Contributor: Vilsoni Hereniko, Filmmaker and Professor of Academy for Creative Media, UH Mānoa.
The Gift, 2015
After two years of being the Director of the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific, I was gifted with this carving by the faculty, staff and artists working at the Center. I often admire it because I see this as an imaginative work of art, by one of Fiji’s foremost woodcarvers. It draws from the past to create a new work of art. The whole piece, from a distance, looks like a giant phallus, a symbol of fertility, potency, and masculinity. In ancient Polynesia, the phallus was not something to be ashamed of, but something that was celebrated and revered. The stylized human head, the big open mouth, and the shell inlay enhance the mana and the beauty of the artwork.
In the novel Potiki, Patricia Grace writes about a world that already exists inside the wood. It is the woodcarver’s duty to bring out this universe from within and not to impose upon the wood his or her own designs.