Pacific islands are not often associated with radical contemporary art but Argus is pleased to note that Fiji recently took a step in the right direction with the establishment of the Nadi International Prize for Sculpture. Sponsored by the city of Nadi, the prize is worth ten thousand Fijian dollars - a huge sum in this relatively poor country - and is open to all Fijian-born artists with one stipulation only, that the sculpture be suitable for outdoor display as public art.

The first Nadi Prizewinner was announced today. The sculpture chosen is cry for democracy, an assemblage of "found objects", the work of sculptor Wesley Fafalino of Rakiraki in the north of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. The sculpture is not only an artistic but a political statement, the title cry for democracy being intentionally ambiguous in a country where parliamentary rule is suspended.

Fafalino is an alumnus of the Rotorua College of Art in New Zealand - there are many connections between Fiji and the land of the kiwi - where he studied under renowned graphic deconstructional art theorist and critic Craig Faulkner.

It was Faulkner in fact who suggested he enter for the prize and who has written a "critical apologia" for  cry for democracy, in which he describes the sculpture as a "romanticised dream in material language". The work, Faulkner explains, "is a metaphor, an exploration in materials which though themselves inherently unsustainable, can yet express the concept of a sustainable whole, which in the artist's vision is democracy. While only inchoately present as a notion in the Fiji of today this concept can be realised by the transformation, through the artistic power of the imagination, of exploitative forces, represented by the objects randomly assembled in the sculpture - forces which have been shown to be historically unsustainable - into a sustainable political future."

Given the present political situation in Fiji, it is a brave idea and a brave award by the town of Nadi, as well as a harbinger of the quality of art we can expect from this nation when its young talents find their voice in the contemporary idiom.

The sculpture has been placed on display in a Nadi street. "We don't have many famous attractions here," said one local councillor, "and we hope that cry for democracy will attract a big share of the international cultural tourism market."

15 June 2012

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