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Tenth Festival Of Pacific Arts Begins In Pago Pago

Tenth Festival of Pacific Arts begins in Pago Pago, American Samoa

Monday, 21 July 2008 -- Around 2000 artists from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories will celebrate the official opening of the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts tomorrow in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The festival, which is the Pacific’s largest regional cultural gathering, has brought people together from throughout the Pacific region every four years since 1972. The event is a unique opportunity to promote cultural exchange and regional unity as well as to focus on issues such as changing Pacific identities.

Over the next fortnight, a diverse range of art forms will be showcased at the festival including visual, performing, culinary, literary, and traditional healing arts. Participants will also take part in symposia focusing on arts and culture.

There is an air of festivity on American Samoa’s main island of Tutuila, where the entire population has turned out to welcome the visitors and people have been applying the finishing touches to colourful decorations. Coconuts, stacked in neat columns and spray painted gold, red, blue, white and yellow adorn the verge in front of houses. Flowers woven into palm fronds decorate roadside posts and shop-front pillars. Garden walls have been freshly painted and signs beside the road welcome visitors to American Samoa and the festival. In the town centre, road workers are busy finishing off a major project.

Co-Chairperson of the Festival Organising Committee, Mr Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, says preparing for the festival has strengthened the community’s sense of pride and cultural identity. ‘Everyone is looking forward not only to displaying our own culture, but to sharing the cultures of our Pacific brothers and sisters.’

Mr Langkilde says that with the help of the local community, the organising committee has managed to overcome major organisational challenges in terms of logistics and budgets. ‘At this point it’s all come together and we’re very proud that we’re ready for the festival. The community has shown support in every way possible and has put out the welcome mat for our visitors.’

He says the highlight of tomorrow evening’s opening ceremony will be the parade of countries.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) plays a supporting role to the host country, including providing interpretation services. SPC’s Human Development Adviser for Culture, Dr Elise Huffer, says the festival is an opportunity to celebrate culture, an integral component of the daily life of Pacific people, and to highlight its contribution to the vitality and well being of contemporary Pacific societies. ‘Culture is the basis of people’s lives and the festival is a unique event that brings the whole region together, allowing countries to share their diverse practices and art forms, and through these express their values. It is an opportunity for renewing past links and for forging future directions, and for intergenerational communication to take place. The symposia also allow for reflection on important contemporary issues such as the protection and promotion of traditional knowledge and expressions of culture, and on how young people can benefit from engaging in cultural activities.’

During the festival, the Council of Pacific Arts, the regional body that oversees the promotion of culture in the Pacific, will meet to discuss a range of issues, including where the 12th Festival will take place in 2016. Solomon Islands will host the 11th Festival in 2012 and will present a report on its preparations to the Council members. The meeting, convened by SPC, will take place on 23 July.

During the festival, SPC’s HIV & STI Section, in collaboration with the American Samoan Department of Health and the Festival Organising Committee, will run a Safe Festival campaign called Celebrate arts and culture and respect your health. The campaign aims to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Two thousand backpacks containing factual information on HIV/AIDS, HIV testing, STIs, and safe sex, as well as other health promotion items, are being distributed to delegates through health briefings with each country delegation. Male and female condoms will be available at various festival venues and free, confidential HIV testing will also be offered.

The festival runs until 2 August, although the official closing ceremony will take place on 30 July.

For more information about the festival visit the official website at http://pacartsas.com .

ENDS

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