Number seven in the Colour-in Paradise earring collection is the stunningly beautiful and critically endangered Fiji crested iguana (vokai). These lizards can change colour depending on their mood and camouflage with habitat, (lots of choice when painting earrings). They can turn a very dark green or black when threatened which makes them look more intimidating as the 3 white bands on their belly stand out more.
The distinctive three white stripes on Crested iguana’s belly can be seen in my models
Crested iguanas are only found on a few of the North-Western islands of Fiji which have dry forest habitat ( to which the iguanas are specially adapted to live). Unfortunately, dry forest habitat is fast disappearing (grazing by goats and forest fires), which along with predation by invasive species like rats (which eat their eggs) and cats, threaten their survival.
Iguana earrings (my fabric invention) plus coloured -in (and not ) Vokai from Colour-in-Paradise an head shot of my latest vokai model which I made from recycled airtex t-shirt.
Last year I was invited by Jone Niukula (National Trust of Fiji) to stay for a couple of days on Monu Island, to work with 4 lovely ladies (one from each of the chiefly families) to teach them to make crested iguana earrings to sell to tourists visiting the island (which would raise awareness of crested iguanas).
Before the workshop, I stayed with lovely friend and fellow artist Tessa Miller to practice using assorted templates. Tessa is modelling one of the designs.
The night before the workshop, we prepared by cutting out iguanas from templates and painting each side with two coats of acrylic paint. Lots of chatting and a lesson on colour-mixing and care/use of brushes followed!
The next day, straight after breakfast, we set up to work in the village hall. Each of the ladies soon developed the knack of brush control (I bought fine and medium brushes) and their own painting style/design. There were 15 iguanas for each lady to paint so it took all day and into the evening. The results were great!
The ladies were delighted with themselves and I was so proud of them. I also taught them to make the fabric. I am so excited by my do discovery of making the perfect fabric for these earrings by layering airtex fabric (from second-hand sports tops) with PVA glue (just two layers) then leaving it to dry in the sun. I left a variety of templates with my new friends.
I had taken along some fabric sourced from a second-hand shop in Sigatoka. I cut it, frayed it and attached earrings ready for sale while the ladies were painting.
I took the earrings along to the Iguana Specialists Group meeting at Malolo Island the next day where they were much admired and bought by many of the participants.
Thanks to Rob Fisher (biologist with the US Geological Survey) who funded my travel, the four earring-making kits (kept by the ladies) and organised my stay at the iguana conference on Malolo Island Resort.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to visit Monuriki Island again when I was invited to see the exciting release of the second batch of crested iguanas and their offspring. They had been kept safely and bred at Kula Wild Adventure Park after successful removal of rats and goats from the island in a joint operation between National Trust of Fiji and Birdlife International. https://mesfiji.org/monuriki-islands-received-lasts-native-population-iguanas
Me admiring one of the released iguanas, and a delighted customer from the conference