Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Mala and her brood - delivering freshly made barkcloth to Sigavou Studios last week

With Fiji's new school year commencing this week, our extended family on the small sandy atoll of Vatulele has been busy raising the extra funds needed to send a son to teacher's college and a daughter to boarding school on the mainland. They do this by heading out to the paper-mulberry plantations near their village, cane-knife in hand, to harvest the tall saplings that have flourished in recent summer rains. There follows a laborious process involving ancient craft traditions: stripping the bark from the saplings - then scraping, soaking, and flattening it into fibrous masi paper, using a log anvil and wooden mallet.

The art of masi-making is generally considered to belong in the women's domain, with techniques and accompanying wisdom being passed down from mothers to daughters across countless generations. However, at least one of our faithful suppliers is the male head of a household - who patiently beats out large swathes of masi alongside his wife, their worn hands and weathered skin bearing witness to a life of hard work, subsistence farming, fishing, and communal living in their remote, seaside village.

Uncle Koli arrives with his first barkcloth delivery of 2017!
Once the masi is sun-dried, our family members journey by boat to Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. They make their way up the coast by bus, arriving at our studio with rolls of precious masi underarm. We now have a fresh supply of beautiful hand-made 'canvas' to use for the many creative projects that will no doubt add meaning and joy to our lives here at Sigavou Studios as 2017 rolls on!

Using modern acrylic paint and contemporary colours
on a canvas of hand-crafted masi - seeped in ancient traditions...