A singer performs during the Diwali Festival in Melbourne.
Image: Ivan Diaz
Source: Ivan Diaz
The tabua is the most important cultural object in traditional Fijian society, whose presentation and acceptance as a gift binds two parties together. In Fiji, artistic expression is focussed on maintaining cultural traditions, and until recently there was no contemporary art in the Western sense.
Some artists left Fiji to pursue careers free of cultural restrictions, but many more migrated for other reasons and discovered in Australia an artistic freedom they had not expected. Fijians have explored new ideas and media or have used traditional media in new ways. At the same time, their work often reflects and re-interprets Fijian tradition and culture.
The performing arts, especially dance, are important to all cultural groups in Fiji. From Indian dance to the ethnic Fijian meke and the Rotuman tautoga, dance has been carried to Victoria. It maintains cultural ties with the past, but it has also changed and embraced Western influences.
Migrants who return to Fiji, either to visit or to live, take ideas that are new to Fiji’s culture and experience. Acceptance of these developments may take time. The floating tabua – a gift that is in search of a recipient – has been used by some ethnic Fijian artists to symbolise the tension between Fijian traditions and contemporary art.