By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Photos by JONE LUVENITOGA Oil paintings, pastel and pencil pictures and embroidered flowers have bloomed behind the bars of Fiji’s Korovou Prison. Six inmates from the prison recently showed their artwork and talent in an exhibition, Blooming Inside, held in the Tagimoucia Art Gallery, part of the prison complex at Walu Bay, Suva. It was an initiative of the Yellow Ribbon Project to help rehabilitate prisoners. Inmates Isoa Cokadrokadroka, Pita Driti, Pauliasi Delaibatiki, Aisake Amoe, Ethan Kai and lone female artist Muskan Ballagan brought the gloomy building back to life with their paintings of flowers, horse racing and visions of life by the beach. Ballagan, 26, said her paintings, titled Wildflower and Floral Drama, helped her cope with the long separation from her family in India. Her work included framed embroidered flowers. Ballagan has been painting for the past six years in prison and this was her second exhibition. Her father has agreed to open a gallery in India to show work of his daughter and her fellow inmates. Australian national Ethan Kai is grateful to the Fiji Corrections Service for enabling him to bring out his artistic flair. The 36-year-old inmate does most of his artwork with pencil on paper and hopes to venture soon into oils on canvas. He has served three years of his 13 year prison term but is new to art. Despite his interest he did not previously have the time or resources to pursue it. Aisake Amoe, 28, from Rotuma island said when he is alone in prison he thinks of ideas for his next painting. “Sometimes my fellow brothers inside give me their ideas as well. It is a collective way for us to express ourselves and how we feel. I am full of regrets for my wrong doing and I have changed. I am grateful that this project has not only helped me pursue my talent but changed my mindset.” Art tutor Jane Ricketts, for many years an English teacher in Fiji, volunteers at the Fiji Corrections Service. She said it was amazing to see the amount of talent inmates have. “I am an artist myself and I am their link to the art world and to showing their talent to the outside world. I have been volunteering and working with inmates since 2008 and I know for a fact they find peace when they express themselves through their artwork. ” The Tagimoucia Art Gallery is located at Walu Bay in Suva next to the Royal Suva Yacht Club and is open from Monday to Saturday.
Minister for Tourism & Trade Mr Faiyaz Siddiq Koya with Korovou Prison inmates