One of the many joys of wandering around the Art in the Park market is the opportunity to meet and talk with the many talented artists who display their works for purchase.
The first time I saw the prints made by Ralph Ako I was delighted by the traditional designs in his works which were different from the Pacific prints and art works that I had viewed in exhibitions in Wellington. I enjoyed talking with him and hearing about his passion for his craft and the hopes for his future.
He talked about his time in New Zealand when he obtained a Diploma in Visual Arts at the Manukau Institute and about the print makers work shops he had attended in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Ralph and his fellow artist and print maker Aldio Pita originate from Bareho Island, Marovo in Western Province. They were participants in a NZ funded livelihood project in the 1990s offering sustainable incomes as an alternative to logging. Wellington based artist Michael Tuffery and Chris Delany trained villagers how to make paper from banana and other forest fibres and how to carve woodblocks and then print the images onto the paper. In villages with no electricity, simple technology was the key. No chemicals were used, wood lye from cooking ash sufficed for chemical alkaline and the spoons were used instead of a printing press! Sixteen years on, these two artists have educated 9 children to tertiary level from the proceeds of their art, the long term benefits of this programme.
The training was eventually replicated by UNESCO to artists from 14 other Pacific countries.
The talents of artists such as Ralph Ako and Aldio Pita are already recognised; they have both exhibited internationally and have their works in public and private collections. If possible you should get the art works you purchase in the Solomon’s professionally framed, perhaps in a floated box frame so that they will maintain their beauty and be reminders for a long time of the skills of the local artisans.
With every purchase of their beautiful and unique artworks, you are encouraging these artists and their communities to protect their environment and revitalize their cultural heritage.
Ralph can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 485156, Aldio Pita on email@example.com or 7871017 if you wish to speak with them directly about their works and when they will be in Honiara.
The following photos (excluding the last image) are curtesy of Chris Delany.