Saturday, 26 May 2012


Over the last few days, our local beach has been dotted with Crown Jellyfish (Netrostoma setouchina).  Perhaps this seasonal invasion has something to do with the "cold" winter temperatures we have been experiencing recently (lows of 17' C at night) - would be interesting to know!  

Many haven't survived being washed ashore, but others can be observed, swimming in the shallow water, their umbrellas undulating - like hula dancers wearing lacy purple tutus! 

Hmmm - I can see the components of a great silk painting here!
 Recent beach walks with my kids and their friends have become mini rescue missions as we try to return jellyfish left stranded by receding tides back to deeper water...  (no long, stinging tentacles with this variety!)

Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi, May 2012

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


It's been fun working on another painting in my "Reki! ~Time to Dance" series.  This one will be transiting the globe in a few days time - keenly awaited by a client in New York City.

Last month, the fiber used to make the paper I am painting on here was the live, growing inner bark of a leafy green tropical mulberry sapling, in a family-run plantation on a small, coral atoll to the south of our island, called Vatulele.  The bark was harvested by my husband's aunt Mala, one of many women from the seaside village of Ekubu who make a living producing hand-crafted masi, or barkcloth, using an environmentally-friendly, but laborious process of scraping, soaking, beating, and felting the fibrous mulberry bark into long, textured sheets.  This traditional craft is practiced in only a few parts of Fiji, with the knowledge and skills involved being passed down from generation to generation of hard-working women.

Mala came across to the mainland by boat during the recent school break, bringing two of her children for some sight-seeing, and a big roll of lovely white masi to sell in order to raise money for school fees and other family needs.  Our studio is filled with the pungent scent of freshly beaten masi every time we get such a delivery.  It is an honour to be able to work with a material that is as steeped in culture and tradition as our Fijian masi is!

"Reki! ~ Time to Dance" - a work in progress...
Size: 46 x 46 cm  Medium: Acrylics on traditional Fijian barkcloth

 Watch this space for some pics of the end result!

Saturday, 5 May 2012


It's duruka season here in Fiji!  Duruka (Saccharum edule) is one of the weirder, highly delicious vegetables that form part of the traditional Fijian diet.  When it comes into season around April / May each year, you will often see teepee-shaped  bundles of green daruka stalks lined up for sale at rural bus stops and in front of the lean-to vegetable stands that punctuate the verges of our roads here in Fiji.  Here's the bundle I bought from an old farmer selling vegetables door to door in our neighborhood the other day:

During my childhood in rural Pennsylvania, USA, being outdoors in nature was a big deal:  we spent several summers trying out various recipes from "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Euell Gibbons - an American classic on living off the land.  One of the more memorable dishes featured in that book was young cat-tails (bull-rush flowers) boiled and eaten with melted butter and salt like corn on the cob.  I was therefore delighted to find something of an equivalent here in Fiji when we moved here twenty years ago!

Duruka, a tall, grass-like plant, generally grows wild in damp soil.  The part that is eaten is the unopened flower, which must be removed from its sheath, as you see my husband doing here:

The most popular way to prepare duruka is boiling it for about ten minutes in coconut cream, adding sliced onion and possibly a little crushed ginger root, for extra flavor. Most Fijians will insist on eating it with fish - though roast chicken and boiled dalo (taro root) were the accompanying dishes for Sunday lunch at our house today!

Ready for the pot...
Boiling our duruka in coconut cream - YUM!!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


The table on our porch has become a temporary art studio for visiting family friend and fellow Fiji artist, Alifereti Malai.  Based in Fiji's capital city, Suva, for many years now, Alifereti hails from Burelevu, a small village in the highlands of Ra, on the northern side of Viti Levu. Alifereti and my husband went to school together, where he was known for his amazing portraits, drawn in pencil at the back of exercise books!
Aliferti at work in our studio porch
 Alifereti has been a regular participant in many of the craft fairs and exhibitions we have organised over the past decade.  Until recently, his trademark product was fine drawings in black ink on white Fijian barkcloth, mostly of Fijian artifacts such as war clubs, cannibal forks, and whales teeth pendants. (Note the bookmarks Alifereti is designing in this photo.)  However, over the past couple of years, Alifereti has ventured into painting in oils and acrylics on canvas, using a broader colour spectrum and incorporating abstract elements alongside the cultural  references that are at the heart of this indigenous Fijian's creative work.  It has been fascinating watching this metamorphosis in the style and expressive quality of Alifereti's work!
Oils on canvas by Alifereti Malai exhibited at CreatiVITI's "Art on the Island V" exhibition in 2010
 Hand-drawn barkcloth maps of the Fiji Islands, full of incredible detail, are another line of work for Alifereti.  Below, my studio staff view his latest creation.  The framed map shown here has had pride of place on our studio wall for several years now...

  Alifereti Malai can be contacted by e-mail at,
or by mobile phone: (679) 963 7076