Encouraging local artists and the creative juices of Samoa

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 26 May 2018, 12:00AM

Creativity and innovation are critical for Samoa in terms of moving forward. And if the work of artists being displayed at two separate exhibitions in the country this week is anything to judge by, the country is in good hands. 

The first is the one by the School of Fine Arts at the E.F.K.S. Museum, Malua. Guided by the theme “The Spirit of Wisdom in languages,” the exhibition has been a popular draw card, which is great.

According to Curator, Susana Pelenato Liufau, the Exhibition is the first time the school has been able to showcase their art at such a large scale since the Fine Arts School merged with the E.F.K.S. Museum last year. 

“The merge has opened up a wonderful opportunity for them to hold these large exhibitions in beautiful spaces like this as well as fulfill the critiquing in the school’s curriculum. This used to happen on a small scale at the back of this compound where all the magic happens,” she said.

And with the Fono Tele in full swing, it could not have been held at a better time. 

“Many of our patrons here know that there is a school but they have never seen the works that come out of it,” Susana said. 

“It allows them to see what and who they are investing in. The school has never had public viewings like this, there was a disconnection before but now they own it. It was a dream for the school to be able to do this; it was a goal from the very beginning before I was born.”

There is more of course. The event presents an opportunity for Artists whose work would otherwise not be seen to be out there. It exposes them to dealing with visitors and explaining their concepts which is often a challenge for some artists. And that is a fantastic development.

Closer to Apia, the second exhibition that’s been turning heads is the Manamea Art Studio’s exhibition called “The New Samoa – Samoa Fou.” It opened to the public on Thursday with a very special guest in the form of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi – who himself is the subject of one of the artworks.

“So much is happening right now in Samoa with Samoan politics and social issues are in such flux,” said co-owner and artist of Manamea, Nikki Mariner-Peseta.  

“I thought there are a lot of people not living in Samoa having their say about Samoa. There is so much change happening, it’s time for artists to have their say. Every time there’s political movement around the world and throughout history, artists have been able to add a dimension into the conversation.” 

One painting by Lalovai Peseta in particular is turning heads. It depicts the reign of Prime Minister Tuilaepa with new age challenges – including the threat posed by anonymous online bloggers. 

On Thursday, the man himself was there to view the artworks.

“It looks like me,” he told the Samoa Observer. “It’s very nice and I like it.” 

When the Samoa Observer asked whether he was a lover of Art and what he thought of the strong imagery surrounding his likeness, the Prime Minister who has just recently arrived from his trip to Japan, said: “ Yes, I do enjoy art.” 

He added: “It’s 6 o’clock now and my mind is very tired to think beyond the image itself -but yes it is pleasing to the eye. I hope it looks like me - does it look like me?” 

Told that it did look like him, Tuilaepa’s humour was drawn out.

“But that doesn’t look like the photo you normally put in the Observer.”

So what motivated the painting?

 “It’s not just the P.M, it’s about how individuals are treated badly on social media,” said Peseta. “We all understand that all developments come with problems and the idea came to my mind when I saw that O.L.P. was harassing people online. Not everybody is perfect but Tuilaepa has been developing Samoa in a good way from my perspective compared to when I was growing up – there wasn’t much here but now we are more developed than ever.

“The way people are disrespecting him. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be challenged because that’s how ideas come out… but the way that O.L.P. is doing it– we don’t know who they are.. 

“I painted the O.L.P. coming from the cracks of the land because that’s one of the most talked about issue right now is land rights. I used the image of a centipede under O.L.P. there because the nature of a centipede is to bite you then run and hide. It’s also very painful when they bite and that’s how I felt when I painted this. I used only red tones because it represents war and anger.”

“As you can see in the painting the page is flailed up because that’s what’s happening, some people want to turn the page. They want to see Samoa’s next page and right now it’s still the Prime Ministers page.”

Lalovai couldn’t have explained it better. He’s hit the nail right on the head when he said that in Samoa today, it is still Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s page.  

Good on Lalovai for the courage to paint such a piece of work. And it’s also good to see that despite what is happening, Prime Minister Tuilaepa has still maintained his sense of humour. You really need one given some of the latest developments in this country. 

The point we want to make is that the work of these artists deserve more attention. And they need more Exhibitions to be able to do that. We hope the one at Malua this week – and at Vaigaga - are only the start of more to come. 

What’s beautiful judging from the work on display is the freshness of the designs and that the concepts are uniquely Samoan and they tell our stories. We should be encouraging more of such creativity.

And what can you and I do to help develop that creativity? Three things. Visit these exhibitions and tell these artists what wonderful work they are doing. Buy their work if you are so inspired. Or else, you can commission them to create a piece of work tailor-made for you and your needs. That’s how we can help.

Have a restful weekend Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 26 May 2018, 12:00AM

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