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Waqatabu's unique fish scale business

Filipe Naigulevu
Monday, June 19, 2017

THE proverb, "Where there's a will there's a way" rings true for 48-year-old artisan Arieta Waqatabu who is earning money out of what many may regard as trash.

Ms Waqatabu from Viria, Lomaivuna in Naitasiri has started a small handicraft business specialising in accessories made from fish scales.

And while many may find this a daunting task, but this ambitious woman entrepreneur has slowly mastered the art which leave many in awe.

Ms Waqatabu first came to know about making fish scale accessories after a group from Indonesia visited her village and introduced the art to about 80 women.

"I was looking for something to develop my artisan skills so I thought of trying this out after the Indonesian group visited," she said.

"I started doing accessories from shells and then I saw that fish scales too had potential, so I then used glue and started making accessories, first with earings and then brooches."

But the accessories are not just made out of a simple process as it takes a rigorous process of cleaning and precision to develop the end-product.

"I bring the fish scales, wash it thoroughly to remove the smell and residues, then soaks it in soap powder for almost two days then I wash it again to ensure that the fishy smell is gone," she said.

"Then when it is OK, I dry the scales on a cloth then leave it inside the house as exposing it to the sun would make the scales break easily."

Ms Waqatabu has also found innovative way to develop accessories from whatever little material she purchases from the local stores at an affordable cost.

"I have just started doing this and am thinking of further adding value to my current products and look at other ways of developing this fish scale accessories," she said.

"I also see a lot of potential in this, as not many in Fiji have started doing fish scale accessories."

When asked on where she gets her supply of fish scales from, Ms Waqatabu simply put it: "From various functions and occasions where fish is included in the feast menu.

"While many are busy merrymaking and carrying out their tasks, I am there busy collecting fish scales," she laughed.

"Many might find it disgusting, but I see money in it."

Ms Waqatabu said she had also found the benefits of her small fish scale business earning her a decent income.

"I live with my children and my husband has passed away. This has become a means of earning efficient income for me and my family," she said.

"My business usually booms mainly around special occasions such as Mother's Day as many women demand my fish scale brooches."

Ms Waqatabu said she was also recognised at a craft expo for Naitasiri where she was among the winners who were then chosen to represent the province to the National Women's Expo in Suva last week.

While her main products are fish scale brooches, earings and flowers for household decor, Ms Waqatabu intends to start doing fish scale necklaces and bracelets in future.

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