Bittersweet

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'Bittersweet' curator Shivanjani Lal in her studio
Photograph: Supplied, Shivanjani Lal 'Bittersweet' curator Shivanjani Lal in her studio

Time Out says

Fijian culture is celebrated in this exciting exhibition gathering artists from the diaspora

Contemporary Fijian art and storytelling are celebrated in a poignant new exhibition at the Casula Powerhouse, Bittersweet.

The exhibition is curated by Western Sydney artist Shivanjani Lal, a Fijian-Indian Australian woman, who has gathered together with ten of her peers to explore themes of identity, language, food and art. “Bittersweet is an attempt to share our knowledge with our community in Liverpool, showcasing the relationships we have with our family and environment,” Lal says. “How we hold onto traditional values in the diaspora, how we navigate distance, and how we can remember where we came from through ritual, food, and storytelling.”

The assembled artists come from iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) and Indo-Fijian backgrounds and are spread across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. On arrival, you’ll hear the haunting audio work of Manisha Anjal, which plays as an offering to the spirits of family and ancestors. Lal takes 100 photographs every time she returns to Fiji and prints them onto recycled brown paper sheets sourced from Mumbai.

Mohini Chandra’s three-part video work explores what happens when you return home after everyone has left. Quishile Charan draws on the craft skills of her family, using all-natural materials. Yasbelle Kerkow uses fish skin tanning to create prints that explore ideas of mark-making. Dulcie Stewart harnesses painted Fijian street signs to recreate the visual language of market stalls and shops. Emele Ugavale's collage work shares her family’s stories.

UK-based artist CA Moses finds Fiji in the photographs he has taken of his barra amma (mother’s sister), who has lived in Kent for over 40 years. And Auckland-based artists Luisa Tora and Sangeeta Singh explore their relationship as artists, friends and Fijians by moulding clay together in a video work. 

Casula Powerhouse director Craig Donarsk notes that the Liverpool region has a considerable Fijian-Indian community, so he hopes this exhibition will be warmly embraced. “This makes us particularly delighted to be part of this project that shares stories of living far away from your homeland. We hope this opens up conversations between the generations.”

If you want to find out more, Lal will join academic Doctor Asha Chand for a discussion on the importance of memory, objects and place on September 26 at 11am. Keen art-appreciators are encouraged to bring something with them from home that they hold dear and join in the conversation.

Inspired? Explore art around the city with this exhibition guide

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