Wednesday, November 14, 2007


WEA Cakacaka and members of her family are traditional wood carvers. It is a God-given talent, more like a gift passed down through the family tree for generations.

It makes her a rarity because in Fijian ideology, Wea and her blood lines are known as mataisau builders or sculptors and they have generally been men. It has been 10 years since Wea started in the woodcarving business and she has made a good name out of it.

Since leaving secondary school at Vashist Muni College in Navua in 1996, Wea tried her hand at carving and has not looked back. "It is part of our tradition that has been passed down through the generations," Wea said.

"My parents come from families of wood carvers who make a business from it. "This is something I am very proud of as I can fall back on it. "I have been lucky that the knowledge of wood carving has been passed down by my parents to me, especially as I am an only child."
Wea does not claim success for herself.

She comes from Fulaga, in Lau, and is married to Maika, who is from Matuku. The couple have four children. Wea and her husband's carvings range from turtle shell dishes, tanoa and interior decorating.

She said income from wood carving depended on the size of the project. "Since starting this business there is so much competition in carving," she said. "What I have gotten from these carvings is not only ideas of how to change, how I design my products to how to manage a small business.

"This is my way of contributing to the family income. The patterns or decoration on the carvings are different and that is what makes it unique." Wea said her husband usually came up with the designs on wood carvings and products like the tanoa.

She said a product took a week to complete, depending on the size and the materials needed to put it together. "One of the biggest projects my husband and I worked on was the door designs for the Shangri-La's Fijian resort.

"It took about a week to complete just one of the doors. "The work can be tiring but the income we earn from the job is more than the cost of materials. "The prices for interior designs on the hotel doors can vary from $300 or more. My husband comes up with the designs for the tanoa.
"All the designs he has come up with depict the changing times we in Fiji are experiencing and the mix of cultures in our world where we have a bit of African, Australian or New Zealand designs.

"Some of our work depict traditional carvings from our past." Wea said the tanoa was used during traditional ceremonies and was significant in Pacific cultures. She said to a tourist the tanoa would be an ornament.

"In that perspective, we designed the tanoa to suit all purposes. It is not only used for traditional ceremonies but can be used as an ornament in homes. "Some of our creations have shells or creative carvings around the tanoa.

"We decided to change the look of the normal tanoa. "All materials used in the wood carvings and our other works are cheaper to buy than the end products.

"We use vesi or vaivai wood for our carvings.

"Most of our carvings are sold to the big handicraft shops in Nadi."

Adapted from November 14th, 2007