Head adornment (ulumate)

Ulumate Vatakei Na Iserusasa Vaka Viti

Written for RAMM by poet Daren Kamali

During periods of mourning or ritual prohibition (tabu), men were sometimes required to shave off their hair in sacrifice. Ulumate (literally ‘dead head’) wigs like this one were worn by high-status individuals until their hair grew back. This example contains hair bleached with coral lime, and is shaped to resemble a rooster’s cockscomb as a symbol of manhood.

 

Ulumate Tabu

Ulu is head

Mate is dead

Tabu is sacred

Ulumate Tabu

Is a sacred tradition of hair cutting ceremony

Celebrated in old times of Nesia,

Mourning

 

In most Pacific cultures especially Fijian

The Ulu is Tabu

Never to be touched unless invited

It is a very respected and sacred part of the body in human nature

In times of old the process of dead dreaded hair together

Was a common ceremony

The Ulumate

Was a result of a special Turaga

Shaving his dreads in mourning

His locks cut and lashed together by magimagi

made from the Qanibulu

Wigs worn by high-status individuals until their hair grew back.

This ulumate mai Viti makawa

shaped to resemble a rooster’s cockscomb as a symbol of manhood.

Old hair weaved together and bleached with coral lime

Adorned upon fighting warrior/ wig worn normally by Tuis or Ratus

Tui Cakau in ancient Melanesia

Ulumate can also be worn as a disguise

To distract the intense attention of initiation

The late Tui Cakau, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau

Wore this similar Ulumate in Cakaudrove

The eight point star

All the way from Somosomo to Suva City

It is sometimes worn on the head of the tamata

While his hair grows back

When not worn the Ulumate is stored

inside – out

 

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*Footnotes/translations from Baun Fijian

Ulumate: Chiefly or Warrior wig

Iserusasa: Fijian Comb

Ulu: Hair or head

Tabu: Sacred

Qanibulu: Coconut husk

Magimagi: Lashing using coconut fibre

Mai Viti Makawa: From Ancient Fiji

Turaga: Man

Tamata: Person

Tui: King

Ratu Levu: High Chief

Cakaudrove or Somosomo: Villages/islands in Fiji

Kai Viti: Fijian

Seru: To comb

Iserukau: Wooden Fijian comb

Niu: Coconut

Vale: House

Matavuvale: Family