NATION

Artist Draws His Way Out of the Streets

  Art, for one man, became a matter of survival when he found himself alone and on the streets after a series of dark events in his life. Alifereti Malai,
30 Nov 2017 11:00
Artist Draws His Way  Out of the Streets
Alifereti Malai with his drawing of the Prime Minister which he says he attaches great emotional value to. Photo: Sheldon Chanel

 

Art, for one man, became a matter of survival when he found himself alone and on the streets after a series of dark events in his life.

Alifereti Malai, 52, remembers how he had no choice but to somehow transform his drawing hobby into a livelihood when all other avenues had been exhausted.

“I dropped out of school very early so I couldn’t complete my education,” Mr Malai said.

“There was nothing to fall back on so, to survive, I utilised my hobby and I was lucky to have the talent to do so.”

Today, Mr Malai is an award-winning artist with multiple accolades to his name.

In 2005, he was awarded the Craftsman of the Year award. He also won the National Fine Art Exhibition Award and the Indigenous Art Award in 2012 and 2010 respectively.

But the Naitasiri man never set out to win awards when he started creating.

“The responsibility of a visual artist is to confront the issues that are affecting society,” the artists said.

“Issues like climate change or some kind of political awareness – that is our role as artists.”

His most treasured drawings are portraits of the Prime Minister and of Miss World Fiji Nanise Rainima.

He says he liked to represent Fijian beauty in his paintings and was willing to draw for anyone at their request.

However, Mr Malai thinks artists in Fiji often find themselves in the shadow of famous personalities such as those from the sporting arena.

“We artists need the media to uplift us because right now we’re at the very bottom,” he added.

With over 30 years of experience as an artist, he said he understood the apprehension young artists might have about taking up art as a career.

“Not everyone can become lawyers and doctors. If you couldn’t make it in school, don’t worry; stay passionate and know that you can become something in life,” Mr Malai said.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj



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