10.07.2012 - UNESCO Office in Apia

11th Festival of Pacific Arts in Solomon Islands

Festival of Pacific Arts opening ceremony (2012) ©UNESCO/A.Takahashi

The Festival of Pacific Arts is the biggest cultural event in the Pacific held every four years since 1972. The 11th Festival took place from 1 - 14 July 2012 in the Solomon Islands under the theme of “Culture in Harmony with Nature”. Twenty-two countries and territories in the Pacific showcased their cultures for over 3,000 visitors. High-level meetings on culture were held for policy dialogue and advocacy.

The 11th Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) kicked off at dawn on 2nd July in Honiara, Solomon Islands.  Eleven traditional war canoes of Solomon Islands (Tomoko) and seven vakas (sailing canoes) from Pacific countries, which had voyaged across the Pacific in the past two years, arrived at AE Oval Beach to join the traditional opening ceremony of the Festival. Pacific delegates welcomed them with Hakas, dances and songs. Participating delegates then presented their gifts to Governor-General Sir Frank Kabul of Solomon Islands to show appreciation to the host nation.

This was followed by the grand opening ceremony held at the Lawson Tama stadium in Honiara. The contingents in colorful costumes paraded in front of dignitaries, guests, and hundreds in the audience.  Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo officially opened the Festival.  He stated that it was a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures within the Pacific. He also paid tribute to the Pacific Islands forefathers for their visionary idea to establish such an event for Pacific islands and territories.  

Festival as a Forum for Culture

FOPA held for first time in Fiji in 1972 celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. It has been coordinated by the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture (CPA), an advisory body to SPC.  The recent evaluation report produced with UNESCO’s assistance highlighted FOPA’s pioneering role in cultural preservation and revival.  The report also contained a series of recommendations to strengthen its role as forum for policy dialogue and advocacy.

During the 11th Festival, over 3000 visitors enjoyed the traditional music, dances and performances of the Pacific and its contemporary arts and expressions.  A Film Festival held at the newly built Arts Gallery behind the National Museum attracted a large number of audiences.  Several high-level meetings were held, which included the 2nd Ministerial Meeting for Culture and Public Symposium on Cultural Rights. With support of UNESCO, SPREP, Government of Australia and New Zealand, and Pacific Voyaging Society,  PIMA/ICOMOS Youth and Heritage Workshop brought together Pacific youth to discuss issues on Pacific heritage ranging from intangible cultural heritage to climate change.

On 4 July 2012, Hon. Samuel Manetoli, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Solomon Islands opened the 2nd Meeting of Culture Ministers in the Pacific. He commended the Festival Organizing Committee for its efforts in putting in place proactive Intellectual Property (IP) protection strategy such as the Festival logo, media accreditation system, booklet, signs, etc. so as to better protect and promote traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.  Ministers and heads of the cultural authorities endorsed the Pacific Regional Cultural Strategy (2010-2020) and examined progress in the Culture and Education Strategy (2010-2015). The Meeting acknowledged the importance of UNESCO’s normative instruments to support these strategic documents.

One of the highlights of the Festival was UNESCO/SPC/WIPO Public Symposium on Cultural Rights. Ms Farida Shheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, took part as a keynote speaker. The Symposium discussed cultural rights as integral part of human rights. Lively exchange of views was made, exploring linkages between cultural rights and ownership of and access to heritage, gender and sustainable development.

UNESCO session was set at the Symposium to introduce the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.  The participants were especially interested in implications and benefits to countries when joining the 2005 Convention.  International Federation of the Coalition of Cultural Diversity (IFCCD) in Montreal and Ole Siosiomaga Society (OLSSI) in Apia were present at the Symposium, making presentations on the impact of trade liberalization to cultural industry in the developing world.

New Opportunities and New Horizons

The 11th Festival concluded at the official closing ceremony on 14 July 2012. Ms. Doreen Kuper, Chairlady of the Festival told that the Festival owed its success to the hard work of everybody involved and acknowledged the tremendous efforts of the Solomon Islands Government which provided substantial resources to host the Festival.

Thanking the Pacific delegates, Governor-General added that the Festival “binds us together in friendship and identifies us as the peoples of the Pacific with distinct cultures, traditions and experience.”

The 11th Festival was a testimony not only to the vibrant living heritage of the Pacific but also emerging civil society in arts and culture. Networks among policy-makers and cultural experts have been forged for stronger cultural cooperation in the Pacific. 

Guam will host the next FOPA in 2016.

 Article: We've Made It and Made It in Style (ICH Courier Vol.13)

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