Reconnecting the V

Dulcie Stewart. Reconnecting the V. 2015. Photograph on canvas, cotton. 31 x 29 in.

Reconnecting the V

Brisbane based, Dulcie Stewart’s mixed heritage has influenced her arts practice and involves interpretations of her identity, together with issues relating to her experiences of migration and diaspora.

Dulcie’s arts practice explores and celebrates the relationships between visual culture and contemporary Fijian identities through Fijian symbols, motifs and iconography found in her Australian urban landscape. These linkages in the captured landscape evoke memories of home and belonging.

In ‘Reconnecting the V’ I am recentering myself in the folds of the ‘V’, a visual reference to my vanua/vasu and Fijian design elements found in na ibe, tapa, and vei qia (woven mats, decorated bark cloth and tattoo).

Translated into English, vanua means land but at a deeper level it is an extension of the self and encompasses one’s connection to land, people, beliefs, tradition and custom. While vasu is one’s maternal ties to a vanua.

My earliest non-indigenous ancestor to arrive in Fiji was an Irish man via Australia in 1808 and since then my family have been politically and socially denied our indigenous heritage, to a point where we now identify ourselves as non-indigenous in our own vanua/land. Since the 1920s my father’s family had been legally identified in Fiji as ‘Part European’, while my mother identified as ‘part-Chinese’.* My vasu was often ignored and not acknowledged.

Through personal reflection and dialogue with Murri artist Simon Rose about our shared history of displacement and loss of language through colonialism, ‘Reconnecting the V’ contextualises the narratives of my iTaukei e Viti/white/Asian mixed heritage against forced labels and identity.

*From 2010, the word “Fijian” legally denotes nationality and not ethnicity, while indigenous Fijians are now known as iTaukei.