Casula Powerhouse explores deep Pacific roots in Bittersweet

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Casula Powerhouse explores deep Pacific roots in Bittersweet
Bittersweet exhibition space.

SYDNEY.- Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre has unveiled its brand-new exhibition Bittersweet (8 August — 27 September), curated by Western Sydney artist, Shivanjani Lal. Comprised of iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) and Indo-Fijian artists, the exhibition speaks to their experiences as artists and their connection to home.

Bittersweet is a poignant showcase of contemporary Fijian art and storytelling, focusing on the ways in which ideas around food, language, and art are interpreted by those living in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In Bittersweet, the artists explore their relationship to Fiji and how their connection to the Island colours their art.

“This exhibition is an outcome of my searching for artist peers within the Pacific arts community,” said Shivanjani Lal. “Bittersweet is an attempt to share our knowledge with our community in Liverpool, showcasing the relationships we have with our family and environment, how we hold onto traditional values in diaspora, how we navigate distance, and how we can remember where we came from through ritual, food, and storytelling.”

“The Liverpool region has a huge Fijian-Indian community,” said CPAC Director, Craig Donarski. “This makes us particularly delighted to be part of this project that shares stories of living far away from your homeland. We hope this opens up conversations between the generations, so old and new ideas of Fiji can be shared and remade.”

Bittersweet features the work of ten artists, including Manisha Anjali, Mohini Chandra, Quishile Charan, Yasbelle Kerkow, C.A Moses, Dulcie Stewart, Luisa Tora, Sangeeta Singh, Emele Ugavale, and Shivanjani Lal.

As you enter the exhibition, a haunting sound work by Manisha Anjali greets you, in an offering to the spirits of family and ancestors.

Once inside, Mohini Chandra’s three-part video work explores what happens when you return home after everyone has left; Quishile Charan collaborates with the women in her family to learn craft techniques, using the natural materials they’ve helped her source; Yasbelle Kerkow uses fish skin tanning to create prints that connect cultural practices learned from family, and printmaking skills learned in Australia, to explore ideas of skin and mark making.

UK-based artist C.A Moses finds Fiji in his Barra Amma (mother’s sister), a woman who has lived in Kent for over forty years. In a series of photographs taken in her home, what he captures speaks to what we hold onto and remember of home as we move further away from it; and Dulcie Stewart uses contemporary painted Fijian street signage to recreate the visual language of Fijian market stalls and shops.

Through a video work, filmed in Auckland, Luisa Tora and Sangeeta Singh explore their relationship as artists, friends, and Fijians living overseas as they mold clay together to create a new landscape for themselves; and Emele Ugavale uses collage and storytelling to share the tale of her family, using language and story as a lens through which ideas of the past are both connected and distorted when a story is being told.

Shivanjani Lal is a Fijian-Indian Australian artist based in Western Sydney who works with photography, video, and performance. She was recently named the 2019 Create NSW and Artspace NSW Emerging Visual Arts Fellow. Her work in Bittersweet is a series of instant prints, printed onto recycled brown paper sourced in Bombay. It is part of an ongoing archival project in which Lal takes a hundred photographs on each return visit to Fiji.

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