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Opening of the Tagimoucia Art Exhibition

August 11, 2016       Tagimoucia Gallery, Korovou

Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Commissioner of the Fiji Corrections Service, Commander Francis Kean
The Wildlife Conservation Society Director, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai
Teacher and Mentor of the Tagimoucia Art Gallery,  Mrs Jane Ricketts
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Asalaamu Alaykum, Noa’ia‘e Mauri, and a very Good Evening to you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, my wife Sarote and I are deeply honoured to join you all this evening and especially to visit the Tagimoucia Art Gallery, one of a few active art galleries in Fiji today.

Art is the solitary work of individuals that is derived from deep thought and translated into ink for many to adore. This concept of Art reflects the writings of Horace, the Roman soldier, scribe and leading poet, who once said and I quote, "A picture is a poem without words." unquote.

Tagimoucia is the name of a flower that is endemic to Fiji and found only on the Garden Island of Taveuni. Today’s art exhibition, in some ways, resembles the Tagimoucia – distinctively beautiful and refreshing.  The exhibition is definitely a welcome move in the effort to revitalise art throughout Fiji.

On this occasion, I wish to acknowledge and commend the Wildlife Conservation Society Director, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai for your partnership with the Fiji Corrections Services in hosting this art exhibition.

The theme “Stronger than Winston – the Resilience of Nature and Our People," is a fitting description of our Nation’s journey from the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston. The whole Nation experienced the devastating effect of this Category Five Tropical Cyclone, the first of such magnitude to hit Fiji.  The trauma and destruction it left behind will linger for a long time in the minds of members of our society who were affected because of the significant loss of lives and property.

However, the manner in which we have picked ourselves up and the sheer determination and resilience of our people in trying to return life to normality reflect our human ability to cope with such disasters. We have been assisted greatly through sound planning and the prompt and well-coordinated response on the part of Government and the support of the local and international communities.

This Art Exhibition, which is generously funded by the Waitt Foundation, is designed to display the resilience of nature and the role it plays in protecting humans from natural disasters and climate change. Similarly, it is crucial to highlight the intertwining role our habitats and ecosystems play in protecting human life against natural disasters like tropical cyclones and climate change.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our coral reefs help absorb currents and wave energy from storm surges. Mangrove forests that grace our shoreline help trap sediments from land and buffer coastal communities from wave surges, while providing critical nursery catchments for our fisheries.

The conservation of our coastal forests is paramount for the protection against strong winds and rising sea levels, while supporting a rich diversity of plant and animal life.

I also commend the work undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the protection of our marine environment and ecosystem particularly in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. The Vatu-i-Ra Seascape was directly in the path of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The lead role that our Government plays in promoting sustainable development through its policies like the Green Growth Framework is paramount in the conservation and protection of our environment and ecosystems.
The championing campaign for the reduction of greenhouse gases at the international stage during COP 21 in Paris and the lead role in the region for climate change is indicative of Fiji’s seriousness in creating a sustainable environment and ecosystem for our generation now and well into the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the work of protecting our environment and ecosystem requires partnerships. The partnership we witness this evening between the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Fiji Corrections Service through this Art Exhibition is one of many strategies that are required to bring to the attention of all Fijians the need to build resilient environments and ecosystems through sustainable means.

We cannot afford to be complacent. Climate change is a reality that we as Fijians must embrace by collectively working together towards a common goal. The sustainable development of our environment and ecosystems is not negotiable. It is a call to action for all Fijians.

Ladies and gentlemen, this exhibition is also about promoting the Fiji Corrections Service’s Yellow Ribbon Campaign. The transformation in the modus operandi at the Fiji Correction Service from one of containment, to one of correction must be supported to ensure the effective rehabilitation of all inmates and their successful reintegration into our society.

The newly established Fiji Corrections Service motto, Semper Resitituens meaning Always Rehabilitation is indicative of the winds of change that has been circulating in our Correctional Service since the inaugural launch of the Yellow Ribbon Campaign in 2008.

This evening, we will witness an aspect of the rehabilitation programme implemented at our Corrections Centres. The opportunity given to inmates with special art and carving skills will be showcased this evening. 

I have been reliably informed that the six artists under the guidance of their mentor, Mrs Jane Ricketts, have put in much work to ensure the success of the exhibition.
To Mrs Ricketts, we thank you for volunteering your services in support of the Fiji Corrections Service’s rehabilitation efforts, through art.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we will also be auctioning three art pieces this evening, with all proceeds going towards the Prime Minister’s Cyclone Relief Appeal Fund. We trust that you will all dig deep to donate generously towards this worthy art exhibition, “Stronger than Winston – the Resilience of Nature and Our People."

I take this opportunity to commend the many individuals, organisations and countries that have stepped in after Cyclone Winston to assist in our rehabilitation efforts through donations and aid-in-kind.

It was heartening to note that the biggest contribution by an individual towards the Prime Minister’s Cyclone Relief Appeal Fund came from Pauliasi Delaibatiki, an inmate who despite his circumstances was able to make a remarkable difference by donating $15,000 from a painting that was auctioned in China. We acknowledge the support of Fiji’s Ambassador to China, His Excellency Major-General Iowane Naivalurua in this effort.

The art exhibition will continue for a week ending on Friday, 12 August. Fifty percent of all proceeds from this week's sales will be contributed towards the Prime Minister’s Cyclone Relief Appeal Fund.

To Mrs Rickets and the artists, thank you for the lovely art work that will be displayed this evening. To the partners for this Art Exhibition - the team at Wildlife Conservation Society and the Fiji Corrections Service, we commend you highly for this wonderful initiative.

It gives me great pleasure to now declare the Stronger than Winston Art Exhibition Open.

May Almighty God continue to bless our beloved nation and all Fijians.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Fai’eksia and Thank you all.