THE 11th Festival of Pacific Arts officially opened in a pomp of colours and traditional displays at the Arts Village in Gizo, Solomon Islands, yesterday.
And as the 120 sailors from the Pacific Voyagers fleet turned the opening into a spirited celebration of the different cultures and traditions that make up the Pacific, the host nation revelled in what was described as one of the best festival of arts to be staged in years.
Speaking to The Fiji Times from Honiara where thousands of islanders had converged for the two-week show, Uto ni Yalo captain Jonathan Smith said spirits were high among the Fiji delegation.
"We were together (with the Fiji delegation) and as we marched on the streets, there were cheers and people shouting out bula when they saw our flag," Mr Smith said. "They recognise the Fijians very well over here."
Mr Smith said the Fijian delegation performed a traditional meke before presenting a tanoa to the Solomon Islands governor general.
"There were various displays of culture and delegates from other Pacific Island countries coming in their traditional attire like the Solomon Islanders themselves and those from Papua New Guinea.
"I was also interested to learn that there is a Polynesian side to Taiwan which also has a delegation represented here.
"They are all dressed in traditional Chinese attire but they looked Polynesian."
Mr Smith said the official opening of the arts festival started well. "I was talking to a couple of guys who have done three to four arts festivals already and they said this has got to be the best festival of arts, considering the money and time spent into this event. It's being co-ordinated very well."
Mr Smith and his crew welcomed dawn in the Solomon Islands over the weekend with other regional vaka.
The festival -themed Culture in Harmony with Nature - ends on July 14.