Self commendation is no praise, but for the Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) Organizing Committee to have a sense of gloom and doom and constant self-condemnation; with a sense that they have failed the Region, Solomon Islands and our people by not producing the best, may have been just becoming paranoiac on the part of the Committee and the Government. After speaking to a number of journalists from the region and beyond, contrary to that self-inflicted perception, there are positive indications that we may somehow have produced what could be the biggest and best ever Festival of Pacific Arts.
I have chosen to write about the views expressed by three journalists who are covering the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA).
The first is an Aboriginal new Media Artist; Jenny Fraser who described her delegation’s arrival in Solomon Islands the Saturday before the official opening as hitting the ground running.
She said that starting from the official opening on Monday last week “it’s been hectic and massive with so much going on which you cannot absorb within the short period of time we have and you miss out on a lot as well.”
Ms Fraser described the Festival and Solomon Islands audience as has been “inspiring, warm, enthusiastic, welcoming and an audience being fascinated by everything that has been going.”
She said that the Aboriginal performance group described their performance at the Panatina Pasifika Performing stage as “the best gig they ever played and they loved the audience.”
Ms Fraser said the power disruption at Lawson Tama on the opening night reflected a positive character in Solomon Islands people.
“Elsewhere people would just leave once that happened. But at Lawson Tama that night people turned on torches on mobile phones instead and created their own way of enjoying themselves despite of what had happened, she said.
On the festival itself, Ms. Fraser said she will always recommend the Pacific Festival to anyone back home.
“The Pacific Arts Festival gives you the best opportunity to learn and interact with others about your cultures.
“This is something which is difficult to get when you travel to places as a tourist in a tourist setting where you do not have the same opportunity to learn about other people’s culture as in the case of a Festival of Pacific Arts.
Ms Fraser is working on producing a music clip which she will present as a gift to the Australian delegation by posting it in “Vimeo” where you have more copy rights over its usage than the “You Tube” for purposes of publicity.
Giving the festival publicity and promotion is important because there are people who come to the Solomon Islands for the first time and there are those from the Australian outback deserts and they need to see the contrast to their desert environment of the Solomon Islands pristine – unspoiled landscape.
Ms Fraser is doing her PHD at the Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory and the Festival of Pacific Arts is relevant to the topic she has chosen for her PHD.
‘The Healing Arts’ she explained that her work is focusing on ‘revitalizing language and culture through Arts as it is good for healing trans-generational trauma.
“It helps to fill a void in you. I am focusing on digital story telling as people need to tell their own story and be able to feel that they have ownership over their story as it is good for healing.”
Papua New Guinea
My second choice for an interview was from our largest Melanesian neighbour of Papua New Guinea. He is a multi award winning PNG journalist, the first PNG and Pacific Islander to win the prestigious News Limited Scoop of the year.
Simon Eroro hails from the Northern Province of PNG; which runs from Milne Bay to Morobe – an area which is also the site of the Kokoda trail and where the Fuzzy Wuzzy angels of WW2 hailed from; for those interested in the WW2 history in the Pacific.
Mr Eroro who works as a senior political investigative journalist for the PNG Post Courier won the prestigious News Limited Scoop of the year over investigative reporting he had undertaken on the lives of West Papuans.
Speaking to the FOPA Media Unit, the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts has a personal impact on me as an individual.
“I have come to realize that I have failed to live my own culture and all I can do is to try and ensure that my own children would not go the same way,” he said.
He said that at the Festival you realise the importance of your culture to your own very existence and it’s your own culture and tradition that define you as a human being.
“One example is language which is so important to our identities, and yet we are either ignoring them or corrupting them by introducing new words and expressions into our languages from English or Pijin.
On Solomon Islands, “the big difference between PNG and Solomon Islands is the social life of Solomon Islands, it’s so free and those that wish to know what it means to live in a peace loving country should come to the Solomon Islands”.
“I feel so secure and safe since arriving here and so much at home to the extent that I feel that Solomon Islands are just part of PNG.
“On the regional perspective of the festival, Mr. Eroro said the interactions and exchanges created by the festival made you wish that the Pacific does not have borders and that the people of this region are one people who can move about freely.
On how he rates our performance as a host country and how well we’ve managed; “you’ve done best” was Eroro’s response.
My third choice for an interview was Gabriel Tramon, a cameraman with a TV station in Easter Island, traditionally known as Rapanui called ‘Mata Ote Rapanui.’
Easter Island or Rapanui’s 33-member delegation has been one of the many Pacific delegations that took the 11th Festival of Arts by storm with their dance performances.
It is a country of 4,500 people under the control of Chile; 50 percent Chileans and 50 percent Polynesians with strong traditional and cultural influence from Tahiti.
To get here the Rapanui delegation flew from Rapanui to Santiango in Chile then to Auckland, Brisbane, and then Honiara.
They are all first timers to Solomon Islands. I asked him about his comments about the 11th Festival of Arts and after a long pause; his response was “most wonderful, perfect and Solomon Islands, a beautiful country and beautiful people.”
By DAVID TUHANUKU
CHAIRMAN MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE