By Sharyn Cant, VSA volunteer Art Centre Coordinator, Poutasi Village
The Poutasi Village Art Centre was officially opened by the paramount chief, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, earlier this month. It was wonderful to see around 40 people gathered to see the Arts Centre open to the public. Guests included Jackie Frizzell the NZ High Commissioner and some of her staff, a large contingent of village elders and church officials, Samoa Tourism Authority, South Coast resort managers, VSA volunteers, the Apia Rotary president and friends.
After many years in the making, this fantastic new facility hopes to bring in locals and tourists alike to view and buy traditional and contemporary Samoan art and artifacts. So far the ‘print -your-own-lavalava’ has been very popular. We provide customers with plain fabric, stencils, fabric paint and expertise and assist people to create their own wearable art.
This is such a positive initiative for the village, providing employment and training . At present, the small profits are going into the Poutasi Development Trust (PDT) to help pay wages and provide funds to restock the shop. In the future, as profits increase, they will be used to help pay the wages of the teachers working at the preschool housed in the same building.
The Arts Centre stands where the district secondary school was located before the devastating tsunami of 2009 swept across the low lying parts of Poutasi Village. It washed away everything in its path, including the school, leaving only the concrete slab behind.
Once the utter chaos had subsided and the school was relocated to higher ground, Joe Annandale decided to rebuild on the remaining concrete slabs. This is how the Art Centre came into being. He received many offers to help from different agencies and the shell of the Art Centre building was built.
When I arrived as the Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) Art Centre Coordinator, Joe and I were able to work on funding proposals, and successfully received a grant of $50,000 Samoan Tala from an Australian aid programme, Civil Society Support Programme.
It took us two years, but we were very happy to have finished construction of the Arts Centre, including a kitchen, toilets, workshop and gallery. Two local villagers have been trained to work in the arts centre and we are running workshops in weaving and sewing, along with selling the completed artworks in the shop.
A number of local women are weaving items for sale and we are planning to have carvers do the same in the future. As the centre is still in its infancy, we are buying in some Samoan made artifacts from the market in Apia, but as the skills of the local villagers increase, they will be making and supplying the centre with artifacts.
The Tindall Foundation’s donation assisted with project management, art supplies, set-up costs and other expenses for the Arts Centre. The foundation has also worked extensively with Poutasi Village over the past four years helping to establish the now commercially successful gardens, which supply fresh produce and salad greens, previously imported at high costs, to the restaurants and resorts of Upolu.