Talanoa: Sisi FIJI

SiSi FIJI’s collections of exquisite necklaces, earrings and accessories are inspired by the traditional Fijian adornment sisi.

Re-working the traditional art form of sisi making, SiSi FIJI translates these methods by weaving precious gemstones and crystals into unique contemporary pieces of jewellery.

 SiSi FIJI are an Australian based mother and daughter design team, made up of Manu Godward and her daughter Belinda Godward. Born and raised in Nasaqalau village in Lakeba, Fiji, Manu designs and makes all the unique pieces from SiSi FIJI’s collection. One of her great joys is translating the sisi skills of the Nasaqalau women into a contemporary adornment.

Belinda deals with the business side of things as well as sources and seeks out the creative inspirations for her mother. I talanoa with Belinda more about Sisi FIJI.

Tell us a little about SisiFIJI and how it started
SiSi FIJI has been a ‘work in progress’ for about 5yrs now. A year ago Mum (Manu Godward) and I thought we would take it to the next level…creating an online e-commerce site to showcase and promote the essence of the sisi making skills, as a contemporary fashion item. It began with just our necklaces and then branched out to earrings and scarfs. The creative process does lead you to places you never dream of being, that’s the beauty of it.

We are a mother and daughter design team, Nau (Mum) constructs all our unique pieces by hand and I source and seek out the creative inspirations for her work, and deal with the business and online part of the brand.

Your jewellery lines are based on traditional adornment methods and/or materials, what is the relationship between traditional and contemporary jewellery for you?
The design aesthetic and process for SiSi FIJI is deeply entrenched in the making of a Fijian sisi, notably the sisi ni Nasaqalau, on the island of Lakeba where Mum is from. The sisi in Fiji is a traditional garland and an iconic symbol that is adorned to celebrate and acknowledge milestones in an individual’s life. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, homecomings, etc. Constructed by the women with flowers and masi they are unique and are a gift to the wearer. SiSi FIJI has taken the traditional design and instead of flowers we use semi-precious gemstones, freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystals, with a colourful selection of seed and glass beads.

I like to think we have taken a traditional icon and given it a modern twist that will appeal to a global marketplace. Our earrings and scarfs are just an extension of that embracing the colours and richness of the Pacific.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration when beginning a new piece?
The creative inspiration for both of us always has us going back to country Fiji, as we are based in Australia. We are always searching for ideas for our accessories and currently working on a line of flax bouquets, which had an amazing response, when we floated the idea on our Facebook page. Hopefully they will work beautifully with our SiSi FIJI Bridal 2013 collection we are working on.

What challenges have you faced, and what advice would you have for aspiring Pacific designers/artists/crafts people?
Building a brand and an online space for SiSi FIJI has been an amazing experience. A year in the making collaborating trans Pacifically, as all our web programming and artwork has been done by Webmedia Fiji, the photography by Adi Nacola of Grasskirt Photography.

It was very important for me, as the Creative Director to have the essence of Fiji throughout the website. It was tireless and I surrounded myself with likeminded creative people…some I even stalked to be part of this, like Mario Basilio. His contribution the Mario File, is going to be a great quirky addition. For other Pacific crafts people…you have to love what you do every day and stay absolute in your pursuit of recognition.

You have your own website and a Facebook page – the Internet has seemingly made it easier for artists, writers and musicians to share their work with the world. Do you think the Internet has created possibilities for Pacific artists and should they take advantage of it?
Absolutely the digital age is here and it’s such an organic process…ever changing and exciting. If you have something to say as an Artist, Writer or Musician then the online platform can reach so many people. It’s a wonderful alternative to a ‘bricks and water’ storefront shop. It also connects you to such inspiring people from around the globe, without leaving your house…amazing!

If you could collaborate with creative person, who would you choose and why?
On our bucket list this year is an extensive trip to the Rewa Delta in Ra, we are both a little obsessed with the traditional pottery making skills there. Hoping to see if we could make some beads from this traditional skill, and then work them into our 2013 range, finger crossed.

What are you currently working on and future goals?
On the ‘to do list’ is our bridal range of necklaces and flax bouquets. Also the pottery making trip, as we are constantly striving to push the boundaries of tradition and modernity, fusing the past with the future….it’s where the SiSi FIJI magic happens we believe.

Vinaka Belinda! Can’t wait to see more of SiSi FIJI’s new collection for 2012.

SiSi FIJI on the Kokonut wireless:

SiSi FIJI: http://www.sisifiji.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SisiFiji

Interview conducted via email July, 2012. All images courtesy of Belinda Godward.

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