Grassroots art from the heart

16:00, Nov 20 2013
Artist NRN
FLOURISHING: Filani Macassey has her Fijian art works on display at Helensville’s Art on Track gallery

The grassroots arts scene is an ideal start for a comeback display for Helensville resident and international artist Filani Macassey.

The breast cancer survivor will exhibit Fijian motifs of myths and legends and cultural diversity at the district's Art on Track co-operative gallery until December 8.

"I really love the grassroots arts scene in Helensville. That's why I'm exhibiting - this is where it's at. This is our stomping ground, where our heart is and where our feet is on the ground."

She now has an exhibition in Rautenstrauch Joest Museum in Cologne, Germany, which she hopes to attend next year. She has also lectured at Te Papa, in Rarotonga and the University of South Pacific, Fiji, on the subject of Pacific tapa.

"Bark cloth is found in just about every culture around the world. I want to take my research everywhere I go," she says. "I work with Fijian bark cloth because it brings me closer to the land of my birth and links me with my maternal family, what we call Vasu."

Born to a South Island Scottish sheep farmer and her Fijian mum from Kadavu, Filani's grandfather was Tongan.


Filani originally helped set up Art Kaipara and has always encouraged the thriving arts and crafts in the district.

Goals include planning community art works and organising Pacific arts projects.

She would love to see Helensville have its own art centre, which would be a real drawcard for tourists.

"It's important for budding artists like Kaipara College students to know that although they're from a small town they can make it in the art world."

In 2010, Filani was diagnosed with breast cancer and within that month flew to Zurich, Switzerland, for her exhibition. She returned to New Zealand for chemotherapy and radiation treatment and has since then been taking time out.

She says both her current exhibits are her comebacks.

The Art and Track Gallery, based at the Helensville Railway Station, will host her exhibit called Turukawa, Elephants and Turtles and Sharks and Things, with pieces on Masi - Fijian tapa.

Her work features the cultural mix of Fiji from Pacific Islanders to Fijian Indians.

"I saw an Indian firewalking ceremony in Suva when I was a little girl and I could see how they put skewers in their skin," she says.

"I'd be looking at an old Fijian Indian man to check if he had holes in his check. I also grew up with the sound of bells."

She says her original home is quite culturally diverse with Pacific Islanders, Chinese, English, American and French people.

She says it is quite a different picture in Helensville where she is one of the few Fijians in the community, living in the district for 19 years.

After community art projects in Helensville, Filani spent a year at Hungry Creek which led to graduating in 2007 from Elam School of Fine Arts.

Norwest News