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It's been fun working on another painting in my "Reki! ~Time to Dance" series. This one will be transiting the globe tomorrow - keenly awaited by a client in New York City.
Last month, the fiber used to make the barkcloth I am painting on here was the live, growing inner bark of a leafy green tropical mulberry sapling, in a family-run plantation on a small, coral atoll to the south of our island, called Vatulele. The bark was harvested by my husband's aunt Mala, one of many women from the seaside village of Ekubu who make a living producing hand-crafted masi, or barkcloth, using an environmentally-friendly, but laborious process of scraping, soaking, beating, and felting the fibrous mulberry bark into long, textured sheets. This traditional craft is practiced in only a few parts of Fiji, with the knowledge and skills involved being passed down from generation to generation of hard-working women.
Mala came across to the mainland by boat during the recent school break, bringing two of her children for some sight-seeing, and a big roll of lovely white masi to sell in order to raise money for school fees and other family needs. Our studio is filled with the pungent scent of freshly beaten masi every time we get such a delivery. It is an honor to be able to work with a material that is as steeped in culture and tradition as our Fijian masi is!