Minaira Fifita grew up in the island nation of Tonga. The Baha’i faith and her family are very important to her and all of her siblings are artists.
When they were young their mother chose not to have a television at home and they would come together as a family, listen to the radio, and paint together.
They painted bags, fans, wall-hangings, prayer book covers, canvas and tapa cloth (a traditional art practice of the Pacific).
Two years ago Minaira moved to Brisbane in Australia at which time she enrolled into the Diploma of Art and Creativity at The Learning Connexion. She related to the philosophy of the school and was a big believer in creativity.
“I felt so blessed, the timing was perfect. I felt looked after,” she says.
Minaira studied from a distance for two years full-time, creating contemporary Pacific acrylic paintings. In that time she had two mentors who supported her study and gave direct feedback on her work.
“My mentors were great! there was so much support," she says. "They really looked at my work and we discussed things I had never thought about.”
The briefs would get her thinking about her creative goals. When she was asked about what the most exciting aspect of the programme was, she replied that it was every time she was waiting for her feedback from her mentor.
“Sending through that package of so much time and energy and then waiting for the response from my mentor - that was always exciting!”
Minaira attributes her new sense of self-confidence as an artist to doing the programme. She has no trouble approaching galleries or calling herself an artist and the opportunities have been streaming in.
She has won various art competitions, including one for the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. She has found galleries to exhibit her work in both Australia and Tonga and she continues to receive commissions.
After graduating, the World Bank commissioned her to illustrate some stories for a teaching programme in Tonga. With the money from this work she was able to make payments towards her student fees. She also had the opportunity to work with well-known New Zealand artist Robin White, assisting on a collaborative tapa work with her sister, Ruha Fifita. She continues to paint and contributes to a website and a Facebook page that she and her siblings have created. They all continue to support each other as artists.
“I learnt how important creativity is; that in its development it requires a balance between skill and control and the freedom to experiment and take risks. It’s like worship - a way to reflect and praise the beauty and magnificence of life!”