A Spotlight on Fijian Artistry

Railala Gade, Nakilamai Creations (2018), detail. Courtesy of CEAC.
Rowena Rooney. Masi in My Blood (2018). Courtesy of the artist.
Ulumate exhibition, Kai Colo (1871-86) Francis Herbert Dufty. Courtesy of Te Papa
Corban Estate Arts Centre Exhibitions February to April, 2019


Ni sa Bula Vinaka, we open our gallery programme this year with three solo exhibitions grounded in traditional knowledge from the beautiful islands of Fiji. On display from 15 February to 7 April, 2019; Masi in my Blood by Rowena Rooney, The Ulumate Project by Daren Kamali featuring Inise Eremasi and Nakilamai creations by Railala Gade.

Fijian heritage artist Railala Gade’s very first solo exhibition Nakilamai Creations features Masi (Fijian bark cloth) adorned with ancient patterns and designs from Railala’s home, the island of Moce, Fiji. Railala, who was raised around the beating of Masi, recalls that some of her earliest memories involve watching her relatives beat the mulberry tree into large white fibrous sheets. This knowledge has been in Railala’s family for generations, passed down through the family. She now utilises this knowledge to produce traditional garments using traditional methods, dyes and materials.

Based in a humble studio in Glen Innes, Railala’s expertise is rare here in Aotearoa and as a result, is often highly sought after. During her time living in Aotearoa, Railala has delivered many workshops sharing the knowledge of Masi, motivated by the desire to educate and continue to pass on knowledge of Fijian culture and traditions.

In her exhibition, Masi in my Blood, Rowena Rooney explores knowledge passed down to her from her grandmother, elders and the wider community. Using modern techniques relating to glass and ceramics, her work pays homage and explores traditional Masi designs whilst exploring new depths. With deep tones of brown inspired by nature and existing Masi showing up in her newer works juxtaposed with non-traditional materials, Rowena recent art forms working with ancient symbols in the present day challenging the notions of traditional and contemporary.

Reviving ancient connections is a primary focus in Daren Kamali’s exhibition The Ulumate Project. Daren’s work displays his research progress regarding the study of Ulumate (mourning wigs), a long journey in the making for the poet and performance artist. Building on his research and time spent in museums around the globe, Daren has begun to put his years of theoretical knowledge into practice, creating an Ulumate using his own hair with assistance from Fijian heritage performance artist Inise Eremasi. Accompanying this revival project are a show of photographs, objects and moving image works, which revisit the historical roots of Ulumate.

This series of important exhibitions allow us the opportunity to explore the cultural heritage of Fiji from the direct voices of Fijian heritage artists. With a major revival project, a show of traditional making and a challenging ceramicist, these exhibitions show the variety of ways in which these artists connect to their culture. Furthermore, our public programmes create an opportunity for them to share their stories first hand with the audience. Vinaka vaka levu.

As part of our public programme, Saturday 9th March come learn about artist Railala Gade’s work with Masi and traditional Fijian patterns. Under her guidance you will create a piece to take home.



Exhibition dates: 14 to February to 7 April, 2019 open 7 days a week, 10.00am – 4:30pm

Entry: Free, all welcome





  1. Exhibition opening

Thursday 14 February, 6-8pm

Please join us for the opening reception of Masi in my Blood by Rowena Rooney, The Ulumate Project by Daren Kamali featuring Inise Eremasi and Nakilamai Creations by Railala Gade.


Entry: Free, all welcome, in the Homestead Galleries.



  1. Saturday Gallery Club #46

Saturday 09 March, between 10.30am and 12pm


Learn about Masi (Fijian bark cloth) and traditional patterns with artists Railala Gade. Under her guidance you will create a piece to take home.


  • : Free, for kids and families, all art material provided. This is a drop in art activity, no bookings needed, in the Homestead Galleries.


*More information about the Saturday Gallery Club for kids and families


These free and fun family art-making sessions happen in the gallery every SECOND Saturday of the month. Art activities are designed for children aged 4 and upwards and families the activity runs for around 30 minutes. These sessions are family friendly and children need to be accompanied by an adult.




  1. Pencil to Paper – Still life drawing club


The last Saturday of every month we will be exploring our latest exhibitions with a FREE 1 hour drawing club for Adults. So bring a friend to spend some time, learning simple drawing and sketching techniques in a relaxing environment.


23rd February, 12-1pm

Life drawing of a model wearing Masi cloth created by Railala Gade


23rd March, 11-12pm

Still life drawing featuring Fijian objects from artist Rowena Rooney’s collection


Bookings are essential: Limited spaces available – Materials provided

Image caption: Pencil to paper workshop (2018), Courtesy of CEAC


  1. Artist Korero


Saturday 23 February, between 4pm-5pm


Rowena Rooney, Daren Kamali and Railala Gade

Our artist talk this month explores the depths of new projects by artist Rowan Rooney and poet Daren Kamali who are strongly influenced by their Fijian heritage, whilst heritage artist Railala Gade shares about her upbringing around the art of masi making.


Homestead galleries, Entry Free

Further information: 


If you'd like more information about these exhibitions or for media inquiries please contact the curator, Cora-Allan Wickliffe: 09 838 4455 extension 203 or cora-allan@ceac.org.nz   

Contact details: 
Cora-Allan Wickliffe: 09 838 4455 extension 203

Written by

Corban Estate Arts Centre

4 Feb 2019

Interests The Corban Estate Arts Centre (CEAC)