Supporting local film makers, artists and writers
There is no denying that over the years we have witnessed the immense talent and sheer creativity of student film makers who produce short films that are part of the Kula Film Awards. I have been impressed with the succinct scripts that are written, the creativity in the way films are shot from different angles and the ingenuous editing techniques. One of the positive benefits is that these films with social themes of bullying, interpersonal conflicts, climate change, for example, are extended into social media narratives.
It is good news that under the 2017 – 2018 National Budget, Fijian youths can access $350,000 to make a movie, publish a book and engage in other forms of art. This is a great incentive to help budding film makers and writers to achieve their goals. Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said that Government was keen to support local movie producers and writers. He explained that this initiative would increase creativity for individuals who are passionate about filming movies and writing books. “We have a lot of people for example people who write novels or story books but they don’t have the initial funding to get it printed; we can help them.” He said that those wishing to explore film making could also access this fund.
VOU dance group performs internationally
Already there is buzz from young film makers thinking of developing longer works and I expect to organize a meeting later this month to discuss script writing and film making.
The rest of this article looks at the local expressive arts scene.
Small community of dedicated artists
There is already a small community of dedicated expressive artists who produce noteworthy paintings, local apparel design and contemporary dances. There is sometimes a perception that art is not newsworthy hence the lack of publicity in the media. It does not help that artists are by nature humble, introverted and prefer to work in relative anonymity.
It is good news that there is a new art gallery in Suva called 21K. In May it exhibited the art works of young talented painters like William Bakalevu, Mason James Lee, Waqa Vuidreketi, Anare Somumu and Josua Toganivalu. The gallery under the directorship of William Toganivalu secured sponsorships from 3 companies and the Department of Culture, Heritage and Arts. The gallery plans a solo exhibition this month by the Gandhi of local art, Lambert Ho.
Local companies supporting art
Local businesses can do more to promote art. Globally, art works are seen as investments and our local artists can develop truly unique Fijian styles that can compete in the global market place. These art forms can be experiment with mixed art, hand-painted fashion, sculpture and recyclable art, for example. In an interview with a local paper, Lambert Ho noted that there is potential in the art industry in Fiji for young and budding artists. “You can earn a lot of money from it, being your own boss, but you’ve got to find your own leash and you got to find your own style. Ho has also worked with the Yellow Ribbon Project to promote art therapy.
More local companies should follow the example of the ANZ Fashion ATMs. This initiative is part of a broader partnership between ANZ and the Fashion Council of Fiji to help link local designers to business opportunities. The 6 ATM designs have featured Mr Hupfeld Hoerder a local designer of Rotuman-German decent. His designs promote a strong sense of the Pacific, incorporating culture, identity and heritage. Other ATMs have featured local artists like Samson Lee, Ilai Tokoiono, Robert Kennedy, and Epeli Tuibeqa.
Contemporary Dance and Music Scene
Fiji is home to dance groups and bands that produce a vibrant mix of sounds and movements. The overwhelming public support of the inaugural Thurston Food and Music Festival is a positive sign that there is tremendous interest in the local music scene. It was good to see many children, youths, adults and senior citizens patronizing the event. Up and coming artists and bands that participated included Inoke Kalounisiga better known as Knox, Talei and Nem, Moana Loa, Sam Stevens, Nasio Domoni, Via Ni Tebara, Laisa Vulakoro, Seru Serevi, Drixstar, The Relativ, Tom Mawi, Inside Out and Tiki Taane. It was affirming to see 7 corporate sponsors and local media support.
One group that participated VOU dance group has gained international prominence for taking Fiji’s rich narratives and culture to the wider world. They use live music and dance. VOU (meaning new) integrates traditional story-telling through contemporary dance and music. The group is made up of a multi cultural group of talented young people and do research to discover more about their heritage and roots. They have performed at events and festivals throughout the world including Asia and Europe
Another Fiji based group with an international platform is Rako Pasefika. They started off as a dance group that drew attention through their high energy performances. They have branched out into fashion design, mentoring and guiding Pacific artists towards their full potential. They also provide consultancies, research and project management services. The group is led by Letila Mitchell renowned for her expertise in the Pacific creative and cultural industries.
Apart from the prolific internationally renowned writer Dr Satendra Nandan, the Fijian writing scene appears dormant. It is a constructive start that award winning writer Professor Subramani had plans to bring together established and budding young writers at the University of Fiji. It is quite a paradox that Fiji, the hub of the Pacific and a country with a very colorful history, has not been able to produce more writers of international standing. Two young pioneering writers who have published their works on amazon.com are the eminent journalists and diplomat Josua Tuwere and FNU Lecturer Jese Temo. Tuwere’s book written in the form of a long narrative epic poem is Selo! Selo! Selo! A Pacific Odyssey. It is the story of Saunivanua, a Fijian warrior and the history of his clan. It traces the history of his existence through tales of conflict, displacement and love. Drawing from Pacific and Christian epistemological frameworks, the poem infuses Fijian, Tongan and English concepts of journey and identity. Temo’s book of short stories and poems, Other Side of Paradise gives a glimpse into what it is like to grow up in the iTaukei culture that has produced some of the world's best combat soldiers and rugby players.
I understand that the iTaukei Trust Fund Board produces literary works in the vernacular and and I gather that the Retired Fijian Teachers Association have plans to encourage their members to produce literary works in the iTaukei language.
It appears that a lot of creative works are being produced locally. However creative artists by nature tend to be humble and shun publicity. They now need to come out of their artistic cocoons and learn to market their works. Local newspapers and TV stations should consider featuring local poems and short stories especially in the weekend editions including sections on local books, art, music reviews and interviews.