Nov 26, 2020 Last Updated 11:55 PM, Nov 25, 2020

The arts have clearly shaped Fiji’s trajectory these last 50 years but have the arts and our creative industries been afforded agency to flourish and continue their critical role in nation-building and nurturing? Have we as a nation done enough to protect and support it as an essential element of our society? The arts, regardless of its form, gives soul to our existence, encoding our identity and way of life, recording the present while nourishing our collective memory.

Historians estimate that the Fiji Islands were not peopled until some 3500 years ago. The ancestors of the Fijians were referred to as Lapita people, because of their distinctive pottery. Subsequent tracing and archaeological forays in Fiji have, without fail, revealed some of the most intricate and decorated pottery shards and jewellery.

In 1953, Paul Wingert wrote in Art of the South Pacific Islands: “Oceania art reveals a close relationship between form and content, so close in fact that some knowledge of its cultural background is necessary before it can be understood. It was indeed one of the basic facets of their culture and was closely interrelated with their social customs, religious beliefs and economic practices”.

Creativity in our nation-building decades

There is purpose in our creations. Artisans borrow from a collective memory which they themselves then enrich with their own transfer of knowledge and skills. Our chants and dance, our taboos and even in traditional sports: learning and knowledge transfer was key to our survival. Implicit in creations are beneficiaries, for whom the use of a bowl or a mat with distinct design, speaks of a moment in a personal journey or of an extension of important relationships.

Our creations are of great value, our wealth, iyau, albeit opposed to the largely held views of the arts as aesthetics or simply decorative. The arts regardless of form, is fundamentally a story, it gives voice to life experiences and are indicators of intent, in politics or in the personal. The creative industry gave and continues to give voice to the imagination. It interprets life, living, people and situations. Our creative industry records our present, with all its angst and joy: without it, we lose our stories and much more.

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Winds of change in the isles

This is Part One of a three-part series on a Pacific family’s survival and dream to revive ancient canoe technology as a cultural tourism venture. It is a story of despair, wonder and pride for the ocean and holds answers for the future.

JIMIONE Paki was 71 when he decided to do something for his children and grandchildren. His children had moved from the island of Moce in Lau to the city to study and work.

Life was tough on the island. His village of Korotolu was fast emptying. The young were moving to Viti Levu, leaving the elderly like him behind in their search for a better life in the fast-growing capital Suva.

It was in the ‘80s and early ’90s and the people of Lau were the leaders in Fiji’s urban drift. The furthest islands in the Fiji archipelago, Lau was investing in the education of its children and quality education was then only available in urban centres. Jimione’s wife was from the neighbouring island of Ogea and they had 16 children.

He sent some of them to the mainland on Viti Levu where they were educated and found work.

But with no home of their own in Suva, he worked hard to secure a place that his kin of Korotolu could call their own.

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2000 take part in traditional extravaganza

The true spirit of Melanesian cultural identity has again been invigorated, fostered and enhanced at the 5th Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture staged from 28th June to 11th July in Papua New Guinea. The two weeks of cultural events, which have been held concurrently in Port Moresby, Kokopo, Mt Hagen and Wewak, have achieved more than just sharing of the diversity of the cultural heritage of the Melanesian countries. The festivities ensured enjoyment and maximum outcomes for all participants through the exchange of gifts, knowledge and mutual friendship. More than 2000 participants from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and for the first time ever - groups from West Papua, Timor-Leste and Torres Strait in Australia exhibited and shared their cultural dances, traditions, and art and craft over the two weeks. The festival has been described as the biggest event ever organised by any one country within the Melanesian Spearhead Group with many sacred and unique traditional dances from the region being displayed - some for the first time in public. You might think that the best casino is where the biggest payouts are, right? Wrong! The decision about where you want to play should be based on many different things so that your initial gaming experience is a success. Moreover, choosing the wrong online casino can lead to dangerous consequences. https://casinobonusesfinder.ca/online-casinos/captain-cooks-casino To help you find reliable online casinos and make the best choice, we have identified the most important points that you should pay attention to. A great way to find out if a particular casino is good or not is to read online reviews and recommendations.

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After 136 years, the skull of chief Ataï has come home. In a moving ceremony in Paris, the remains of this 19th century Kanak warrior have been returned to New Caledonia. On August 28, France’s Overseas Minister George Pau-Langevin, Kanak chief Bergé Kawa and a crowd of descendants and dignitaries attended a ceremony at the Natural History Museum in Paris.

The French state transferred the remains of Ataï and his companion “the sorcerer”, who were killed during a Kanak revolt in 1878. After Ataï’s death, he was beheaded, with the head preserved in a bottle and transferred to the Anthropological Society of Paris.

After examination of his brain, the skull was stored away. Transferred in 1951 to the Museum of Man, it was not revealed again until July 2011. During a 2013 visit to New Caledonia, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault responded to the Kanak call for the repatriation of Ataï’s skull: “The position of the French state is clear - this relic must be returned to New Caledonia and it will be returned.” Ataï has long served as a symbol of Kanak nationalism. Today, images of the warrior chief can be found as graffiti on the walls of Noumea or decorating the T-shirts of young Kanaks, alongside rebels like Eloi Machoro, the Kanak leader shot down by French police in 1985.

After colonisation in 1853, New Caledonia served as a penal colony, with France exiling over 20,000 prisoners to the other side of the globe. After popular revolts in Paris and Algeria in 1871, the survivors of the Paris Commune and Kabyle rebels from the Sahara were also transported to the South Pacific. 

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Russian play was a big hit

The erosion of tradition. The breakup of families. The destruction of an ancient, longstanding community. Passionate politics. Music that captures the soul. The struggle to make ends meet. Just another day in the Marshall Islands? No, this is the 1905 village of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia and the story that gripped Majuro audiences was the latest play directed by Professor Andrew Garrod of Dartmouth College and Youth Bridge Global, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The stage production involved over 40 actors mostly from Majuro high schools, playing to thousands over five nights in early March. The many obvious and subtle parallels with modern-day Marshall Islands gave Fiddler extra meaning to Marshall Islands audiences. With the exception of the songs, which were sung in their original English, all dialogue was in Marshallese language.

This was the tenth play Garrod has directed in Majuro since 2004 — eight have been Shakespeare plays and last year’s and this year’s musicals — and possibly the last as Dartmouth College is ending its 15-year sponsorship of a very successful volunteer teaching programme in the Marshalls. Dartmouth, under Garrod’s leadership, began bringing a group of seven-to-ten Dartmouth students to Majuro for a ten-week teaching programme, allowing them to get real-world experience under the guidance of experienced local teachers.

Enthusiasm for the undergraduate programme generated a spinoff program of Dartmouth graduates being hired by the Ministry of Education to staff local elementary and high schools since the early 2000s. Garrod launched his first Shakespeare production in 2004 in an environment where just about no one had a clue what he was up to. “The students had never seen or been in a play,” he said. They didn’t have a clue what it took to make it happen and this meant Garrod was challenged to keep their attention at the daily practices. “I had to station a Dartmouth football player at the door to prevent the students from leaving the rehearsals.” That first year was an eye-opener for the performers as well as the audiences, building momentum for the plays that have become a much-anticipated community event in March.

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