Exhibition 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 this:

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.

In response, curator Ema Tavola posted:

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 http://FijiTimes.wordpress.com – 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.

In response, Karlo Mila posted:

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.

In response, artist Margaret Aull posted:

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.




2 responses

14 10 2009

Jone, you have also painted a picture that is telling us about Fiji and it is also your own view of how you see your homeland. These Fijian people here in Aotearoa are also giving their diverse viewpoints. On the issue of authentic people from Fiji they will always’, and forever will be equal to you on that score! I will never know why people like you and with a European name are quick to cast your own blood out of the waka.
You tell us that your people still live, eat and work in the same way. I am saddened to hear this because if the people wanted change prior to 2006, you are telling us that nothing has changed for them.
I know an amazing Fijian woman who lives in Aotearoa. She tells me of the lives of her grandmother and grandfather, aunts, uncles and kids every time she goes home to Fiji. She knows when she is home when she buries her feet into the sand and her soul comes back to rest until she is forced to leave them and make her way in the world. What gives you the right to deny her voice and ownership of those ties to her homeland and people?

17 10 2010
Toni Fortune

As an indigenous New Zealander living in Australia I often pause to consider how my cultural uniqueness is changing. Perhaps it is true to say that, on some levels it grows as I learn about another culture its people and practices. Their histories, challenges and concerns. On other levels it is diminishing, my language unused, my customs not practiced, my grieving unshared. I wonder if, my contribution is valued and question at times what it is. There may not be an answer and although much may erode, I will always be Maori and have a home in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Strangely the longer I live away, the more NZ I feel. I would be saddened and feel betrayed if my voice was not heard by my fellow countrymen and whanaunga how ever long my absence.

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