Fashion show provides new platform for inmates

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7 December, 2019

The Christmas Vakaviti Art Exhibition and fashion show held at the Tagimoucia Art Gallery on 5 December, 2019 proved to be a big hit.

Fiji became the second country in the world, after Israel to hold a fashion show with clothing designed by female inmates.

The fashion show says Commissioner of Corrections Commander Francis Kean was borne out of the need to find also a platform for the women to showcase their designs and skills learnt during their sewing and clothes designing program at the Suva Women’s Correction Center.

The Artwork of paintings, sculptures and furniture making were produced by mainly male inmates under the guidance of Mrs Jane Ricketts.  Apart from clothing designs female inmates also delivered lifestyle products for the home such as cushions, tablecloths and jewellery.

Chief guest at the event, President Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote was very impressed with the level of artistry and creativity displayed at the event.

“It is my humble opinion that the nurture and further development of these inmates’ talents and potential is in itself an important aspect of their Rehabilitation Programme,’’ the President stated in his address.

“The initiative provides an opportunity for inmates to further develop and improve their skills and gain an income generating capacity while in custody, that of a life-changing capability which should assist them upon their release and hopefully, improve their assimilation back into society and become productive and prosperous Fijians.”

“I am reliably informed that to qualify for this Rehabilitation Programme, the inmates will have to meet certain criteria for acceptance, participation and achievement at the preliminary and initial stages. Some of these potential Artists entered the Corrections Centers without any skills whatsoever about art work,’’ he added.

“However, through the years, they have acquired the basic artistic knowledge and skills enabling them to produce meaningful and epic pieces of art work which depict and portrays their life stories, struggles, hope and aspirations for a better tomorrow.”

Again this is another ideal opportunity for them to showcase their talents which in some cases would have been developed at home, but more recently within the confines of the Corrections Service Institution in which they are also taught the necessary skills in designing and sewing various garments/uniforms for fellow inmates and members of corporate and public entities.

In getting the event off the ground, Commander Kean engaged industry experts who volunteered their services and resources for free as part of their contribution towards the Yellow Ribbon Program.

These individuals were thanked by the President on the evening.

“These are kind-hearted, hardworking and very caring individuals who had kindly offered their invaluable time and expertise to assist the female members of the Fiji Corrections Service develop their talents and skills in designing and the production of fashionable garments which could provide them with an alternate source of income upon being released from these Corrections Institutions.

“I contend that when the topic and issue of Fashion is discussed within Fiji’s social circles, the name of Ms. Ellen Whippy-Knight – automatically comes to mind because she can be considered a pioneer of the Fashion Industry in Fiji and is the founder and now the Managing Director of Fiji Fashion Week in the present time.

“She is someone who had persevered in promoting the Fashion Industry by creating an enabling platform for our local designers to improve their skills and learn more about showcasing their very creative Fijian brand designs, thus fulfilling their personal aspirations and dreams.

“Ladies and gentlemen, also present in tonight’s Exhibition is Ms. Amanda Harman – the Director of Upskill Fiji, who has been most helpful and involved in training some of these talented female inmates in Design work and Sewing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Felisha Hazleman Tuiloma – a name that is synonymous with corporate marketing, sponsorship and the communications industry in Fiji, is another quiet achiever in her work behind the scenes in organising tonight’s events in the lives of these talented inmates who, hopefully will become much reformed and productive citizens of our beloved Fiji when they are finally released from the confines of the Corrections Service facilities.

Last but not the least, please allow me to pay a special tribute to our very own ‘Guardian Angel’ of the Tagimoucia Art gallery, Mrs. Jane Ricketts, an art teacher, mentor and mother figure to many who had passed through during the period of her tutorship in this Art Gallery since its inception and humble beginnings in 1998 – Well done and Thank you very much, Maam.”

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