Red Wave Collective
Contemporary paintings from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa
11 May - 24 June 2006
In the first exhibition of its kind in Europe, the October Gallery showcases exciting new work from the very forefront of the Oceanic arts scene. In a year that sees focus turning increasingly towards the Pacific, with several major institutions planning historical surveys of the area's traditions, the October Gallery looks to the future shape of Oceanic art. Exploring the work of five artists from the Red Wave Collective, based in Fiji, the exhibition provides an unprecedented preview of a thriving experimental arts movement.
The 'Red Wave Collective' is the most prominent group of artists to have emerged from the Centre for Oceanic Arts and Cultures at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Founded in 1997 by Epeli Hau'ofa, the Oceanic Centre set out to provide an autonomous space in which artists and practitioners could evolve and explore new methods of creativity that both drew knowingly from local traditions and shaped fresh boundaries and visions. Since these beginnings, the Centre has become a magnet for creativity in the area, bringing together artists from across the widely diverse Oceanic region, and leading to a flourishing contemporary visual and performing arts movement firmly rooted in both historical visual traditions and the changing international environment.
"We are not interested in imitating (western art) and asking our artists to perform dances for tourists. It is time to create things for ourselves, to create established standards of excellence which match those of our ancestors…The development of new art forms that are truly Oceanic, transcendant of our national and cultural diversity, is very important in that it allows our creative minds to draw on far larger pools of cultural traits than those of our individual national lagoons. It makes us less insular without being buried in the amorphousness of the gobalised cultural melting pot." (Epeli Hau'ofa, James Harvey Gallery, Sydney, September 2000)
Featured artists include:
William Bakalevu, Fiji
Bakalevu comes from Tailevu Central, on the main Island of Viti Levu. A self-taught artist, he began by painting murals inside people's houses. Within a year of beginning to work with canvas, he had been invited to join the Centre for Oceanic Arts and Culture. Many of his works deal with social disquiet, bearing titles such as "Kudrukudru" or 'rumbling stomach' in Fijian, signifying discontent. Echoing Hau'ofa's concern to promote a pan-Oceanic community, Bakalevu's political attention spans beyond the crisis in Fiji to injustices across the region. "As an indigenous Fijian" he says, "I believe this is more than necessary, it is a way of life, being in contact and living in harmony with people, whatever race or colour".
Frederick Butafa, Solomon Islands
Frederick Butafa is from Malaita, Solomon Islands, although he was born in Honiara. He is studying law at the University of the South Pacific's Laucala Campus in Fiji, whilst also working at the Oceanic Centre for Arts and Culture. He has studied with Niuean writer and artist John Pule.
Mason Lee, Fiji/China
Mason James Lee, an artist of Fijian and Chinese descent, has been based at the Oceania Centre for six years, working with oil and acrylic on canvas, and ink on paper. Lee draws on Fijian myth and legend in his work, as well as his own personal histories. He feels that while he owes his skill for painting to his Chinese heritage, his Fijian background has allowed him to "put in art what was verbally given to generations to come, legends and stories of the past". Lee attributes his predominantly red palette to the way "these colours represent the burning passion that I have within me to paint".
Josaia McNamara, Fiji
Josaia's artistic practice has taken him from designing CD covers for Pacific singers to showcasing work at theTjibaou Culture Centre in New Caledonia in 2002 as part of the Noumea Biennale. Mc-Namara is of Fijian/ New Zealand descent, and is 29 years old.
Ledua Peni, Fiji
Lingikoni Vaka'uta, Tonga
Lingikoni Vaka'uta was born in Tonga but has lived in Fiji for many years. He has been a resident artist at the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture since it was established in 1997. His works are often visual narratives of his cross-cultural life
experience and journey from Tonga to Fiji, and combine a contemporary vision with broadly Oceanic references, from Solomon Island kapkap design to Polynesian motifs and Oceanic rock drawing. He says of his work, "the inspiration to create my art comes from my own cultural background-like legends, metaphores, proverbs and from everyday experiences."
Download eCatalogue of the Red Wave Collective exhibition (pdf)
Other Oceania events taking place in the UK during 2006
An international exhibition/festival celebrating the styles of 21st-century Maori & Pacific Island art and culture: http://www.pasifikastyles.org.uk