Sunday, 22 December 2013


One of my most recent paintings features a "YAVIRAU' - a traditional, communal way of fishing still practiced by villagers in the outer islands of Fiji.  Usually a noisy and festive occasion, a "yavirau" is often staged in the lead-up to a big village feast.  Many associate this much anticipated event as being a part of Christmas celebrations in remote communities where the "share and care" spirit is still very much alive in closely knit village communities.

Here is the 'story' of my painting as it emerges, along with some photos of a "yavirau" that occured recently in the Yasawa Islands.

This painting is part of a series of nine pieces I created this year around the theme of "Women and the Reef", depicting the relationship rural Fijian women have with the sea as a source of sustenance and identity.

I am painting on white habotai silk, using a metallic gold resist for my outlines, and specialised silk dyes for the paint work itself.

I am now painting the "net" used during a "yavirau".  This consists of long lengths of jungle vines twisted together to form a rope that can be a couple of kilometers long.  Coconut fronds are then tied to the rope, which is piled into a boat and taken out toward the inner edge of the reef at high tide, where it is lowered into the water and held in place in horse shoe shape by the villagers, each clan taking responsibility for one section of the rope.

I'm now adding in my fisher-women!  While village women normally fish and gather seafood separately from the men (the inner reef being the women's domain, the outer the men's) the "yavirau" is an occasion that brings everyone together - each person has an important role to play as the long rope is pushed steadily toward the shore in an ever-tightening arc, enclosing a large number of fish within.

My silk painting has been steamed for several hours and is now ready for framing!

Here it is as part of my "Yau Ni Cakau" collection, now hanging in the newly-built seaside villas at Matamanoa Island Resort in Fiji's Mamanuca group.  Each painting measures 50 x 40 cm (unframed).

To finish this post: some photos of a "yavirau" witnessed by German travel photographer Holger Leue, ( ) who has kindly given me permission to share these images here:

These photos were taken at Yaroma Island in the Yasawa group.

Traditional fish drives such as this one are only conducted occasionally, as part of customary practices that are decided upon during village meetings and presided over by the village chief or his herald.  Various rituals are involved in the preparation for a "yavirau", including the cleaning of village graveyards as a form of paying respect to the ancestors and ensuring the fish-drive is blessed.

Once the fish are herded together into the palm rope enclosure, they are caught by hand or spear.  The entire catch is then divided out among the various clans of the village, with special portions going to the chief, the talatala (village priest) and to those providing resources such as the large piles of vines and leaves used to create the rope net. 

The "yavirau" is a way of ensuring that no one in the village will go hungry during festive occasions such as Christmas, which is traditionally the time of year when large number of urban dwellers return to their ancestral villages to touch base with the extended family and renew the relationship bonds that play such an important role in the cohesiveness and vitality of Fijian society.

Last 5 photos © by Holger Leue Photography.
Art images © Maria Rova, Sigavou Studios Ltd

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