Building the Creative Economy

Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 04:38

Pacific Institute of Public Policy/ Original Link

Written by Ruth Choulai, Creative Arts Manager, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest

Who we are and what we do

Pacific Islands Trade & Invest is the international trade and investment promotion arm of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. PT&I is the only Pacific Islands agency tasked by the Pacific Islands leaders to develop, grow and promote industry and the businesses of 14 Pacific Island countries (PICs).  We work together to create greater international opportunities for Pacific Islands businesses to build a better future through more sustainable communities and greater prosperity. Our four (4) key focus areas are Exporter Services, Investment Services, Tourism Promotion and Creative Arts.iat (PIFS) based in Suva, Fiji. PIFS has four trade offices located in Auckland, Beijing, Sydney, and Tokyo; while the Trade offices work independently, they are collectively known as Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I).


The Creative Arts is a dedicated program that seeks to address the following objectives:

  • To increase the commercial value of Pacific island artists’ and artisans’ artworks in international markets,
  • To increase the commercial value of the products derived from the traditional knowledge and expressions of culture of contemporary Pacific island creator communities,
  • To promote and create awareness of Pacific island creators,
  • To present a professional event promoting the art works of Pacific island creators,
  • To expand the professional networks between creators living in the region with each other, Australian based partners and collaborators.

The Creative Arts program, through wide consultations and continuing dialogue with key partners and contacts in the Australian market, has identified that there is significant interest in the traditional art forms produced by contemporary Pacific island creators.  Keen interest has been shown by Australian based niche retailers/importers, public collecting institutions and designer/producers of home-ware products.  Their interest has largely centred around the region’s traditional textiles, body adornment, woven objects and hand-carved products; confirmation that the buying market is interested in authentic products; it is derived from traditional knowledge and expressions of culture; that enables direct economic benefits to the creators; and have a high intrinsic value (referencing hand-made and natural materials).

The promotion of Pacific islands’ fine arts and artisan products is not synonymous with the traditional commercial gallery model; despite many consultations with a range of commercial galleries, we have identified that the region’s creators require a bespoke event to adequately address the needs of both markets.  In response to that challenge, the Creative Arts program initiated a multi-objective strategy and set about establishing Maketi Ples as the commercial platform to exhibit the highest quality work of PIC’s artists and artisans directly to the Australian market.

PT&I firmly believes that Maketi Ples is a crucial step forward in creating an enabling environment for the creative arts in the Pacific Islands region.

Maketi Ples – The Event

Through Maketi Ples, PT&I is ableto address one of the priority areas of the Pacific Plan: to foster economic development and promote opportunities for broad-based economic growth.

In order to dispel the perception that contemporary Pacific island artworks are made for the tourism market, PT&I’s Creative Arts program partnered with Global Gallery, Paddington NSW in 2011 and 2012 to create a professional promotional space and event for Pacific island creators.  Global Gallery is a large open plan commercial art gallery, located within 100 metres of Oxford Street in the centre of Paddington.  Oxford St starts in the Sydney CBD and extends as far as Bondi Junction in the East.  Paddington is one of the most historically rich, culturally vibrant and recognisable districts of Sydney. It is famous for its plethora of boutique retail shops, art galleries as well as many cafés and restaurants and was identified as an ideal location for Maketi Ples.

Participation in the event is open to all creators residing in the 14 Pacific island countries (PICs), excluding Australia and New Zealand.   The Maketi Ples call for expressions of interest (EOI) and event information is released directly to over 6,000 contacts in the public and private sectors in the 16 PICs (including Australia and New Zealand).  Each year, the direct delivery of information to key contacts and creators steadily increases.  It is expected that successful participants have the capacity to participate; that is, to reside and create in the region, have product/s that have potential in an international market, to have the ability to fund their airfare, daily meals, incidentals, accommodation and to freight and insure their products to and from Sydney.  All EOIs undergo a curatorial process, guided by a creative arts industry based panel; this panel is responsible for the final selection of participants in the exhibition.

The PT&I Creative Arts program funds the hire of gallery space, provides exhibition support including presentation costs, exhibition opening event, creation of marketing collateral, tailored market visits, facilitates appointments with interested buyers, and most importantly engages a PR agency to market and promote the event to the media and general public.  The Creative Arts program in partnership with the Australian Museum conducts a guided tour of the Pacific Collections held in storage. 

Learning, Observations, outcomes

With two successful Maketi Ples events delivered in 2011 and 2012, PT&I is able to articulate important market information based on exhibition sales, commissions, follow up meetings and facilitation with interested buyers on behalf of and in conjunction with creators.

The Australian Museum (Sydney) and the Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane) in their roles as public collecting institutions have recognised the importance of the works of art created by living artists and artisans as contemporary and relevant cultural expressions of the Pacific communities; as a result, both institutions have acquired items for inclusion in their respective Pacific Collections from Maketi Ples in 2011 as well as 2012.

Sales figures from Maketi Ples indicate that there is a strong and growing field of consumers who appreciate and place value on art works from the Pacific islands. Commercial entities in Australia have engaged with Maketi Ples exhibitors, drawing on their specialised fields of home-wares, fashion, product design and development and are working towards engaging with creator communities.  Discussions have focused on product development or product design enhancements that they believe will have commercial success in the Australian market.

The Creative Arts program, over two Maketi Ples art exhibitions, has created opportunities for:

  • 64 attendees/exhibitors from 7 PICs presenting 250 artworks;
  • 85 EOIs received (31 in 2011, 54 in 2012 representing a 57% increase);
  • a total of 159 works of art sold
    • from artworks sold, 7 works have been acquired by Australian institutions;
    • in addition, 5 new works have been commissioned
    • Finally, 3 major fine art works were purchased by private fine art collectors.

Other important outcomes such as relationship building, professional development, commercial contracts, network expansion and international market sensitisation have not been discussed in this paper.

While the PT&I’s Creative Arts program is small, its highly targeted strategic approach is proving that there is a strong and growing market for Pacific islands art and further, that the creative arts are able to contribute to economic development in the PIC creator communities.


This entry was posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 at 4:22 pm and is filed under Pacific Voices. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Pacific Institute of Public Policy/ Original Link


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