Pacific Scoop

Fiji’s turbulent times inspire women artists for personal responses


By Naomi Singer

Five contemporary artists from Fiji have come together for an exhibition opening tonight in response to Fiji Day, October 10.

Inspired by the turbulent events happening at home, the exhibition “Fiji Times” is a personal response to current issues such as leadership, faith and religion, censorship and militarism, propaganda, love, land and diaspora.

The Fiji Times exhibition, which features Margaret Aull, Filani Macassey, Sangeeta Singh, Luisa Tora and Torika Bolotagici Vetuna runs from October 10 to 14 at The Salon on Karangahape Road in Auckland.

Inspired to make commentary on the current situation in Fiji, the artists have developed experimental works in canvas, paper, tapa and cloth.

Ema Tavola has curated the show and admits the work is politically inspired.

“The artists are able to take advantage of being on the outside, commentating from afar,” she says.

Women artists from Fiji have been asserting their presence in contemporary Pacific art circles, particularly since the “Vasu: Pacific Women of Power” exhibition, held in Suva in September 2008.

Strong network
Based between Melbourne, Waikato and the Auckland region, the five women artists have recently started to work more closely together.

“It’s exciting to have a strong network of Fiji women artists living relatively close by, particularly Luisa and Sangeeta, who have recently relocated to South Auckland from Suva,” says Ema.

The exhibition opening will feature a live performance from Fijian musician Stevie J.

Artists will be present at the exhibition opening and will be at the gallery for the duration of the show. Works are for sale.

“Fiji Times”
Artists: Margaret Aull, Filani Macassey, Sangeeta Singh, Luisa Tora, Torika Bolotagici Vetuna
Curated by: Ema Tavola
Opening: Friday, 9 October, 6pm
Dates: 10 to 14 October, 12pm – 6pm
Venue: The Salon, Level 1, St Kevins Arcade, Karangahape Road, Auckland City

About the Artists:
Margaret Aull
Margaret Aull has paternal links to Fiji and is inspired by both her Fijian and Maori (Te Rarawa, Tuwharetoa) heritage. Margaret received a Bachelor of Media Arts from Waikato Institute of Technology in 2006. She has exhibited extensively in New Zealand since 2005 and most recently held her first solo exhibition entitled Na Kena Yali at Arts Post, Hamilton. Margaret works as the National Arts Registrar at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Te Awamutu.

Filani Macassey
With maternal links to Solodamu, Kadavu, Filani Macassey was born in Suva in 1964, but grew up in Kaikohe in the Far North, New Zealand. Filani holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma of adult learning at Massey University.

Sangeeta Singh
Sangeeta Singh is from Nakelo, Tailevu in Fiji. She is a prose and poetry writer and an amateur photographer. Having trained at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, she uses her art to challenge social constructs such as sexuality, race and gender.

Luisa Tora
Kadavu native, Luisa Tora has spent more time fighting for human rights in Fiji than she has writing or painting. Her proverbial art practice is an extension of her activism. Tora co-curated the Vasu: Pacific Women of Power exhibition in Fiji in 2008 and co-edited the accompanying publication.

Torika Bolatagici Vetuna
Originally from Hobart, Australia, Torika is the daughter of an Australian mother of Anglo-Celtic origin and an Indigenous Fijian father. Her photographic and video work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including in the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Torika is a full-time lecturer at Deakin University, Melbourne and a doctoral candidate in the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics at the College of Fine Arts (University of New South Wales).


  1. Jone Kvie, 9. October 2009, 11:04

    It would have been nice to see some photos of their works, or at least a link to the gallery. Its all very well organising an exhibition from afar as a critique against the “apparent horrors” being committed in Fiji, but the reality is that many people would agree that there has been little change to the daily lives of the people . They still live, eat and work in the same way as they did prior to the events of December 2006. People have an incredible capacity for adapting to change, and Fiji was a country in need of change. Much of the radical change which has occurred has been a result of global economics, which has pushed the price of basic essentials upwards. Debating and worrying about issues such as Democracy, Human Rights and Militarism are wonderful in the abstract, but actually mean very little to people in Fiji – I am quite sure an exhibition such as this held in Fiji would get the short-shrift it deserved from the majority of the population because it is speaking with an inauthentic voice. It is not their voice, it is the voice of ex-residents who pride themselves in running Fiji down. Far from being part of the solution, these ‘so-called artists’ are the problem.

