40 years of cultural heritage

THE Festival of Pacific Arts is a travelling event which is hosted by different countries in the Oceania every four years.

Formerly known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and now known as the Pacific Community, the SPC has been the custodian of this festival for over 40 years.

It has collaborated with the Pacific Islands Network and Council of Pacific Arts as a barrier – avoiding the erosion of culture, art and tradition of the Oceania by exchanging and sharing culture through this festival, passing cultural knowledge from one generation to the next. This concept to envision a regional festival for the Pacific people was originated by Fiji Arts Council in 1965, supported by the Council of Pacific Arts.

In 1972, the Fiji Arts Council and the South Pacific Commission (now Pacific Community) amicably combined their expertise, resources and all required to host the first South Pacific Festival of Arts in Fiji with 1000 participants from 20 countries. Ever since this beginning, this festival has travelled around the Pacific Rim with the most recent one held in Guam in 2016 with over three thousand participants from 27 countries.

This festival is not about competing but sharing, exchanging, preserving cultural identity, reuniting people reinforcing the pacific culture identity and origins for the coming generation and of course presenting the appreciation of the Pacific People and their cultural values. Historically, it has been hosted in the following countries with different themes which is a traditional song and dance

? 1st 1972 May 6 -20 Suva, Fiji “Preserving culture”

? 2nd 1976 March 6-13 Rotorua, New Zealand “Sharing culture”

? 3rd 1980 June 30-July 12 Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea “Pacific awareness”

? 4th 1985 June 29-July 15 Tahiti, French Polynesia “My Pacific”

? 5th 1988 August 14-24 Townsville, Australia “Cultural interchange”

? 6th 1992 October 16-27 Rarotonga, Cook Islands “Seafaring heritage”

? 7th 1996 September 8-23 Apia, Samoa “Tala Measina”

? 8th 2000 October 23-Nov 3 Noumea New Caledonia “Words of past, present, future”

? 9th 2004 July 22-31 Koror, Palau “October a Malt – Nurture, Regenerate, Celebrate

? 10th 2008 July 20-Aug 2 Pagopago, American Samoa “Su’iga’ula a le Atuvasa: Threading the Oceania ‘Ula”

? 11th 2012 July 1-14 Honiara, Solomons “Culture in Harmony with Nature”

? 12th 2016 May 22-June 4 Hagatna, Guam “What We Own, What We Have,

“What we Share, United Voices of the Pacific”.

? (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_of_Pacific_Arts )

About the book.

In 2015, the Pacific Arts Association held its annual conference in Tonga, the Pacific Chapter with the theme “Trading Traditions” the role of art in the Pacific’s Exchange Network which was attended by artists, researchers, curators and writers from the Asia-Pacific region. Among all the discussions and presentations, the 12th Festival of Arts was on the agenda that was to be held in Guam, 2016.

Collectively, it was decided that from the pictures, images and whatever materials that was available from the past events, a book be published on this regional event, something that was missing and now, we have it. A well informed book for everyone that demonstrates our pacific, our culture, our identity.

Edited by Dr Karen Stevenson and Katerina Teaiwa, the book depicts and reflects that various art forms that have been rediscovered and revitalised while traditional ceremonial performance have been re in acted. The book captures the development of cultural and national identities across the Pacific and globally.

With 42 contributors, this volume utilises different expressions as a means of providing a festival experience to the reader. Interviews are a key source of information and reference much of the time spent at the festival – talking, questioning, viewing, and reflecting.

The students of Katerina Teaiwa (Australia National University) did many of the interviews included here. The other essential component of this volume is the photography. Professional photographers Danee Hazama and Julia Brooke-White have provided many of the book’s images, with Julia also contributing a photographic essay.

This legacy, the festival’s 40-year history, has become a rejuvenating component to contemporary Pacific life. It has become a goal, a dream for many Pacific Islanders to represent their culture, to demonstrate their art, to participate in a regional forum.

It has also stimulated a new sense of cultural pride among Islanders young and old, generating excitement, pride and promise for the arts and cultures in the region. Participation as a delegate bestows honour on the individual and pride in one’s cultural and artistic heritage.

Published by the University of the South Pacific Press, USP is proud in its pacific location with its regional based Pacific focus, educating, investing and shaping the Pacific future towards excellence in learning and knowledge.

This is the first book about this festival and the pacific community is delighted with this significant publication which archives and retraces the festivals history of evolution. The book is available from USP Bookcentre. Contact maharaj_v@usp.ac.fj

? The views expressed are those of the author of this article and not of the University of The South Pacific or this newspaper.