A Closer Look At Indigenous Peoples Uplift through Rise Beyond The Reef In Fiji

Rise Beyond the Reef, featured in the NOVICA 2022 Summer Lookbook,  was founded by Janet and Semi Lotawa in 2013 with three goals in mind: to empower indigenous women in remote rural villages, to preserve and promote traditional arts, crafts and culture, and to conserve the country’s natural resources. The organization works with 25 remote villages across Fiji. Each community brings its own artistic style and cultural heritage, making the collection a truly unique assortment of Fijian arts and crafts.

“Through the medium of craft, we are constantly working to strengthen women’s leadership roles. Women have the lowest social rank in the village but have the highest level of artistry. To bridge this gap, the Tribal Women’s Councils were created, in which they teach their craft to other members as well as learn about running a business.

Clockwise from top left: ‘Mandala Yellow’ tote, ‘Drividrivi’ runner and ‘Bua’ napkins, ‘Tavola’ pillow cover, ‘Tropical Leaf’ tea towels

“Empowerment means – providing women and girls with education, health care, skills, and income-earning opportunities beyond those available to them at home and in traditional culture. Having access to education and a sustainable income outside the home gives women greater respect and standing within the household and community.

“Women-led craftwork has contributed to some important conservation efforts. Kuta pond grass is used to make mats and other ceremonial attire and comes from the wetlands of Macuata Island. This area has been increasingly threatened by unsustainable farming practices, including overgrazing and uncontrolled burning. With a higher demand for kuta pond grass, women in two Macuata villages have petitioned community leaders for a conservation initiative to protect the wetlands.”

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