SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 5) – She welcomed me with a smiling warm face as I entered her stall at the Suva Handicraft Center in Suva, Fiji.

The walls of the cubicle were lined with her handiwork and each creation marked its maker’s fine skill.

On her lap lay a half-woven basket, which took its perfect shape as she worked effortlessly on it.

Filling the little stall were countless hats, baskets, tablemats and other traditional items on display.

My initial thought was that this 43-year-old Kiribati woman was born into a family blessed with the skill of crafting such fine handiwork.

But as always, assumption was the mother of stuff-ups as she explained the story behind her beautiful creations.

"When I was a student at the University of the South Pacific, I always had it in my mind that selling handicraft at the handicraft center was something I would never do," she said. "I always thought that this was for old people and the only time that I would be taking it up as a source of income was when I was old and had nothing else to do."

Now, a mother of five, Roseanna Kasiria from Veisari has found this art to be a passion, which she had denied throughout most of her married life. Her only regret is not taking up handicraft sooner.

"It is just amazing the plans God has for us because since taking up handicraft seriously just less than a week now, I am loving it so much and only wished that I had taken it up earlier."

The mixed blood Pacific Islander says that she only took up the skill when she married her partner because it was viewed as an obligatory tool within her husband's tradition.

"My husband is Tuvaluan and we lived in Veisari when we got married," she said. "Every Tuvaluan housewife or those who married into a Tuvaluan household in the area was required to know the skill; this is where I was taught the skill of weaving."

Without a mother-in-law to teach her the skill, the Kiribati native sought guidance from her father-in-law about the traditional skill.

"He taught me how to weave and said these first words to me when he began teaching me: 'Roseanna, if you do not learn the art of weaving, you are better off not married'," she said.

"I began learning the art of weaving during the first few months of my marriage back in the late 1980s, but only began to make a living out of it a few days ago."

So what made this loyal housewife turn to something as handicraft to past her time?

"I didn't want to sit idle at home and do nothing while my children went to school and my husband went to work," she said. "After a close cousin of mine encouraged me to take up this stall on her behalf, I decided to take up the challenge to assist my husband in supporting our family and also just to earn something extra in case of emergencies."

Kasiria initially studied at university for a Bachelor in Education majoring in English. However, as her studies progressed she felt that it was not her calling.

"I had been through all different kinds of field of study and have also graduated from the Fiji Institute of Technology with a Diploma in Printing," she said. "Although I had been interested in this field (Printing) at the beginning, I felt that God had other plans for me. Now with this handicraft stall, I am sure this is where God intended me to be because I get full satisfaction working here and also the rewards of hard work in utilizing your skills."

Her family has been very supportive of her choice.

"I have five children who are all doing well for themselves at the moment," she said. "The eldest is studying aircraft engineering in Tuvalu, the next one is a bursar at a primary school in Naboro, two are in high school and the youngest is in primary school."

Naturally on her first day at the centre, Roseanna often questioned herself on what god's purpose was in placing her there after her past years as a scholar in many prestigious local tertiary institutions.

"But at the end of the first day, I found the work here very rewarding and satisfying because the customers would often come and place their orders without me even trying to sell them a basket," she said.

"In a normal day I often made $40 to $60 (US$24 to US$36) through sales and this was more than enough for me and my family because my husband was already earning enough for all of us."

Roseanna's advice to housewives who intend to embark on similar ventures is to take up the challenge in assisting their spouses support the family.

"If you have the skill, utilize it and don't hide it," she said. "The fruit of your efforts and hard work are always sweet and fulfilling."

January 6, 2005

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