Fiji is governed by a military regime and suffers from a slow-growing economy. Nonetheless, a significant emphasis is placed on cultural heritage, and the Ministry of Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts (DNCHA) has benefited from an increased budget in 2012.
The DNCHA administers annual grants to the Fiji Museum and the Fiji Arts Council (FAC), the two primary government-backed sponsors of the arts. The FAC coordinates Fiji’s participation at regional and international festivals, sending a 100-plus delegation this year to the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara, Solomon Islands (7/1–14). The Fiji Museum in the capital Suva hosted John Bryan Mausio’s brightly colored paintings at its temporary exhibition space in “Who Will Fight for Me” (6/13).
While visual-arts degrees are not offered at Fiji’s universities, academic institutions contribute resources to the regional and local arts community. An offshoot of the University of the South Pacific, the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies (OCACPS) promotes cultural exchange and critical discourse throughout the region. Of the six exhibitions held in 2012 at OCACPS’s newly opened exhibition space, Gallery of Oceanian Art, the highlight, “Secrets” (11/8–12/14), featured original members of the Red Wave collective.
The DNCHA relaunched the annual National Art Exhibition (11/19–24), displaying more than 70 artworks by 34 local artists at the Ratu Iloilo Gallery on Fiji National University’s Raiwai campus. The showcase, which began in 1975, was discontinued in 2009 due to lack of funds. At the opening, Alifereti Malai was awarded the USD 2,500 first prize.
The majority of Fiji’s contemporary art scene is driven by two NGOs: the Suva-based network Pacific Arts Alliance (PaCaa) and charity organization Creativiti Art Centre. PaCaa maintains the Fiji Centre for the Arts in Suva, housing the administrative offices of FAC as well as artist studios and an exhibition space. The CreatiVITI Art Centre, in Martintar, Nadi, hosts bimonthly exhibitions and workshops, while the Western Arts & Crafts Society is a support group for local artists. Another local mainstay, the Tokani Art Agency, lacking its own exhibition space, organizes quarterly shows throughout the islands.
Fijian artists are active abroad. For the Asia Pacific Triennial (12/8–4/14/13) in Brisbane, Melbourne-based Torika Bolatagici worked with I-Kiribati poet Teresia Teaiwa and Samoan-New Zealander Mathew Hunkin on the multimedia project Disarmed (2012), which addresses the history of militarization in the Pacific. Bolatagici also exhibited alongside Samoan diaspora artists Chantal Fraser, Chuck Feesago and Greg Semu at “So Fukin Native” (9/27–10/13), a group show of nine Australian Aboriginal and Pacific Islander artists at Blak Dot Gallery. For the South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit, Pacific-arts advocate Ema Tavola curated the group show “WWJD” (5/11–6/23) at Fresh Gallery Otara, which included works by Vinesh Kumaran and Sangeeta Singh. Irami Buli and Josua Toganivalu participated in “Pacific Voices” (7/3–21) at Auckland’s Orexart Gallery. Collaged imagery from the Fiji Museum’s collection will feature in an upcoming solo show, “Concealed Ancestors,” in January at Papakura Art Gallery, Auckland, by Waikato-based Margaret Aull, an artist of Fijian heritage.