Reviving Ancient Art in Fiji

I recently came across an interesting article form the Fiji Times Online about Amelia Lesumai and her hand-made items which she sells at the Fiji Museum. From small intricate bowls, earrings and necklaces to replicas of Fijian artifacts such as that of the saqamoli or traditional Fijian drinking vessel, Amelia has created beautiful intricate designs on them. “I learnt this art from my aunt back in 1980,” she said. “I was a young mother then. It has helped put food on the table and supplement our family income.”

Lesumai’s village is Nasilai and is about a 40 minutes drive east of Suva. The village is well known for making terracotta pottery or baked earth. It is an ancient Fijian craft that continues to this day in certain villages around Fiji.

While the large pots are far from being refined, it is in their very earthy unpretentiousness that their charm lies. They are made in the way of the ancients, without even the aid of a wheel and takes extraordinary patience and skill.

Amelia has branched out from the usual pots and earthenware to making necklaces and figurines of turtles, frogs and so on. “I just sold a large saqamoli sculpture for $250,” she said proudly. “It is good money and I’m glad that people appreciate our work.”

However, the 68-year-old laments the loss of this art among the younger generation. She said the young people in her village had moved away to pursue education and have married or settled down. “Our indigenous young people are too engrossed with modern technologies and their jobs. They don’t know their wealth is their culture.”

While it takes time and skill to do this (pottery making) in the long run it will serve you well. She said, “This goes for our other traditional crafts. Fiji is blessed that we still have people practising ancient knowledge passed down to us over many generations. I hope young indigenous people read this and realize how important it is to preserve our rich culture.”


A Fijian Kava Bowl



About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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