COLOUR the streets

mailife - - Art - By MELA TUILEVUKA. photo by FEROZ KHALIL

SHUF­FLING ta­bles and chairs around the mail­ife of­fice last month, we started talk­ing about ways to beau­tify our small work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Dur­ing this dis­cus­sion our Travel Edi­tor Drue Slat­ter brought up the name Numa Macken­zie.Two years ago Drue had sailed on the ‘Te Mana o Te Moana’ (the Spirit of the Ocean) an­nual jour­ney across the Pa­cific by a fleet of seven tra­di­tional style voy­ag­ing ca­noes. Us­ing tra­di­tional nav­i­ga­tional skills and re­ly­ing on the stars, wind and wildlife as their guide, they map their way in the wake of their an­ces­tors. It was on this voy­age that Drue crossed paths with Numa’s sis­ter. Numa had been on the same voy­age in 2011/2012. Numa is of Cook Is­lands de­scent and was born and bred in Calgary, Al­berta in Canada. There were many vis­its back to his is­land ori­gins in the Pa­cific and when he turned 30, he de­cided to move back home. Numa fell in love with the tra­di­tions and cul­ture of the Cook Is­lands, which gave him such a sense of be­long­ing that go­ing back to Calgary was out of the ques­tion. In­stead he re­lo­cated his fam­ily to New Zealand so they would be closer to his an­ces­tral home. Voy­ag­ing on the Te Mana o Te Moana in 2011/2012 he re­alised the intelligence of his an­ces­tors, who trav­elled un­charted seas with­out the lux­ury of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. In his view tech­nol­ogy doesn’t have all the an­swers and peo­ple should re­spect the past. Numa used this voy­age to learn more about his cul­ture. “What I learn, I ex­press through art,” he said. “I grew up in an era when graf­fitti was the most com­mon form of art and I have been paint­ing for the past 10 years both pro­fes­sion­ally and for leisure.” Last month, Numa left his wife and young daugh­ter in NZ and trav­elled to Fiji to pro­mote his pas­sion for the art. Mail­ife met Numa on his last day in Suva. It just so hap­pened we were on dis­cus­sion mode on how to or­ga­nize and im­prove our of­fice in­side and out when Drue men­tioned his name and called him up.Numa was at Walu Bay where he was hired to paint a wall and de­cided to come and run a fi­nal brush over our out­side of­fice wall be­fore he flew out the next morn­ing. “I try to do as much as I can to pro­mote my work and whether I get paid or not it doesn’t mat­ter be­cause I am do­ing what I love,” he said. There had been a slow start in try­ing to pro­mote his pas­sion to the Fi­jian pub­lic. “No one knew me so I had to find ways and means to reach out to the com­mu­nity and it took a while for my art to sink in,” he said. He also had dif­fi­culty get­ting paint, in­clud­ing the right base colour to make tints with be­cause there was a short­age in most hard­ware shops. “I know peo­ple are still re­build­ing their homes af­ter Cy­clone Win­ston,” he said. Numa forged his way for­ward, see­ing this as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose his style of art to the peo­ple of Fiji. “Some peo­ple will see my work and love it but they don’t know how it’s done,” he said.Four hours spent watch­ing Numa paint our out­side of­fice wall left us won­der­ing where he learnt his skills. “All that you see here, all my work, has been self-taught. I didn’t at­tend any col­lege or univer­sity to be able to do this,” he said. Lo­cal artist Jo­sua To­gani­valu of Penikau Stu­dios ac­com­pa­nied Numa to our of­fice. He said he had learnt a great deal from Numa dur­ing his short stay. It was a priv­i­lege to have some­one like Numa work with lo­cal artists as they got to learn new skills that they never knew ex­isted. For Numa, work­ing with lo­cal artists here has also been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and he in­tends to re­turn one day soon.

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