Bittersweet! – An exhibition of Fijian art

Artist and curator Shivanjani Lal’s work Chhapa from the exhibition Bitter Sweet.

Bittersweet is a survey of emerging and mid-career Fijian art. It is a talanoa: a laying down of artworks and stories – some sweet, and some bitter. It is on at Casula Powerhouse at Hopper Gallery, 8 August – 27 September, with an extended digital program from 28 September.

Both iTaukei and Indo-Fijian artists have been invited to interpret ideas around food, language and stories. The artworks are representative of new and old ideas of Fiji and the ways they have been shared and remade, to create space for multiple histories.

Shivanjani Lal describes her work as “things that I would like to hold on to. Of the Farms, the markets, a conscious effort to see Fiji as it is right now, the farm slipping away from me.”

Manisha Anjali originally from Suva and living in Melbourne, is exhibiting flower improvisation a vocal improvisation in which throat and tongue are conduits for communication with ancestral ghosts. The spirit of Girmitiyas, the labourers who crossed the blackwaters of India (Kalapani), from India to Fiji are welcomed into the space they helped build. “During the recording I was in a trance, saw a vision of a women in a sari, holding a sickle, with a parrot on her shoulder. They showed me a silhouette of a mango tree,” says Manisha about her recordings.

Sangeeta Singh and Luisa Tora, based in Otahu and herself a queer artist from Auckland, NZ collaborated for Bitter Sweet. Their work explores social construct, regarding race, gender, sexuality and identity. Through their work, they explore ”˜relationships between people’ through food, language, poetry – something that is very special to both. “We used clay from our backyard for our sculpture, facing each other and working with the clay together.” The title of their work is I Carry You.

Another artist is Quishile Charan, her work is Phul or flower, to honour the craft practices of Fiji, especially the embroidered pillow cases and duvet covers seen households of Fiji. “The dyeing process used plants sourced from three locations from Nandi by my Arji and her sisters – hibiscisses, marigolds, mango, curry, cassava and papaya leaves. We followed the textile traditions of our elders, their gifts adorned with flowers and embroidered with love.”

Dulcie Stewart contributes the work Colonial Wholesale regarding the sugar refining company CSR, established in 1879 in Sydney. When indentured labour first arrived in Fiji, CSR used them as labourers, a company described as the most selfish colonial company of its times.

Also there are two online films being shown:

Bittersweet Online Film Screening:
Don’t Forget to Go Home (2020) & The Land Has Eyes (2004)

Tuesday 6 October | 7pm
Bookings close 3pm on Tuesday 6 October

Casula Powerhouse would like people to join the museum for a free online film screening presented as a companion to their current exhibition Bittersweet!

This online film screening presents two films made by filmmakers with deep connections to Fiji. Much like the artists in the exhibition, these filmmakers interpret ideas around language and stories, and what it means to have a connection to place.

The online film screening will be introduced by Craig Donarski (Director, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre) and Shivanjani Lal (Curator, Bittersweet)


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