Fijian in Brisbane // Diasporadic679

Fijian in Brisbane (2011) / Dulcie Stewart.
Fijian tapa, manhole, Hipstamatic iPhone app. Dimensions variable

I’m a product of deserters, mutineers, beachcombers, settlers, migration and colonialism.

My mums dad was born in China and arrived in Fiji in the 1940s and my bubu (grandmother) was from Banikea in Bua (Fiji). My dad’s side is more complex and complicated. On his father’s side he has Fijian, Danish, American, Filipino and Spanish ancestry. On my nana’s side – it’s Fijian, Irish, Irish American, English and Norwegian.

Growing up in Fiji, I was either Part-European, kailoma[1], half-caste, Part-Chinese, a General voter[2], an Other[3]. It wasn’t until I left Fiji for Brisbane in 2005 that I became Fijian.

I’ve always being faced with this question of identity from a young age. I can recall being in primary school and Sr. Anna pulling me aside to ask what race I was – I must have been absent the day she took down statistics that the Ministry of Education collected. I went home that day and asked at the dinner table and all I got were blank looks.

Another incident was the 1986 census. My cousin had filled out Part Chinese as Race for my siblings and I, and Part European for her and her siblings – and I thought to myself, hold on, why am I Part Chinese and you’re Part European?

When I was in high school in Fiji, a friend also asked me if I was Jamaican (I don’t know where she got the idea from) and I just said yes because at that time I didn’t know what ‘race’ I was and it just seemed easier to say yes instead of “No”, followed by a “I don’t know what I am”.

As part of Diasporadic679 with 6 other amazing Fiji artists living in diaspora, my work Fijian in Brisbane is my connection to Fiji and being Fijian in Australia.

Drawing from my i see oceania (http://iseeoceania.tumblr.com/) photo blog, where I document Pacific motifs in my urban environment, this piece pays homage to Fijian tapa motifs and patterns on a woven pandanas mat.

I see patterns of the Pacific in my everyday life and urban landscape. Using Fijian tapa, I outline the geometric lines on a manhole which has Brisbane written on it. When repeated, the image shows a repetition of geometric shapes and lines that can be seen in Fijian tapa motifs and patterns on a woven pandanas mat.

Vinaka to Ema Tavola, Luisa Tora, Sangeeta Singh and Nicole Lim for all their hard work and to Leilani Kake and Rebecca Hobbs for helping out with the installation of the posters.

[1] Kailomas are the descendants of indigenous Fijians and European settlers.

[2] [3]General voter – the voting system in Fiji (pre-coup d’état 2006) was based on ethnicity. You voted according to race, either as an indigenous Fijian or Indo-Fijian. The ‘others’ were bunched together as General Voters. This included ethnic minorities, such as Europeans, Chinese, Banaban Islanders, as well as multiracial people.

DIASPORADIC679

17-25 October 2011
Otahuhu, South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

DIASPORADIC679 is a public exhibition of Fiji artists living in diaspora. Timed to acknowledge Fiji Independence Day and pay homage to the Fiji telephone prefix, +679, the artists reflect on Fiji Islander identity and diaspora experience from seven diverse positions.

All living in diaspora, the artists are Margaret Aull (NZ), Torika Bolatagici (Australia), Tagi Qolouvaki (USA), Sangeeta Singh (NZ), Dulcie Stewart(Australia), Ema Tavola (NZ) and Luisa Tora(NZ).

Collectively, the selected artists’ practices represent investigations into text and urban landscapes, feminism and sexuality, militarism, power and struggle. In the form of posters, the artists’ works are installed in the windows of six venues in and around Otahuhu Town Centre, South Auckland.

DIASPORADIC679 is part of the 2011 Southside Arts Festival.

Browse the DIASPORADIC679 blog or pick up an exhibition catalogue at any of the venues to learn more about the artists and their works and Otahuhu’s cultural landscape, from a Fijian perspective!

Diasporadic679 blog: http://diasporadic679.wordpress.com
Venues: http://diasporadic679.wordpress.com/venues/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diasporadic679/242715675776045
Diasporadic679 crest: http://diasporadic679.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/could-we-be-stauncher/
Southside Arts Festival: http://www.mfa.org.nz/home/

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