Traditionally Contemporary? Understanding Urban Fijian Masi

Igglesden, Katrina (2019) Traditionally Contemporary? Understanding Urban Fijian Masi. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This research investigates how the contemporary use and significance of Fijian barkcloth (masi) in Suva, the capital of Fiji, has been adapted from its traditional use and practices and how this urban environment has created new ways of distributing, displaying and presenting it. I aim to explore the notion that contemporary masi practices, while superficially divergent from those historically, still reflect and pay homage to the traditional customs and codes that made masi culturally significant in the past.

Masi is made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera). A laborious process, the bark is beaten to produce sheets of cloth of varying thicknesses and sizes and then decorated using one (or a combination of three) technique, depending on the type of masi being made. Historically one of the most pervasive exchange objects in Fiji, masi is a female iyau (valuable) and still plays an integral role in Fijian cultural practice.

In particular, this research looks to the dynamic and fast-moving urban scene in Fiji and its many global diasporas, especially in terms of urban contemporary Fijian fashion and the presence of ‘masi couture’, and examines masi’s increasingly modified modes of display. The term ‘Urban-Fiji’ will be introduced and speaks to masi’s twenty-first century creative adaptability. Perhaps the first study in which urban Fijian masi is understood in terms of its adaptation and transformation, specific ‘Urban-Fiji’ (diasporic) case studies assist in exploring ‘non-traditional’ uses and resulting artistic practices.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2020 11:26
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2020 11:26

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