  2. Ema Tavola, 13. October 2009, 19:42

    Thanks Jone for sharing your opinions. It’s a common perception that the modern arts are a frivolous waste of time, I agree in many cases. But in this case, I beg to differ.

    Our website is – the ‘so-called-artists’ are largely qualified, respected, academic, loyal Fiji Islanders who use their visual arts practices not to run down Fiji but to understand, question and explore their personal relationships with Fiji and our political realities, from their positions of living in diaspora.

    Whilst I relocated to New Zealand to further my education and professional development (in the arts), I’m affraid my links to Fiji are inextricable. I know the aunthenticity you speak of, that of pure-blooded, ‘loyal Fijian’ – that of my father, but clearly that is not who I am, and not who I am presuming to be! I have not been raised to think of myself as any less for being kailoma (mixed race Fijian), or for seeking personal and professional development outside of Fiji – so, the authenticity you speak of, is a framework I do not subscribe to.

    I thank you for your feedback though, it is always valuable to be faced with criticism.


    […] angers reader! 13 10 2009 In response to the posting of our media release on Pacific Scoop, a New Zealand based independent news website, a reader named Jone posted […]

  4. Karlo Mila, 13. October 2009, 19:51

    I am not necessarily against all of the change that has happened in Fiji but the tone of your arrogance astounds me. I don’t know how on earth you think you have the right to try and determine who is “authentic” and “inauthentic” but clearly these natives aren’t behaving the way you’d like them to… Your smugness about what you THINK the people of Fiji THINK is frightening and paternalistic. And if what “they” think is so banal and pro-status quo – then why is there is so much censorship trying to shut them up? Maybe you could view the art before leaping to judgement about the art and the artists and their messages. Despite your assertion that democracy and human rights mean very little to people in Fiji (another astounding assumption) – clearly, democracy, human rights and militarism meant something to these Fijians but you’ve done your best to undermine them and attack them as somehow “fake” (???) and unworthy of voice and expression about what is happening in their homeland…. As far as I’m concerned that actually makes YOU a part of the problem.

  5. Margaret Aull, 13. October 2009, 21:26

    This exhibition was never intended to garuntee change for Fiji but to provide a forum for discussion and debate through Art.

    Art is a universal language that expands beyond the debating chambers beyond the shores of Aotearoa and Fiji – the realities of Fiji that you speak of Jone – this is our response and Art is the viechle.

    You do not have the authority to question – nor do we have to validate our heritage of our parents,grandparents to “authenticate” a voice – we are a product of Fiji.

    We will continue to challange the parameters and create work that speak of our truths and our thoughts – Its called freedom of expression.

    This exhibition has set a precedance and has done what it was intended to do – which was to cause a response.

  6. Filani Macassey, 14. October 2009, 0:23

    Please get this right Mr Kvie, I personally DO NOT pride myself in running Fiji down!!! and although I do not wish to be presumptuous and speak for all the artists involved in this exhibition, I can assure you this will be true for them also. And I wonder if you could please explain how democracy and human rights are an ‘abstract’ idea?

  7. Zhou, 14. October 2009, 3:16

    If I may ….”democracy” as a theory of proper rule as devised by the Greeks is infact quite abstract depending on the historical,political cultural dynamics of the country in question …add to this the dynamic of having “democracy” imposed through sanctions and trade barriers makes the concept of democracy jump from abstract to mad ..As for human rights …well no one gives a toss ….Govts either act too late or not at all …( Rwanda)

  8. Zoey Diaz, 26. January 2011, 2:34

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