FIJIAN artisans from the University of the South Pacific's Oceania Centre recently created history after some of their print making works were bought by the National Gallery of Australia to be part of its collection.
The National Gallery of Australia is the custodian of all Australian art that is deemed worthy to be kept as part of the nation's arts history.
USP's visual arts co-ordinator Johanna Beasley says two of these artists, Peni and Fong, had just returned from attending the First Editions exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop (APW) gallery in Melbourne where works by the Fijian print makers were exhibited.
"I suppose it's to do with the fact, it's important just the fact that these artists have exhibited in Melbourne at the APW because there are Melbourne artists who never get to be part of an exhibition in Melbourne. So that was the first thing. That was the first for us and for a lot of artists to have that experience was amazing.
"But to be part of the national collection is something that is really, really, important because those people will be remembered in the future and they are part of something, a collection that is important and just gives an incredible status to the artists to say that they are part of the national gallery collection of Australia," Beasley said.
The Melbourne exhibition is an extension of the first ever print making exhibition held in Fiji a few months back, which exhibited the work of these Fijian artists who are making print art for the first time in their careers.
"Also it was their first edition, which means it is the first print they made and a lot of print makers will not be able to say that the first time they made prints that a gallery or a national gallery has bought their work. So it is incredibly important that they have bought the works and that's their first ever exhibition so I think it's an incredible achievement for the artists. It's just the recognition, it's just something, one in a lifetime experience," Beasley said.
Fong, who is a resident artist at USP, says the exhibition was a success because of the response from Melbourne residents and the arts community as well as the Fijian community in Melbourne and fellow Fijians who, while on holiday, attended the exhibition.
"â€¦ works purchased by the National Gallery of Australia whom I have been told do not usually purchase works anyhow and the fact that they have purchased our works, I think they have taken three of my pieces, I am very, very, grateful and I really appreciate the fact they have my work in their collection.
"To me that is an achievement for USP, an achievement for the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education and an achievement for visual arts here in USP and Fiji as a whole to have the Oceania Centre's artwork as part of the National Gallery of Australia's collection," Fong said.
A total of 26 print artworks were sold during the week-long exhibition in Melbourne and some of the Fijian artists whose work was exhibited were Fong, Peni, Josaia McNamara, Josua Toganivalu and Paula Liga. The National Gallery of Australia is still going through a vetting process to confirm acquiring the works by some of these Fijian artists.