PEOPLE | Mum banks on art

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Ragafuata Makarite during the National Women’s Expo at the Vodafone Arena. Picture: JONA KONATACI

RUNNING a small handicraft business is anything but a smooth ride.

For one thing, there is no clear-cut route to success.
Rotuman artist, Ragafuata Makarite, understands that all too well. The resilient mother of five relies on creating and selling earrings and tie dye items to provide for her family.

She featured at the recent National Women’s Expo in Suva for the first time.

While she had no big expectations. All she wanted was to learn from other women.

“It is an honor and pleasure for me to come and to see other women artisans and what they are doing, as you know most of us are sole bread winners in our families,” she said.

She grew up in Suva and hails from Hapmak in Rotuma and shares maternal links to Motusa. She went to Veiuto Primary School before later attending Suva Grammar School and Rishikul Sanatan College for secondary studies.

Her life took a turn seven years ago when she made her first handicraft item.

“My first product was in 2016, and I made earrings,” she said.

That kick-started her journey as an artist. She recalled watching her sisters and admiring their sense of fashion and style. That aroused her interest in crafting earrings and other handicraft products.

“I wanted to learn how to make earrings. Another motivation for me was to try and make something on my own and something I could wear.”

Attending workshops with Angie Rakai, Tomasi Vuli, Rosie Emberson who are renowned for their respective work helped to increase her knowledge in the art and craft field.

She is a current member of the Lautoka Women’s Club and the Fiji Arts Council.

Ragafuata sells items made using fresh water pearls, tie dye fabric and recycled beads.

Being a widow and mother of five, she faces challenges. But her passion and family pushes her to hold on.

Sadly losing her husband last year was an uphill battle for her but steady sales has helped her busy stay focused.

Two of her eldest sons work as an engineer and teacher while three children are still in school.

“Honestly speaking, I am proud of what I do because I know I can be financially independent,”

“This can also change the stigma and pity that people have for single mothers and widows.

“There are a lot of things we can do, especially craft work.”
Ragafuata advised women and girls to utilise their time wisely, learn new skills and make effective use of their talents.

“Craftwork can easily become a steady source of income, I am saying this because I have helped some mothers, single mums and ladies from informal settlements.

“I have taught them how to make earrings in order to earn a living.”