Ambassador of the European Union in Fiji and the Pacific, His Excellency Mr Sujiro Seam & Mrs Jane Ren-Seam;
Hon Minister for Fisheries;
Assistant Minister for Education;
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Chair of the Project, Mrs Jenny Seeto;
Children and Carers from Fiji Society for the Blind School, Fiji Crippled Children’s Society and Suva Society for the Intellectually Handicapped;
Sponsors and Supporters of the Project;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to all of you. I am only going to say a few words because we are all here to enjoy the music. And that includes me. I would much rather be listening to the concert than giving a speech. But this concert is an important undertaking, and it deserves some thought on our part about its deeper meaning.
Art is an extraordinary thing. It touches us at an emotional level. It can inspire us, anger us, make us laugh or cry. It can challenge us to see the world in new ways. It has the power to change minds and hearts. It can rise up as the voice of a people in a way that no political leader can rival. It can come to symbolize an era and bring back memories both fond and sad. It can express profound feelings when mere words fail us. It can transcend boundaries of class, religion or political ideology.
And it is during times like these, when we find ourselves beset by a relentless virus and the threat of climate change, that art becomes even more important—because it can lift our spirits and give us courage.
In a democratic society, art must be free to flourish. People must be encouraged to express themselves in the way that best suits them, including through the visual arts and music. And that means all the people, not just the people who are fortunate enough to have all their senses and all their limbs.
I am grateful to the people behind the art initiative that we know as “I See Love In Your Eyes” for recognizing and nurturing the potential of our visually impaired citizens to produce art.
And I especially want to thank Jane Rem-Seam, the wife of the Ambassador to Fiji from the European Union, for developing and leading this initiative. How noble and lovely that a diplomatic guest in our country has devoted her energy to doing something that truly helps make Fiji a better and kinder place. Thank you, Mrs. Seam.
Working with the Fiji Society for the Blind, the initiative is inspiring visually impaired children to embrace their creativity and build their communication and co-ordination skills through art.
If you ever visit the school of the Fiji Society for the Blind, you will see for yourselves the extraordinary things the children there are capable of. I was privileged to attend a performance at the school recently and was overwhelmed.
This concert will directly support the “I See Love In Your Eyes” arts initiative, which means it will directly support those children. By being here tonight, you are helping to fund the coaching and mentoring in art and music that these special children will receive. You will be helping them develop skills that will last a lifetime—and you may even be giving a critical hand to some of Fiji’s greatest future artists. And all you had to do is buy a ticket and enjoy the music. It sounds like a good deal to me.
Our Constitution enshrines equality of opportunity for all persons, including the disabled and the hearing-and-visually impaired. The Government has put in place laws and programmes to ensure that equality. But equality is not just the job of Government. Each of us has the responsibility to make that principle real.
And this concert is just one way that we live the principles of our Constitution —that we bring it to life.
As we celebrate during this festive season, let us unite as Fijians, and let us share the joy we will feel tonight with our friends and family members who are unable to be with us due to the impact of the global pandemic. This evening allows us the opportunity to truly reflect on our capacity to make a difference in the lives of those who need our support.
Before I wrap up, Vinaka Vakalevu to Ms. Barbara Farouk for dedicating more than 20 years of service and for her contribution to fellow Fijians and their special children, and also to everyone who contributed in one way or another for the successful execution of the Mana Voyage In Darkness concert tonight.
Now, let’s get on with the show!