levu (lit. Roko Tui Bau the Great Lord) who only he could approach with any ease. This effectively ended all further ambitions by removing him entirely from the secular power structure.

This left the title with much esteem and prestige but little real power except over his direct subordinates.

See also


  1. The Fijians - Page 62, 1908.
  2. 1 2 Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as culture and Vice Versa – pages 27, 52, 63, 162, 198, 211, 216, 233, 249,
  3. Fiji’s Heritage a history of Fiji by Kim Gravelle reprinted under its new name in 2000 it was originally published as Fiji Times a history of Fiji in 1979. ISBN 982-214-001-0, Published by Tiara enterprises Nadi, Part 10 Page 44 – reference to Paper by Deve Toganivalu documenting Bauan pre-history and the superiority of the Roko Tui Bau as supreme Chief of Bau and the Vunivalu as his second.
  4. Oceania By University of Sydney, Australian National Research Council - 1930, Ratu Tanoa and the battle at Lomaloma secures his supremacy
  5. Tukutuku, Raraba, History of Bau
  6. Tukutuku Raraba – History of Bau
  7. Ai Tukutuku Kei Viti - By Rev. Epeli Rokowaqa
  8. Na Sala Vakavanua: A Study in Fijian Ethnology and Customs, unpublished paper, 1942
  9. A History of Fiji ,Chapter 4 Page 54 and 55
  10. Waterhouse, Joseph (1997). The king and people of Fiji. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. p. 23. ISBN 0824819209.
  11. Derrick, R.A. (1946). "V". A History of Fiji. Suva: Government Press. pp. 53–55.
  12. Lester, R. H. (December 1941). "Kava Drinking in Viti Levu, Fiji". Oceania.
  13. Waterhouse, Joseph (1997). The king and people of Fiji. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. p. 29. ISBN 0824819209.
  14. Waterhouse, Joseph (1997). The king and people of Fiji. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. p. 24. ISBN 0824819209.


External links

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