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Fijian pottery sees light of day in Alice

By Patrick Nelson

Delightful and witty … one of 40 pieces of traditional Fijian pottery on display in the CDU Alice campus library Delightful and witty … one of 40 pieces of traditional Fijian pottery on display in the CDU Alice campus library

An exhibition of traditional Fijian pottery has finally seen the light of day after having been stored in a backyard shed in Alice Springs for more than a decade.

Some 40 works by the late Taraivini Wati Vakarusabai are greeting visitors in the foyer of CDU’s Alice Springs campus library, where they will remain on display until mid-April.

Ceramics lecturer Suzi Lyon said they were made in 2002 while Taraivini was in Alice Springs visiting her artist grandson Rusiate Lali.

“Taraivini Wati was one of Fiji’s leading potters, a strong believer in traditional culture and an extraordinary storyteller,” Ms Lyon said.

“She made the pots in the space of six weeks, but tragically died before firing them.

“They were placed in boxes and stored for 12 years,” she said.

“In February, Rusiate’s wife Roslyn Premont asked me if I would fire them.”

Ms Lyon said the works incorporated symbols and legend in a style unique to the artist.

“Many of them are based on mythological stories of sea journeys made by the ancestors when they first came to Fiji from Tonga.”

Ms Lyon said the works had been an inspiration to students in the Certificate IV Visual Arts program.

“It is a privilege to have the work of such an esteemed artist and to experience traditional clay making from another culture,” she said.

“It helps to see beyond the utilitarian use of clay, and into the realm of story-telling.”