The Daubati

by Mara Mahoney

She is ancient, this woman.
Lines cover her body.
Some the result of time
and others etched onto her skin from a time long ago.
I can barely tell them apart.

She studies my body,
stretching my skin in every direction,
marking it out with soot.
Each measurement must be exact
so my body will grow into the marks she has placed.

Davo! She commands.
I lay back on the mat.
I feel warm hands on my body.
The hands wipe me clean.
They hold my skin in position

The daubati begins.
Ash, mixes with water, mixes with blood,
I want to scream.
Again and again the iqia pierces my skin.

Around me the women begin to sing.

They sing of the past
of how our ancestors came to this place.
They sing of the present
of our connection to the land and sea.
They sing of the future
of a young girl becoming a woman, a wife, a mother.

And as they sing the daubati works,
never pausing or wavering.
Each tap in time to each word being sung
as if transcribing them onto my skin.

After what seems like an eternity,
everything stops.
No singing.
No tapping.
Just silence.

The daubati speaks.

“Yadra mai!”
Wake up!
“Iko sa marama”
You are a woman now.


Mara Mahoney was born and raised in Fiji. She is of Fijian, Yapese and Irish descent. She is a Pacific Island major and a strong interest of hers is art as used in Oceanic societies as a means of communication.

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