Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture 2020

It’s coming- the grandest Pacific Islands festival of all is coming in 2020.  I can’t believe that it was been four years since I reported on the last festival when it was held in Guam in 2016.  The theme in Guam was: “What We Own, What We Have, What We Share, United Voices of the PACIFIC” ~ “Håfa Iyo-ta, Håfa Guinahå-ta, Håfa Ta Påtte, Dinanña’ Sunidu Siha Giya PASIFIKU

Hawaiʻi is honored to be the chosen host for the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FESTPAC) from June 10-21, 2020. For decades, they have been welcomed by their cousins across the Pacific, who have shared their ʻāina, their homes, their food and their hearts with them. Now, it is their turn to welcome everyone with open arms and happy hearts. Together, we, as Pacific Islanders, will unite to share and grow our rich arts and culture, to learn from one another, to chart our paths into the future.


The theme of FESTPAC Hawaiʻi is: “E kū i ka hoe uli” (Take hold of the steering paddle), comes from a prophetic chant warning of turbulent changes on the horizon. Today, the chant exhorts indigenous people to reclaim their right to steer their own course, now and into the future.

FESTPAC Hawaiʻi, working with the Pacific Community (SPC) , will showcase each nation’s performers, artists and cultural practitioners, while engaging in critical conversations on issues ranging from sustainability and rising oceans to education and gender equality.

FESTPAC is the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders, drawing artists, cultural practitioners, scholars and officials from member nations of the Pacific Community (SPC). FESTPAC is held every four years in a different Pacific Island nation.

For more than 40 years, The Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture has been an important venue for the perpetuation of Pacific arts and cultures. It has developed into a strong entity in which cultural sharing and learning from differences has enhanced our appreciation and knowledge of the region. The goals of the Festival were developed in 1975 and have remained the driving force of the event

  • Preserving and revival of traditional arts and cultures of the Pacific,
  • Exploring new forms of cultural activities suited to the needs of the Pacific,
  • Creating greater awareness of the cultural richness of the Pacific throughout the world,
  • Fostering a greater sense of unity throughout the Pacific to promote excellence in arts, and
  • Promoting the development and use of ethnic [indigenous] languages

The South Pacific Arts Festival Council, as the Council was initially named, was established at a meeting organised by SPC in Noumea in 1975. Its main objectives were to ensure the Festival would become a permanent event; to provide the SPC Conference with information about the Festival and advice with respect to cultural affairs of the region.

The Council ensures the continuity of the Festival of Pacific Arts on a 4-yearly basis and sets the mandate for cultural development in the Pacific Islands and territories as per its objectives.

In 2017 Guam’s Governor office stated the Festival of Pacific Arts in 2016 resulted in a 25 percent increase in visitor arrivals and a $125 million benefit to the island’s economy. From May 22 to June 4, 2016, “Guam welcomed 65,846 visitors; that’s a 25.5 percent increase in arrivals compared to the same period in 2015.” The 12th Festival of Pacific Arts was the most successful festival to date, according to FestPac followers and previous hosts alike.

Looking forward to an even bigger festival in Hawaii in 2020. As more news and updates become available, I will keep you posted here.

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The Need for a Pacific Cultural Center

I’ve been meaning to share an article written by Jessie Chiang, a reporter for Radio New Zealand, about how Pacific leaders have become tired of waiting for a cultural center in New Zealand and are calling on Auckland Council to act.


The Pacific Leadership Forum talked to the former National government about having a center four years ago and a feasibility study was completed in 2016. The study found that a center would be financially viable under certain conditions such as targeting international visitors from Auckland Airport and operating six days a week. It also found that there are currently very few tourism attractions that feature Pacific culture.

The forum’s chairman, Teleiai Edwin Puni, said the community is now hungry for action and they have launched a petition. “It’s long overdue to have a Pacific cultural center in Aotearoa – Auckland in particular having the biggest Pacific population outside of the islands,” he said. “The contribution of Pacific people to Auckland and New Zealand would be huge in tourism.”

The vision for the cultural center is for it to be a hub of performances and goods that display the Pacific identity. Mr Puni said it would boost tourism numbers and employment for Pasifika people.

For easy access to international visitors and those running the center, the best location for the center is South Auckland, he said. “We are looking at [places] around the airport, in South Auckland would be ideal because you would have a good pool of performers and workers coming through from there,” he said. “That would make it very robust … that you are situated not only to the market of tourism but also where people are able to be employed.”

Tofilau Esther Tofilau said a center would help the younger generation to learn about their heritage. “The establishment of the Pacific cultural center gives a sense of belonging for our people … a lot of them are New Zealand-born, a lot of them have never traveled and actually seen their homeland,” she said. “Here’s an opportunity where they can actually embrace their culture.”

