Fijian fans are called iri and there are many types, sizes and purposes around Fiji’s diverse chiefdoms. The common ones found at any wood stove in villages is made from coconut fronts. These ones are rough in texture as they were created for stoking fires. Then there are the iri masei fans made from the Niu Sakiki plant (Arecaceae) whose broad leaves produce a fan that can be used as a shade (viu), for fanning and also a meke (traditional dance) accessory.
Given the numerous fans from the traditional chiefdoms, there is one fan that needs special mention. It is called the iribuli and is woven at a tiny clan called Nasaumatua on the village of Daku, on eastern mainland Vitilevu.
According to folklore, the people of Daku originally came from the highlands of Lovoni in Ovalau (where the old capital is). In their migration for a new place to settle, they were assisted by the Bauan warlord Naulivou Radomodomo Ramatenikutu who was the warlord of Bau Island from 1803 – 1829. Naulivou assisted the Nasaumatua people by acquiring land for them to settle and they called their village Daku in memory of their ancestral clan name in Lovoni (they still settle live in Daku today). As part of their eternal gratitude, the Daku elders vowed fealty to the Bau warlords and created the iribuli from young coconut fronds as a show of this gratitude. It is said that the art of weaving the iribuli cannot ever leave Daku village. Women who marry into the village and clan pick up the art, whereas women from Daku who marry outside the clan lose the skill and memory. In the early 80s, the then Bau Warlord who was also Fiji’s first local governor general Ratu Sir George Kadavulevu Cakobau chanced to visit Daku village and saw the villagers cutting mangroves to sell as firewood for a fundraiser. The villagers had initially refused to sell the iribuli to earn money until the Bauan Warlord specifically gave them permission to do so. The rest as they say is history for one can find the iribuli around the world today.