Photo credit: Jessie Mc Comb 
The artists: Maria Rova, Marita Wendt, Naomi Tozaka and Janet Lotawa

Pacific Islanders have a long tradition of creativity. Today’s artisans, artists and performers continue to tell their stories, with support from an innovative project called Enhancing the Pacific Cultural Industries: Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

The project is an initiative of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), and is supported by the European Union and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Groups of States (ACP).

As part of the project, four businesses from Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands took their wares to a key tradeshow in New York, the Artisan Resource @ NY NOW in early February 2016. The semi-annual event attracts 25,000 buyers from more than 80 countries.

At the 2016 show, Pacific entrepreneurs attended seminars and retail store tours and met designers, buyers and marketing experts to gauge how their products would fit into the US market. Each business showcased several product lines in the Pacific Pavilion booth, attracting sample orders from international buyers.

Fijian businesses included Sigavou Studios, run by Fijian artist Maria Rova, which paints original designs on Fijian masi (bark cloth) made by women from Vatulele in southern Fiji. The other Fijian business was Rise Beyond the Reef, a non-profit organisation supporting women in rural areas who use traditional skills to earn a sustainable income.

The New York tradeshow is just part of the work being done. The project has also focused on developing crafts, visual arts, fashion, music and performing arts sectors, including capacity building for peak bodies, entrepreneur skills for producers, human resources planning and technical support. Partners include the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts in Fiji, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture in Samoa and Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Solomon Islands.

Cultural and creative industries are now represented on regional planning platforms and recognised by organisations such as the University of the South Pacific, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

In Samoa, teams worked with the Small Business Enterprise Centre to develop a regional cultural industries entrepreneurship curriculum, training more than 140 producers in product design and development, market research and pricing. The training provided an opportunity to look at business in a serious way and opportunities for creative thinking and creativity.

The project worked with arts councils and associations – both new and established. They held workshops in Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands to assist groups with incorporation, strategic plans, meeting skills and managing finances.

In Fiji, one workshop led to the formation of the Fiji Islands Performing Arts Alliance, which supports musicians, dancers, actors and other performers to develop their business skills.

The project also provided training on intellectual property rights. ‘Intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights or geographical indications enable inventors, creators and businesses to prevent unauthorised exploitation of their creations, and in return, to get compensation for their efforts and investment’, said Johnny Engell-Hansen, European Union Deputy Head of Delegation for the Pacific.

Highlights

  • Four Pacific Island cultural businesses, including two from Fiji, exhibited their work at a key New York tradeshow.
  • The entrepreneurs learned how their products might fit into the international export market.
  • The visit was part of a wider project designed to boost cultural and creative industries in the Pacific.