Tulua Tusani, who is Samoan, questions how long the community would have to keep asking. “This isn’t a new idea … many people have asked for this …now there is a new generation screaming for it more and more,” he said.

Mayoral candidate, John Tamihere, supported building a center and said he was meeting with Pacific leaders to talk through the idea. “It has been an outrage to that community they haven’t something that has honored their contribution to our country,” he said.

But incumbent mayor Phil Goff was pushing for Te Papa to build a second museum in South Auckland. Plans for that were scrapped earlier this month because the government refused funding for it. Pacific leaders said they did not want a museum, but Mr Goff insisted it would be vibrant. “This is something that would be used for educative, social and cultural purposes, it would be a landmark in South Auckland and that’s why I’m in favor of it,” he said.

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Encouraging Traditional Weaving in Vanuatu

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry in Vanuatu has called on provincial governments nation-wide to encourage women and girls to weave ‘Made in Vanuatu’ products. The ministry said instead of buying Chinese products to sell to tourists, locally woven items were preferred.

A traditional weaver in Port Vila agreed, saying there was strong demand from female tourists for her table mats because of their heat resistant properties. Leimok Peter of Lelepa Island, who has been weaving all her life, sells her products at the Handicraf Senta (Handicraft Centre) in the capital. She told the Daily Post newspaper the place mats, which come in different patterns and sizes, were one of her most popular products.

Mrs Peter said parents should ensure their daughters learned how to weave, as it was a valuable life skill. RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in Vanuatu said traditional weavers had come to realize they could earn money from their skills by selling products to tourists in Port Vila and Luganville.

An increasing number of tourists now know where to go to buy ‘made in Vanuatu’ products – in the Handikraf Senta at the Seafront. This is where more and more ni Vanuatu weavers, carvers and makers of local products have been both vendors and producers as well as ordering products from the islands to counter the traditional Chinese cheap products that have been flooding women’s stalls for the last 39 years.


Traditional Vanuatu Weaving- photo from http://www.sista.com.vu

Leimok Peter is one such specialist who has been weaving, among other products, table mats for hot trays of food, kettles of tea or any other hot containers on the table during family dinner.

The vendor and producer was caught weaving her next table mat to meet the rising demand for her products of different sizes, patterns and colors. Asked how she manages to keep up with the demand, she says she also gets members of her extended family on Lelepa to weave table mats for her. “I also buy products from them to sell to the tourists and this is important for my network since the money I receive is distributed in the community back home on my Island”, she explains.

Asked what motivates her to weave, she replies, “I find that by weaving, new ideas come to me to become creative so it helps me to try out something different and this pushes me to continue to weave. After losing my beloved husband, as far as income earning is concerned, I have not experienced that space yet.”

However, she has an important message for young girls, “Please leave your FB Page on your mobile phones and learn from your mothers, grandmothers and relatives how to weave to earn an income. “Visitors come to Vanuatu to buy locally made products but if you do not learn the skills to weave, one day when your loved ones are no longer around, you might be forced to return to selling cheap imported Chinese products.”

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New Exhibition- Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific

A new art exhibit is slated to open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) next month. The exhibition, Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacificis organized by the Sainsbury Centre and Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, in association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


The first substantial project on the art of Fiji to be mounted in the United States, Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific will feature over 280 artworks drawn from major international collections, including the Fiji Museum, British Museum, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge), the Smithsonian, and distinguished private collections.

The exhibition will include figurative sculpture, ritual kava bowls, breastplates of pearl shell and whale ivory, large-scale barkcloths, small portable temples, weapons, and European watercolors and paintings.

Dr. Steven Hooper and his team from the Sainsbury Centre, in Norwich, England assembled a deeply researched and comprehensive exhibition that was recently on view in its galleries and will be reformatted by LACMA to include major loans from U.S. collections.

Additionally, the museum will feature historic photographs from LACMA’s Blackburn collection, as well as a newly commissioned 26’ double-hull sailing canoe (drua) constructed in Fiji using traditional materials and techniques.

The exhibition will run December 15, 2019 to July 19, 2020.

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Saving the Endangered Languages in Fiji

Last month Radio New Zealand ran an article about a Fijian academic is calling for the recruitment and training of indigenous language activists to save the country’s vernacular languages. Professor Raman Subramani, of the University of Fiji, warns the indigenous iTaukei and Fiji Hindi languages face extinction. He said, “Simply because there is no writing in the language. I’m concerned that the indigenous iTaukei language is not being enriched by writing. And when the language is not enriched by writing, it is not recorded in writing. Then there’s a gradual demise of the language.”

In 2013, Fijians made up 4.6 percent (14,445) of the Pasifika population in New Zealand and less than half of the islanders speak the language. Professor Subramani said it’s a very serious issue that many Fijians don’t speak their mother tongue. “And people don’t seem to be concerned about it and there is a general apathy,” he said.

