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Art as a way of life

Dreu at his stall at the Suva Flea Market


A handicraft, sometimes more precisely expressed as artisanal handicraft, is any of a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. It is a traditional method of craft and applies to a wide range of creative and artistic designs in different categories including kitchenware, furniture and furnishings, accessories, gift and souvenirs to name a few.

Many craft makers use natural even entirely indigenous materials while others may prefer modern, non-traditional materials.

Generally seen as a way of developing students' skills and interests, sometimes towards a particular craft or trade, handicrafts are often integrated into educational systems both informally and formally. Most crafts require the development of skill and the application of patience which can be learnt by almost anyone.

Meet budding entrepreneur and artisan, Kelemedi Dreu, who is the owner of Dreu's Handicraft located at stall number 16 at Suva's Flea Market.

Dreu's Handicraft is a new business which is rapidly gaining popularity with handicraft enthusiasts. A passion that was ignited as a young boy while growing up on Totoya, Lau, Dreu established his business last year specialising in traditional Tongan belts, tabua (whale's tooth), tanoa (a wooden bowl used to serve kava), magimagi (a product made from coconut husk), masi/tapa (cloth made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree), mats, i wau (war club) and has even gone into screen printing.

Determined to expand his knowledge, Dreu sought the assistance of a retired craft enthusiast to teach him more about the trade. After that firm grounding and mastering the skill, he started his own business and has never looked back.

Many crafts briefly become very popular, spreading rapidly among the crafting population as everyone emulates the first examples, only for the popularity to wane until a later resurgence, if there is one.

To the contrary, that is not the case with Dreu's Handicraft. According to Dreu, he wanted to create products that are uniquely designed to avoid replication and to withstand dominance in the market.

Dreu's diverse artefact and handiwork are uniquely made with traditional homegrown materials particularly from his island of Totoya. One of his signature products is the Tongan belt made specifically from magimagi found on the island.

This has enabled Dreu to be a source of employment and livelihood for the youths of Totoya who assist him in the labour intensive and strenuous work.

Dreu stressed that finishing a particular product required a lot of patience, time and sacrifice. Involving and utilising the youth has immensely contributed to the development of his business.

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

"That difficulties and hard days make you stronger. I think you need to go through some stuff to really appreciate life and understand what it means to persevere, overcome and have faith. Overall, I think those tough times make you a stronger person."

That's aphorism at its best that couldn't have come from anyone other than the very talented and soft-spoken Lauan.

Dreu's Handicraft is certified with the "Buy Fijian Made" emblem and is authenticity recognised locally and regionally. There is a vast assortment of traditional souvenirs to choose from.

Dreu's Handicraft is a fascinating sojourn into iTaukei culture and is a great opportunity to sit down with the talented artisan for a chat and to learn about the art he is blessed to practise.



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