Agriculture Inspires Pacific Art for Income Generating Opportunities

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Feature photo: Artist Gert Jan Leautuli helps support his family with his artwork.

Amidst the piglets, tilapia tanks and taro stalls at Malaefatu Park this week were several art displays which had some wondering; ‘what has art got to do with Agriculture?’

24 year old Gert Jan Leautuli from the Leulemoega School of Fine Arts is an example of what happens when art and agriculture intersect.

After graduating from high school, Gert found that their small plantation in Savaii could not support the growing family.

Gert became a full time artist.

“I’m going to earn money for my family through art” said Gert.

“My family have a good business – it’s an art gallery in Tufatafoe, Savaii called Mauga Gallery, named after my grandmother.”

Gert paints what he sees on the family farm, from lush plantations, colourful fruits and vegetation to family members working the land.

“I like painting the environment the most – I create whatever I see, whatever I feel – it’s from my imagination and from my heart.”

He says a painting of a fruit basket was inspired by the T.V commercial “Eat the Rainbow” and this led him to look closely at his diet and the food available to him.

“I decided to paint fruits and look at healthy eating – the more you care about what you eat the better your choices,” he says.

Illeyah Draunidalo of Pacific Island Farming Organisation Network (PIFON) says many take for granted how much agriculture inspires artists.

Art is a part of our everyday life. PC: John Pierre Niptik

“It’s easy to miss but agricultural plants and landscapes are woven into all aspects of our daily lives”, says Draunidalo

Ms Draunidalo says that the visual displays of the traditional elei print is seen everywhere at the PPacific Week of Agriculture this week, from clothing to ornaments to bags.

“And it’s really everyday wear for us here in the Pacific.’’

Flower arrangements has become an income generating activity for many farmers, with men and women seen putting together their artistic creations.

“We’ve been to many events this week and there’s not been one without floral arrangements, which begins with a vision and takes time to create;

“It takes a high level of technical skill, creativity and talent;

“It’s art.”

“I purchased handmade scented soaps from Marcus Sio of Women in Business Development Incorporation (WIBDI), and I really loved their packaging, which were hand painted Samoan motifs inspired by nature.

Illehyah says more businesses are seeing the value in using agriculture-inspired art to market their products.

In Samoa, the Flowers, Food and Art industries are dominated by women. Which is why PIFON and Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative 2 (PARDI) organised the “Women in Agriculture Flowers Food & Art Exhibition” to be held during PWA.

“This celebrates our women and their role in these industries.” said Illeyah

“We shouldn’t be surprised that art is featured during Pacific Week of Agriculture for the natural environment has inspired some of the world’s most famous painters”.

Claude Monet’s work

The father of French Impressionism, Claude Monet documented the French country side including his world famous house and garden that tourists flock to every year.

*** Elizabeth Ah-Hi is a participant at the ACIAR and ABC International Development ‘Celebrating Agriculture in the News’ Masterclass supported by the Australian Government.