I've been writing bits and pieces for a while now for the above project for the Fiji Times this year. People have read it, artists I have profiled have appreciated it and I've gotten to know those artists and their stories and it's been driving my work ever since. I've put a lot of personal projects on hold of late because of it - card making, comics, writing here... all because despite the stress of the final year of my BA, I found a project that actually recognised artists and supported them. To what end? Sure, NCD awareness but it all honesty it opened my mind. I've always known of art as a medium to try to create change, I try to do it in everything I do.The beginning of this year I was pretty low. I thought I was able to get some extra work that didnt quite fall through so I entered 2013 angry. But so much good has happened. Maybe this is all to remind myself of that. I've met amazing artists, almost finished my degree, just passed one year with perhaps one of the most patient, loving people I've ever met, met inspiring young people from around the region and theres still the rest of the year to go.
So here's what I wrote for the Fiji Times and here's hoping people will like it.
Never had I ever expected half the things I’ve experienced this year to ever happen to me. This project has been an almost year long adventure of learning, sharing and creating.I’ve always just been someone who doodled around, liked to tell stories and just be a walking-talking nonsense machine. That changed this year with the Educating for Sustainable Lifestyles through the Arts project.Before I go off about what I had to learn with the other artists, I think it’s important to share something that used to be so close to many creative people.Art is so often not taken seriously. Whatever the form, recognition for your ability, your passion and the stories you tell with your pieces mean little to so many. This may just be a generalization but is not devoid of truth.The project, on the other hand, gave artists knowledge, resources and a space to share and create. It recognized the capacity of our nation’s artists to deal with an area that has seemed immune to warnings that already exist.It isn’t a secret that NCDs are slowly killing our people. The situation is such that getting people to move, even the slightest amount, seems a tremendous undertaking. It seems even harder trying to get people to take a second look at what they put on their plate.Wellness isn’t just even about our physical bodies but includes spiritual and mental wellbeing. The latter has also been something very close to me.Whether it was because of a close friend who is a great advocate of mental health or first-hand dealings with certain moods, it was the issue I chose to pursue. These moods would creep up throughout the project. There were highs and lows, moments of inspiration and then there was feeling so overwhelmed because of the task at hand. We, as artists, were trying to make a change were so many others have failed.Despite the task, one of the things that always chased the lows away were the times I would sit with the other artists to profile them. They were always so full of excitement and had great stories to tell. With them, I began to realize that despite a lack of recognition, these artists are still people doing what they want. Isn’t that something commendable on its own? They wanted to make a change so they committed to the process.Now, with the exhibition almost within reach and with my piece waiting to be on show, I feel a sense of hesitation. This is not uncommon for me to feel. I worry that my piece will be misunderstood or overlooked, a worry I share with some of the other artists. But if you intend to go to our exhibition, please keep an open mind and enjoy it. I know a lot of love has gone into the creation of what will be on display.The Educating for Sustainable Lifestyles through the Arts project aims to create an opportunity through the arts for NCD awareness, advocacy and wider community education to stimulate focused and wider public NCD-dialogue in Fiji.The Educating for Sustainable Lifestyles through the Arts project is supported by the Ministry of Health, FNU College of Medicine, Nursing and Health and AusAID.Sian Rolls is one of the 20 artists part of the Educating for Sustainable Lifestyles through the Arts project, a community radio producer/broadcaster and a Politics and Journalism major at the University of the South Pacific.