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Power of his hands

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, July 16, 2017

THE amazing thing about the brain is its power to imagine and think creatively. The amazing thing about the hand is its ability to show, to manifest and express the power of imagination.

It takes a great thinker to think creatively and it takes a great hand to translate that thought, something abstract, carving it out the imagination beautifully.

It is only a coincidence that his surname is Liga (the iTaukei word for "hand") and while the name Paulo Liga may not really be known to one and all, he is regarded as one of the greatest wood carvers in the country.

Paulo's work has not gone unnoticed; his handiwork was one of the top 10 from around the world that was showcased during the International Woodcarvers Association held in Turkey last year.

One of his great works today stands in front of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, the sculptured logo of the bank. But little is known about the man whose sculptures have been an inspiration to many.

From a mere a young fellow who was once running along the white sandy beach at Naividamu, Fulaga in the Lau Group, Paulo did not complete his formal education.

Yet with no formal qualification, let alone a degree, he rose to become an art tutor at the University of the South Pacific.

"I did not have any tertiary qualification but my God has given talent that has taken me to places I thought I would never be able to visit," said the 67-year-old.

"This is an art I learnt in the village when I was still a little boy. When I was 10 years old, I used to follow my father and older siblings and just by looking at them while they worked, I was teaching myself," Paulo said.

"I was 13 years old when I carved my first project and that was a tanoa, it took me one whole day."

The island of Fulaga is known to be home to the greatest wood carvers in the country. In Fijian mythology the ancestral god of wood carvers and boat builder, Rokola gave that gift to the people of Fulaga.

"In Fulaga we are all wood carvers and this is something we learn at a very young age and for most of us, it has turned out to be a business and source of living."

When he was 16 years old he was sent to Viti Levu and enrolled at the Nasali Circuit School. It was an agricultural school for young farmers. However after spending two years at the school he returned to the village.

"I did not enjoy it there so I thought it was best to return to the village."

It ended up being the best choice.

So from 1969, he remained in the village harnessing his woodcarving skills until 1994 when he was employed by the University of the South Pacific.

"I was an art tutor for five years, teaching students but now I no longer teach but I do part-time work at USP precisely on woodcarving."

Not bad for a person who did not even attend secondary school.

His dedication and hard work has seen him travel overseas; Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Turkey and around the Pacific.

In 2013, the Reserve Bank of Fiji hired Paulo and his son to work on the RBF logo, which now stands in front of the bank. It was a work that took a month to complete.

"The logo has three sections which are joined together," said his 35-year-old son Setareki Laveti, who is also a wood carver.

"There is a price for hard work and honesty, and the price is success," said Paulo.

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