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Hanging loose and hunting food

Report #2 from LOOP correspondent Sarah Hunter, in Noumea with the New Zealand Pacific Island delegation for the Pacific Festival of Arts.

It's Thursday, and the festival is hotting up. Sweat rolling down the neck as I type this – the fans are not making much of a dent in the media centre.

We wake each morning and look out to Iosefa's spot here – a simple tribute of a coconut from a nearby tree, with shells and flowers. Still seems like a bad dream. Crazy thing is when it happened the Maori guys next door were trying to tell us about this Samoan fella who was down. Well, I been hanging with the FOBs for too long, cos I thought they were talking about a Samoan fala – as in mat! And they were calling him the old man – well his hair was greying but he was aged only 46! The frigate bird has flown and we wish his family and friends in New Zealand aroha/alofa/love for the upcoming funeral.

When we first arrived here, the Kanak chiefs greeted our delegation and one of them invited us all to come dance and make the land sing.

Little did we know that the French would be so disorganised on the logistics. The Kapa Haka didn't perform today because of ill health among the crew. All up, 10 people from the Aotearoa delegation are currently sick, with complaints over poor food (lack of fresh fruit, veges and definitely seconds are not in the house), transport, organisation – so although our motto in Noumea is just hang loose, that's taking it a bit far. Not so good for courage, spirit, and honour .

Meantime, every day is a new dawn and a new attempt at finding out what is on the programmes, and where our crews are performing. Slowly getting better but it's been frustrating for most delegations. Aotearoa is geting into the find-a-spot-and-do-your-thang routine.

Listen out for Henare Te Ua on National Radio for his reports with Libby, cos he is recording a lot of sounds and thoughts and also doing a farewell for Iosefa with a recording of the opera crew.

The PI delegation mamas are Emma Kesha (Samoan) from Dunedin and Mata (Niuean) from Auckland and they are set up in the CPS Centre with their weaving, clothing and other wares and they are joined by two contemporary funky jewellers Sofia (Rotuma/Futuna/Uvea/Scots) and Niki Hastings-McFall (Samoan/European) and their stunning pieces.

The space is air-conditioned (toilets with seats!!). Alongside Maori weavers including Erenoa Hetet, and carvers such as Rangi Hetet, Hirini Melbourne is literally blowing all away with his range of flutes and nose flutes and traditional instruments that bring a forest of birds alive in the space.

Buzz Lightyear soiree last night at the Tjibaou Centre for the Fourth Biennale – a swanky do but no champagne to greet us and a bun rush on the food. However the fashion stakes were sizzling and the local firemen were in all the social pix with the young Polynesian princesses and dusky maidens holding their own (Sofia and Erolia leaders in the most photographed stakes).

Actually we could have been in Auckland or Wellington given the large representation of familiar arty farty faces!! Spotted Paula Savage doing a Pacific recce (perhaps we will we be seeing Pacific art at the City Art Gallery), Jim Viviare looking suave and holding his own, etc etc.

Ela Toómaga, Ani O'Neil, Loni Hutchinson and Niki Hastings-McFall are among the PI artists representing in the show. I was most wowed by an Aussie neon work ('I See You' in Aboriginal dialect) by Brook... (must try and remember last names but hey, wot the...).

Been down the 'village' this morning – hot and dusty still. Checked out some dance beats from Tuvalu (throw the guns away, said their leader to the Pacific peoples) and Tokelau in their finest outfits: multi-coloured flava to the max.

It's pretty crowded around the stage – finally the performers can be seen, cos they got them off the ground – and some aggro camera people looking for their best shot (bloody photographers with no respect!).

I cruised around the back and hooked up with the performers there and gave out some LOOP cards – ah, internet cool – and chatted to security in my pidgin French.

Performances outside the CPS centre much more to our liking: on the lawn.. under trees.. sweet sea breezes... very chill. Saw Palau looking luminous with coconut oil rubbed with yellow food colouring and American Samoa moving up the pace. One of their young women fainted in the heat; found out she hadn't eaten all day!! Was that the catering or vanity or nervous state of mind??

Have to go to catch the van. It's the official opening tonight – and who knows what will be?

Remember, when in Noumea – just hang loose!

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