Professor Subramani continued, “When you have the older speakers of the language – those who retain the language, the vocabulary, the idioms etc – when they pass away, you get the next generation of Fijian speakers which are very close to patois. It’s not the formal Fijian that older people speak so it becomes gibberish.”

Professor Subramani, who is a professor in language and literature, said Hindi is a world-wide language and millions of people speak it. But he said there are limited speakers of Fiji Hindi that developed in the Pacific by indentured workers from India. Mr Subramani said Fiji Hindi is like a hybrid language that was formed in Fiji. “So it’s a new language,” he said. “But the two languages are mutually intelligible. People who speak the formal Hindi can understand Fiji Hindi.  But they regard it as a kind of broken language of the illiterate”.

Professor Subramani does not agree and he has written a book disputing just that. “The Fiji Hindi language is not broken,” he said. “It is not the language of the illiterate. It is a proper language.”

He said many Indo-Fijians speak a little Hindi but they can’t write in the language. He said most schools and universities do not teach both languages and for those who do, there are only a couple of students learning. “In the schools, there is no great pressure by parents in the community. The number of people taking Hindi is slowly dwindling,” he said. “There are about five or six learning the language.”

Mr Subramani called on schools and universities to foster the teaching of both languages. He also urged parents to encourage and teach their children to speak the language at home.


Suva, Fiji


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America Samoa’s 2019 Archives Month

James Hemphill of the Samoa News recently reported that the American Samoa Government Dept. of Adm. Services Office of Archives and Records Management employees and the general public helped contribute towards several activities last month during the annual “American Samoa Archives Month”.

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga cordially supported the annual occasion via a Governor’s Proclamation that was printed in the Samoa News and online at Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. “We joined other island community group events in October that encouraged public information about history and culture: White Sunday, Discovers Day, Palolo Night, Tattoo Festival, Ms. Am. Samoa and Halloween,” he said.

This year’s theme was “Stories of Islanders and the World” and program events included public promotion of COSA’s #askanarchivist and #erecsday on Twitter; a White Sunday/Discovery Day photo document show; a Street-wave; two public Facebook outreach discussions about Finding Guides and the One US National Parent program; a Halloween week and an All Saints Day BBQ. The program was also shared during an interview on Am. Samoa’s nightly KVZK TV Talafou newscast.

This year, Archives & Records tried to encourage public participation on social media and gauged public outreach usage of several online media platforms. A number of visitors enjoyed our framed and matted presentations of archival letters, documents, publications, photos and prints, before sad word was received that Dept. of Adm. Service’s long time archivist Tua Lokan had passed away.

Mrs. Lokan was a pioneer and leader of archives and records services in American Samoa. Our street-wave subsequently proceeded on a somber tone, with a rainy morning wave dedicated to her memory. Remainder activities for the month were also muted although some Halloween friends did appear to cheer our spirits towards the end. The Office of Archives and Records Management offers sincere condolences to Mrs. Lokan’s family.

American Samoa Archives Month is the territorial version of the national American Archives Month created by COSA, the Council of State Archivists in 2006. Now in its thirteenth year, American Archives Month has become a regular celebration of state and territorial archives and records centers, historical societies, research libraries and other recordkeeping organizations across the nation.


Where is American Samoa? from http://www.nationalvanguard.org

It is, indeed, sad news to hear that my Pacific Islands colleague, Tua Lokan, has passed away. I can recall meeting her at PARBICA 17 in Fiji in 2017. She was passionate about her archives and was a delight to talk to. My heartfelt condolences to her family. She will be missed.  

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The Need for Pacific Voices

The University of the South Pacific’s director at the Oceania Center, Frances Koya-Vaka’uta believes an indigenous Pacific view risks being lost among a global series of ocean science meetings.

The Pacific is the first region to host the series of United Nations (UN) consultations aimed at turning around the decline of the oceans. Dr Koya-Vakauta said the Pacific voice risks being lost among generic UN language when it’s combined with contributions from the eight other consultations.

She said Pacific people need to see themselves reflected in official language for it to resonate properly and this includes plans for the coming ‘Decade of the Ocean’. “Because it’s so critical to our very survival and livelihoods, it has to be in a language our people can connect with. That doesn’t necessarily mean having to include Pacific words or language but seeing that you are represented and that your voices are reflected in the generic language and representation.”


Funafuti, Tuvalu

The United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.

The marine realm is the largest component of the Earth’s system that stabilizes climate and support life on Earth and human well-being. However, the First World Ocean Assessment released in 2016 found that much of the ocean is now seriously degraded, with changes and losses in the structure, function and benefits from marine systems.

In addition, the impact of multiple stressors on the ocean is projected to increase as the human population grows towards the expected 9 billion by 2050.

As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO will coordinate the Decade’s preparatory process, inviting the global ocean community to plan for the next ten years in ocean science and technology to deliver, together, the ocean we need for the future we want!

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