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Student Profile: Talking Tapa

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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!”



  • Bevan Shaw
    18/06/2015 8:39am (9 years ago)

    Great read Minaira!! Awesome work - keep it coming :-)

  • Jennie Sherwin
    20/05/2015 6:38pm (9 years ago)

    Hi Minaira
    I love your work and the vibrancy of colour, pattern and shear joy for life which they evoke. I can feel the strong connection to your wonderful upbringing in Tonga and to your family.

  • Leo Semau
    20/05/2015 11:36am (9 years ago)

    Wow!!! Minaira your work is fantastic and so vibrant, I can't wait to see how it develops over time :)

  • Ebonie
    20/05/2015 10:08am (9 years ago)

    oua ! :) XOXOXOXO

  • Mele Fakahua
    20/05/2015 9:34am (9 years ago)

    Whoohoo wait to go Minaira! So proud of you! Your creativity has grown and flourished like the beautiful young woman that you are inside and out! I can't wait to see more!

  • Louise Caig
    19/05/2015 10:27pm (9 years ago)

    I met this lovely girl and her sister at the graduation ceremony. It is lovely to see her work - which is as beautiful and as inspiring as she is.

  • olivia lewis
    19/05/2015 8:42pm (9 years ago)

    Your work is very beautiful. The colour-ful twist on the traditional motif is gorgeous. I love tapa cloth design and wish I understood it's stories. We lost are home in Christchurch earthquakes and we are rebuilding a new one, I would like to make hangings with my son and father to give what will be a modern house some soul and history, in the tapa style, but with our family/ spiritual story. Where could I go for advise on this? a book you recommend? Any advise, if you have the time or inclination would be wonderful. Inspiring story and work.

  • Mikaela Nyman
    19/05/2015 8:32pm (9 years ago)

    Fantastic work Minaira, your creative journey is so inspiring. I discovered you among the TLC community some time ago and have been an avid admirer of your work ever since. Keep it up and show the world what the Pacific is all about!

  • jacquie goldsmith
    19/05/2015 5:05pm (9 years ago)

    Fantastic to read your amazing story. Your work is inspiring, & radiates beautiful energies. Wishing you well in your future journey.