Solesolevaki: Nurturing Communities through Revitalisation of Collective Building Culture

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters across the globe. For island nations such as Fiji, rising sea levels, cyclones, tidal waves and flood inundation are causing the most significant impacts. The empowerment of communities to prepare for and respond to such events utilising their own skills and relational networks will be vital for their ongoing resilience. This project investigates how Indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) building customs, knowledge and resources may be utilised to alleviate reliance on external aid post disaster.

The concept of ‘Vanua’ refers to the iTaukei sense of identity where the individual is inseparable from land, family and community. We sought to acknowledge this communal identity through our process of engagement with a family to design and re-build their home which was damaged by cyclone Yasa. iTaukei ways of relating and being inform the design and construct process, which was traditionally communal and collaborative.

The research also seeks to empower iTaukei women to be more involved in building culture and for their needs to be prioritised in the design of domestic spaces. A successful project for women will benefit their family and communities irrespective of status and gender. Inclusive developments must reaffirm the cultural sensitivities that iTaukei women navigate. The client and designer/researcher negotiate these cultural complexities alongside each other as two iTaukei women with a kinship relationship.

The Alastair Swayn Foundation respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians on the land of which we work, the Ngunnawal people of the ACT. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.

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