It was a perfect Savusavu Friday. The boat ride to Nawi Island this particular morning was extra special because sitting across from us were four amazingly talented women that had travelled from different parts of Vanua Levu, excited to visit Nawi to exhibit their unique handmade crafts.
Following their Nawi visit they were heading off to Nausori for the Annual Art Exhibition. Their love for arts and crafts brought them together fifteen years ago and judging from the laughter in the boat, and all the way up to the Nawi Bure, you could just tell that this bond was going to last a lifetime.
As they brought out their creations for display, one could clearly see that each had their own unique style and skill. Their items showcased their proud Fijian culture and heritage, incorporating natural resources and colour in their designs which were of fine quality.
Their joy, Fijian spirit and smiles certainly reflected their passion for making their products. Among them was the humble and award-winning artist, Rosalia Ramatau from Nukubalavu Village, who is well known for setting the benchmark for art in the Northern Division, winning a number of outstanding awards including the Fiji National Arts Council Award and the SME Award by the Reserve Bank of Fiji.
Rosa was also a part of the Fiji Arts Council delegation that attended the Pacific Arts Festival in Guam a few years back. Her craft takes a contemporary approach, intertwined with traditional materials.
“This opportunity will allow us to step out of our comfort zones, showcase our products and earn an added source of income for my family and community.”
“I do all my crafts with my own hands, I never use machines,” reiterates Salanieta Liku who hails from Buca Bay. Her items feature a unique and neat sequence using leaves, seeds and tapa to weave mats, baskets, and bags, to name a few.
“Wamere” is the name of the products made by Karalaini Likutabua, who resides in Naidi Settlement, just outside Savusavu Town. Her baskets are made from vines and hanging roots that creep along trees in the bush.
“I have to bring it from the bush, scrape the skin off to make it white. You can see some brown on the basket, that is out of mangroves. Everything I use is natural and from my backyard.”
For women such as Karalaini, they are optimistic that Nawi will bring new customers, especially those that appreciate the importance of our beautiful environment and will appreciate her products because of it.
Evotia Lifuka, who travelled all the way from Kina Island, expressed her excitement in visiting Nawi island, “We are not new, we are lucky to be here, we need exposure and we want to show the world what we do.”
Her basket designs use distinctive colouring unlike any other, colouring that she mixes herself from the bark of the Kura plant (also known as Noni which is a medicinal plant) and Mangrove trees.
She was also adamant to state that her distinguished colours are made from nature itself and not bought from stores like everyone else.
During their visit to the Island, the ladies were fortunate to meet Nawi’s Investor Advisor, Ron Valenta, who was so elated with the ladies that he asked if they would be interested in renting one of the kiosks located near the Marina Retail Area on Korovesa Island to operate their business from.
“This opportunity will expand their product reach, open up an entirely new customer base and possibly expand their SME businesses. I’m very excited for them.”
By giving local SME businesses a platform, Nawi Island hopes to encourage men, women, and even children throughout the Northern Division to develop innovative ideas that provide services to those visiting this new development in Savusavu.
In the last few months, local business and community members have been engaged to provide 80 per cent of the required services to Nawi Island.
From its caretakers of the lush nursery on the Island, its team of local village grasscutting crew, to main enterprises including the restaurant and bar, supermarket, laundry and recreational activities services, all local SMEs.
“And our aim is to reach 100 per cent local business tenancy by December of this year,” commented Mr Valenta.
Apart from this, Nawi Island also has planned initiatives with the Savusavu Town Council, the local high school, and other social groups to look at ways they can improve the standard of living in Savusavu and open up the doors to opportunities.
Mr Valenta was also quick to comment, “We’re an integrated development that is being built on inclusivity, with a focus on the well-being of our surrounding communities and the vital long-term sustainability of our environment.”
As we ended the day, these four inspiring women of the Northern Division were given a private tour of Korovesa Island, where they got a feel for where their new opportunity is to be set up.
Excitement filled the air, amongst lots of planning, talanoa (talking) and happy laughter. And as we bid farewell, we couldn’t help but think… “This is going to be an amazing story!”
This is their story. This will be Nawi’s legacy, fostering hope and prosperity for the Fijian people to thrive!