Sulu Daunivalu is famous. Not only because he runs the very successful Pacific Art Gallery in Riga, Lativia, but also because he is the only Fijian in the Baltics. The Baltic region consists of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, these former USSR states that are covered with exquisite natural beauty have recently become members of the EU.
Sulu is also famous in downtown Suva as friend to many and co-owner of the popular Kahawa café in Suva Central. Sulu moved to Lativa over 4 years ago and has gradually been building up his reputation here as a Pacific Art expert, curator and enthusiast. Sulu and his partner who kindly hosted and organised the VOU team on their tour of Latvia and Lithuania.
During our time there we did a whole range of performances in various venues. The shows were always well received as something totally new and people always asked how a Fijian dance company had come to perform all the way in the Baltics! One of the highlights was helping Sulu and his friends with a charity that they organise called “wings for kids” which supports orphans and orphanages. We had a great day with the children teaching them drumming workshops and ending up with a lively night of performances.
Another one of the fun performances we did was for the grand opening of the Diwalii bar, which is a pop-up restaurant and bar on the famous Jurmala beach about a half hour drive from Riga. Because Latvia is so far north the sun never really goes down in summer time, it gets dark(ish) at about 11pm and light again at around 3am. So in summer to celebrate the warm months they have these beautifully designed temporary restaurants and bars on the beach. VOU was invited to perform at the opening to welcome in the sunshine for 2016! And after the show, in keeping with the name Diwali (named after the Hindu celebration of lights) the audience took to the beach to light hundreds of beautiful floating lanterns. We couldn’t believe that even at that time in the evening there were still Latvians going swimming in the Baltic sea! Even though it was summer it was still chilly for a Fijian, and we were told that in winter even the ocean freezes there.
Another highlight of our Baltic tour was performing in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Lithuania has a larger population than Latvia with 3 million people, but has similar industries such as IT services and forestry. The Lithuanians were so enthusiastic during the VOU performance and during the “Tui Boto” where we pick people to dance, literally the whole room got up to join the party. We felt really at home and were treated to lovely food and sight seeing around the historical sights of Vilnius. The contrasting timelines when we see buildings in Europe really puts into perspective the history there. Some of the castles we visited were built in the 1200’s. It is amazing that despite all the wars since then they are still standing with their stories documented and intact.
The whole experience of being in the Baltic region was exceptional and intriguing, we found a home away from home. The entire VOU team are so truly grateful for all the warm hospitality received from everyone we met. We were really inspired by how well Sulu has done over here on the other side of the world and it goes to show with a warm Fijian smile, a kind heart and a keen work ethic you can make it anywhere.
Sachiko Soro, VOU Director