Opening remarks by Maria Fuata, Deputy Director-General for Operations and Integration at the Pacific Community (SPC) during the FestPAC official opening

Honolulu
SPC Maria

Aloha, Bula Vinaka, Kam na mauri, Kia Orana, Malo e Lelei, Talofa Lava, Håfa Adai.

Warm Pacific greetings to all of our Pacific Island countries and territories from this incredible Stan Sheriff Centre in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kurt M. Campbell, Deputy Secretary of State

Governor Josh Green, and First Lady Jamie Green

Senator Jarrett Keohokalole

Kalani Kalani Kaʻanāʻanā, Chair of the Hawaii Commission on the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC), and distinguished commissioners

Your excellencies, heads of government, honourable ministers and government representatives 

Members of the diplomatic corps

Members of the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture

Delegates from the big Blue Pacific continent

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Pacific Community, I thank the organisers for the opportunity to say a few words this afternoon.

I pay homage to the indigenous people of this land, the Kanaka Maoli or first peoples of Havaii on whose land we are now gathered and acknowledge the cultures and traditions of this land and her people who have welcomed us so graciously as host of this much anticipated, 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture.

I also acknowledge the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture who have since 1975 shared the role of Custodian of this festival and played a pivotal role in providing sound advice and support in the formulation of this year’s festival as well as the past 12 festivals.

The Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture is the largest gathering of Pacific indigenous peoples and communities in the world. At this mammoth event, Pacific Island countries, territories and communities, convene at the largest cultural diplomacy platform - to showcase and share cultural heritage, and practices, stories of our experiences, cultural innovation and resilience in the face of immense challenge such as climate change, globalization, and technology and of course the most recent, COVID19.

As the institutional custodians of the festival, the Pacific Community (SPC) has been an active partner since the first festival held in May 1972 in Suva, Fiji. In the same way, we are pleased to work with Hawaii, as the host of FestPAC 13 - to bring together Pacific artists, performers, heritage artisans, navigators, cultural practitioners, and regional and international organizations.

FestPAC provides a unique opportunity for cultural exchange, collaboration, and showcasing of traditional and contemporary Pacific arts and culture. The festival features a unique range of programme offerings, which includes cultural performances, navigations, the performing arts, film, visual arts, pottery and sculpture, carving, tattoo, fashion, and literary arts that include performing arts, visual arts, food culture and literary arts. The testimonies of those who have attended past festivals speak about a “transformative” and “life-changing” experience.

FestPAC is also the largest cultural and creative industries platform, bringing together over 2000 cultural and creative practitioners from the region and an equally large Hawaii delegation. The wide range of activities offers insight into the creativity and craftsmanship of Pacific heritage artisans and contemporary artists, which reflect both cultural and contemporary themes and narratives. They speak to the resilience and ingenuity of our ancestors, whose identities and cultural practices spoke to deep spiritual connections to the earth, sky and sea.

Our cultural practitioners-led workshops and demonstrations on traditional practices such as weaving, carving, tattooing, canoe building, navigation, and culinary arts - bring the community of practice together for knowledge exchange and skill-sharing, many of whom have not seen each other since the 2016 FestPAC in Guam.

Festpac spc

FestPAC is a gathering of family across the vast Wansolwara, Moana, Blue Pacific that we call home.

The festival also brings together scholars and researchers at conferences, seminars, and symposia. These intellectual exchanges foster dialogue and collaboration among scholars, activists, cultural practitioners and policymakers to help bridge the gap between practice and policy in ensuring that culture is strengthened and protected in the region for a sustainable Pacific future.

The world is waking up to the critical role that culture plays in development, and we are very proud that the Pacific is leading the way in many of these global discussions. The Pacific Regional Culture Strategy 2022 – 2032, and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, endorsed by Pacific leaders, demonstrate the value that our leaders and peoples place on the role of culture as an enabler for resilience building and sustainable development in the Pacific.

FestPAC serves as a platform for promoting cultural wealth, revitalization, reinvigoration, and innovation, as well as an opportunity to discuss contemporary issue. This festival belongs to all of us – to all Pacific peoples and we as we aspire to strengthen regional solidarity and foster pride in our Pacific heritage, I urge us all to support the promotion of cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

FestPAC 13 represents the only break in the quadrennial 4-year cycle, when the global pandemic led to the deferment of the festival in 2020. It has been 8 years since FestPAC 12 in Guam 2016, and expectations are high.

This opportunity comes around only once every four years, and we urge all of those in attendance whether you’re a delegate, an official or a member of the general public, - engage as much as you can with your Pacific community so that we may continue forging relationships, building networks and develop deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s traditions and customs.

You may encounter cultural attire, heritage stories, performances and art forms that seem foreign or different to your own – and we ask that we all remember to accord the same cultural safety, respect and dignity to each of our cultural communities in the same that we would like our own cultural practices, beliefs and values to be received. We thank all of the cultural communities present at FestPAC 13 for your generosity in gifting us an insight into your world, and we receive that gift with humility and gratitude.

I thank you for your attention and I wish you all an immerse, Pacific cultural and creative experience – let us feast and feed our spirits in fellowship and community.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Mahalo nui loa.

Fãiåk se’ea.

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