COLOUR the streets
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.