Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
Eric Nabalagi with Caroline Freeman masi image

Deputy Warden Eric Nabalagi standing proudly with the Caroline Freeman College masi.

Caroline Freeman College’s (CFC) new masi (Fijian tapa)  is the definition of collaboration. 

All 300 students residing at CFC, along with kaimahi from the administrative, leadership, kitchen, maintenance, and cleaning teams, have made their mark on a masi that tells the story of their college while learning about Fijian culture in the process.

Deputy Warden of CFC Eric Nabalagi calls the collaboration a “beautiful exchange of culture”, serving as an opportunity to learn from each other and bond as a College.

Nabalagi started his role at CFC this year and brought with him a masi to give current and incoming Pacific students something that reflects them.

When the Intercollege Arts competition came around, CFC Tautiaki Chris Addington asked Nabalagi if creating another masi would be possible.

“Because Chris asked for it, I came with a big one,” Nabalagi says.

The piece had contributors from diverse backgrounds, including Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Fiji, Ōtepoti, the US and beyond.

“The students just loved the idea of coming together and doing something.

“Everyone is contributing towards something that is bigger than themselves, everyone has a part to play.”

The masi is a blending of traditional Fijian designs and new elements that are specific to the College, including their Flamingo mascot.

“Our maintenance guy, he’s from Scotland. We even put a Scottish flag on there!

“It’s a bit funny, but it represents us. It’s about community.”

In the spirit of blending the old with the new, the masi features the University’s traditional coat of arms logo as well as its new logo to “tell the story” of this pivotal time for future generations.

Some traditional vakamata (masi motifs) have also found new meanings. As the cohort of tauira that bore the brunt of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the uto ni masi (heart of the masi) design has come to both represent the sun and the Corona Virus molecule.

“It’s a symbol for COVID-19 within the masi. I didn’t want to make it too loud, but it’s there if you look at it properly.

“This year’s cohort are a bit special to me because they’ve come from tough times; they’ve gone through rough times.

“A lot of isolation, a lot of masks, limited resources. You are limited. There are only limited places you can visit. If you think about it, it’s hard.”

Nabalagi says that the “sharp” triangles across the masi represents the resilience and strength of the students’ mind, body and soul.

“Under those conditions, these things must be really sharp to make it to university in the first place.”

The artwork received third place in the ‘Creative’ category of the Intercollege Art Competition.

  • Caroline

    A close-up of the award winning masi.

  • Caroline

    Subtle details: The Caroline Freeman flamingo mascot blends seamlessly into the masi design.

  • Caroline

    Blending old with new: The traditional University coat of arms wrapped in the new tohu.

  • Caroline

    New meanings: The uto ni masi (heart of the masi) design has come to both represent the sun and the Corona Virus molecule, a symbol of this cohort’s strength and resilience amidst the pandemic.

Nabalagi says that, despite a 100 per cent participation rate, contributions to the masi were entirely voluntary and, at times, the project served as a form of therapy for students.

“It was an opportunity for them to ask me about Fijian culture, but they would talk about real things too.

"The kids would just come here and talk and connect. It’s beautiful.

“It puts everyone on the same plane, humbles everybody, gets everybody grounded.”

He hopes that when CFC’s 2023 cohort bring their own children to the College one day, they will feel a sense of belonging to the place and a connection to the tauira that came before them.

“The masi is something that we create for our future generations. Sometimes we underestimate the small things we do for the sake of our kids.”

Nabalagi says he is grateful to the Unipol team for giving CFC the platform to create and showcase their masi.

Back to top