PT&I’s fourth Maketi Ples gets under way in Sydney


The <b>Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest (PT&amp;I)</b> organised Maketi Ples got off to a flying start last week in Sydney.<!--more--> Being held for the fourth consecutive year, the initiative is an art and artisan exhibition held over a two-week period in a commercial gallery in Sydney.

Maketi Ples, through decisive strategies managed by <b>PT&amp;I</b>, promotes the work of Pacific Islands based artists and artisans directly to Australian consumers, designers, retailers, importers and to the Australian media.

Here is a news report written by Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Jemima Garrett, as it appeared on the broadcasting network’s Australia Network News:

The artists come from c<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-5738 alignleft" alt="CocoGaga" src="" width="193" height="295" /></a>ities as well as remote atolls and mountain villages but the one thing they have in common is the quality of their work.

‘GoGo Gaga’ is a figure hugging coconut fibre sheath decorated with shells.

“I created this dress because in 2012 there was this Pacific Island Leaders Summit in Japan, so it's just my way of showing Japan and the whole world that we can do it, something unique back in the islands,” said Tongan artist Sione Maileseni.

The name of the dress made it a hit in the Pacific, as well as in Japan, with Miss Papua New Guinea choosing to wear it to compete in the 2013 Miss South Pacific pageant.

Artists exhibiting at Maketi Ples come from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands and Marshall Islands as well as Tonga.

Contemporary paintings and drawings are hung alongside more traditional work such as carving from the Trobriand Islands in PNG.

<b>Female artists featured</b>

PNG bilum-wear artist Florence Kamel is exhibiting a translucent indigo maxi-dress made from tightly knotted fibre.

She is a frequent exhibitor in Australia but many of the other bilum artists, from the Goroka Billum Weavers Association and the Őmie artists collective live in remote regions.

The Őmie artists, immortalised in Drusilla Modjeska's 2012 novel 'The Mountain', number over 100 and come from 12 isolated villages in the eastern mountains of Oro Province.

They are best known for their bark cloth painting but bilums (characteristic PNG woven bags) are creating new income and respect for women says Ruth Choulai, the Creative Director of Maketi Ples.

"Not every woman can be a bark cloth painter but every woman can weave a bilum," she said

<b>Cultural revival</b>

From Fiji, the Rako Pasifika Artists, Dancers and Musicians Collective is showing its new fine masi (bark cloth) lampshades.

“What drove this project was reviving our cultural skills,” said collective member Paul Dominiko.

Each locality has its own masi patterns but many are being lost as making and printing skills die out.

The lampshade designs featured in Sydney come from the island of Moce, home to the Collective's lead dancer.

“It was very emotional for us to see her making her first masi material and printing her first masi design,” Paul Domeniko said.

<b>New economic links with Australia</b>

Building lasting partnerships between Australian and Pacific arts industry businesses based on high-quality art is the aim of Maketi Ples.

"The craftsmanship has to be of a very, very high standard, because we're trying to change that perception of Pacific artisan work being tourist made only," creative director Ruth Choulai said.

The strategy seems to be working.

Caroline Sherman, from the famous Sherman Galleries family, stumbled across the exhibition as it was being set up and visited four times before it was open.

“I’m blown away by the absolute beauty and just incredible versatility of all the different textures,” she said.

Ms Sherman's not-for-profit fashion house is investigating ongoing relationships with PNG and Marshall Islands artists.

<b>Samoan Tattooing</b>

Samoan artist Lalovai Peseta has paintings on show but increasingly, in his practice, he is taking his art off the wall and onto the human body.

“I’m a Samoan artist and tattoo is Samoan art. I just love to use it all the time, no matter if it's on a canvas, skin, on material or even wools,” he said.

Lalovai Peseta's new wife, Nikki Mariner, is his muse and his canvas. The pair met when Ms Mariner asked him to design a tattoo for her.

She now has a tattooed wedding ring, as well as armbands and a traditional hand tattoo.

“She’s the inspiration, she loves art, she loves my art... so all the art that I'm doing now is not just from my ideas, but also her ideas,” Lalovei Peseta said.

Mr Peseta will be holding four live tattooing demonstrations before the exhibition closes on February 16.

Maketi Ples is a project of Pacific Trade and Invest – the Pacific Forum's Trade Promotion arm.

– Courtesy Australia Network News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Writer: Jemima Garrett

<b>When and where: </b>

Thursday February 6 – Sunday, February 16.  Gallery Hours: 11am – 5pm.
For further information contact Creative Arts Manager, Ruth Choulai: <a href=""></a>