Gallery of solutions

UNDER the directorship of, William Toganivalu, the 21K Art Gallery at 21 Knollys St in Suva has, since its inception in May of this year, established itself as a must-see for the Fiji art set.

Developing his taste for art later in life has never stopped the Bau native from opening his own art gallery.

With a smile, he says the name of the gallery has no connotation to monetary or business success but instead the gallery’s location.

Mr Toganivalu said the very best of Fiji’s local artists were struggling to earn a sustainable level of income through art and this was a problem that he found worth solving.

“More so, as my younger brother was one such artist. I wondered as to how it was that our best are living life that is worlds apart from that of their international counterparts,” he said.

“You could say that the art market here is too small but that to me would just be an excuse because what is needed is a complete change and a new model that put the artists and their passion at the forefront of decision making.

“Kava sessions with a few local artists led to the creation of 21K, a space the artists could call their own, one where they could showcase their work but also help them educate the young on art.

“My love for art was developed while living in London as I lived within a stone’s throw of Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery.”

Most weekends were spent by Toganivalu and his four daughters in these great buildings where they would treat themselves admiring works of art.

“Art helped in the nurturing of my children and we would always look forward to the ‘Art Trolley’ at the Tate Britain,” he said.

“Here, you would be given different materials every week and encouraged to create art, using the vast space and the artworks on display for inspiration.

“Coincidentally, my favourite work hangs here, a painting by John Copley Singleton, ‘The Death of Major Peirson’ because it related to my time serving in the British Army.

“After finishing my career in the army, I came back to Fiji and it is through my wanting to help my brother that the gallery was born.”

ToganivaIu felt he could utilise his skill-set born in the halls of museums and art galleries in the UK to create a gallery and programs that would enable artists to answer the ‘sustainable income’ question.

“The gallery has grown in strength and has had several successful exhibitions,” he said.

“These exhibitions are not limited to Suva, where the gallery is located and the latest was held in Savusavu and incorporated art workshops with a few of the local schools.

” As a judge at this year’s Kula Art Awards, I noticed a lack of participation from schools in the North and I hope that the Savusavu exhibition changes this.

“The gallery facilitates the want by the artists to promote art to the young and has held several workshops for students and we believe that art aids the development of creative thinking and should be promoted as part of our educational curriculum.

“It also aids in reducing stress and overcoming mental illness and I for one had witnessed, fellow soldiers who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) use art therapy as a way of dealing with mental issues, so its benefits go way beyond simple aesthetics.”

Toganivalu said he was really happy for the resident artists of 21K, who had embraced this new approach.

” To see the smile on their faces as they, the artists, advocate art to children or make a sale at the gallery, makes it all worthwhile,” he said.

More Stories