Christmas and New Year were the only days I looked forward to while serving my time at the Naboro Maximum Prison. These were the only days I would have someone visiting me.
And that visitor is none other than the current Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who was then the President of Fiji.
Sharing his life story last night during the Fiji Corrections Service ‘New Life Art Exhibition’ at the Grand Pacific Holiday, 43-year old Saimoni Rokotunidau said since 2009 when Hon. Ratu Epeli was the President, he would visit him in Naboro.
“Ira dau tukituki, dola yani noqu rumu qai dau vakabula vei au. Lululu, dau tarogi au, sa vo e vica, qai dau tukuna vei au meu vakaukauwa tiko”. (He would knock, open my room and greet me. He usually shakes my hand and asks me, how many more years left, and he would often tell me to be strong.)
“For five to six years, that was the normal routine. No one else would visit me at Naboro.”
“When I met him tonight, those memories came flashing back and I’m so delighted to be able to relay to him how I used to feel back then.”
Mr Rokotunidau was sentenced to 12 years in 2009. Now he is based at the Suva Prison and only has two more weeks to serve before being released.
Hon. Ratu Epeli reminded the artists that art and artistic expression have transformative powers that can help persons in corrections centres develop hidden skills and unlock their potential to contribute to and succeed in their community.
“Art is not just something for show, it is therapeutic and helps the artists set goals for life after prison. It also provides an opportunity for inmates to be creative and to express their thoughts.”
“This public exhibition of art works by the artists in corrections centres provides additional motivation for the inmates and a reaffirmation that their efforts are appreciated and that they have value. The art produced are aimed at attracting potential art lovers and helping them understand that even those who have fallen on the wrong side of the law still have much inner beauty and skills to express.”
Hon. Ratu Epeli thanked the Fiji Corrections Service for moving in the right direction with the ‘New Life Exhibition’, and for bringing the show outside of the Tagimouica Gallery in Korovou to give the artists more exposure.
“This public exhibition will not only give members of the public the opportunity to have access to the work of the artists but it will also showcase an important aspect of the Yellow Ribbon Project and create more public awareness of the standard and quality of art produced at the Tagimoucia Gallery.”
The exhibition features the work of seven artists and a carver, who have been working tirelessly over the last few months and more to present an exciting collection of paintings and arts in a variety of mediums under the ‘New Life’ theme.
Speaker also paid tribute to Mrs Jane Ricketts, the arts teacher of the Fiji Corrections Service for her voluntarism, dedication and inspirational leadership to the budding artists in the corrections centres over many years.