Economic Botany

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 291–296 | Cite as

Traditional use ofCurcuma Longa (Zingiberaceae) in Rotuma

  • Will Mcclatchey


The ritual production and usage of the powder produced from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa L., on the tropical Polynesian island of Rotuma, prior to European contact was integral in every aspect of life, from birth to death and possibly held religious significance. The orange powder called “mena” was formerly produced on a large scale involving entire villages and several months of preparation. The mena (dry powder) and a paint (powder mixed with coconut oil) were used medicinally both internally and externally. The powder was sprinkled on the shoulders of dancers while performing the traditional dance called the maka. This usage is the only tradition involving mena which is still widely practiced, although it has been modified with the substitution of imported Gucci powder from Europe. Possible cultural implications of the substitution and subsequent loss of this traditional plant product are discussed.

Key Words

Curcuma longa Polynesia Rotuma tumeric 

E at mot meamea het on asa Rotuma famori garua ak ti pgu mena, ka fafisi kat semente surum ra se gtmotq. Mena ne e oit on asa raga (Curcuma longa L.)

E at mot meamea het on asa Rotuma famori garua ‘ak ti’ pau mena, ka fafisi kat semente

surum ra se atmota. Mena ne e oit on asa raga (Curcuma longa L.) E on mumua, famori re meanta ti’ pau. Famor atakoa ne pure’agta tau ä’ roa ne au het ne iris la re meanta la haitauag ma siau. Mena famori game ’ak la vai mamosa ne hoisoliag ma lolo. Vaite, la pou la iom ne la sarau’ak se ’ou ’uli. Mena, famori garua’ak e on mumua hön se agfak rotu ma te la sui’akia e la bag ne puk heteis. Mena la tu se uam on famori ’e av ne iris makmaka, ma te es ao het ne famori po ma garua ’ak meanta, ka ’e on i’i iris garua ’ak Gucci powder (kefkefa) e Europa (hanua fifisi). Puk hete’is lafeag ’ak av het ne famori kamat, la ma ’ak oris aga ma ’on es ne vaite.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Will Mcclatchey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Range ScienceBrigham Young UniversityProwUSA

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