On Wednesday 15th of May 2015 the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Right Honorable Peter O’Neill launched the logo on the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture at the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby. The event will take place in June-July 2014.
Papua New Guinea is the host of the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture. The festival will also have participation from the East Timor, West Papua, and the Torres Strait Islands.
It his official opening speech the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea expressed his satisfaction with the National Cultural Commission for making sure that all preparations towards hosting of the festival of arts and culture were taken care of.
The Prime Minister was also happy that the Melanesian Festival of Arts will prepare the stage for other events such as the APEC Meeting and the South Pacific Games in 2015.
The Minister for Tourism, Arts, and Culture, Honorable Boka Kondra thanked the NEC for approving the Ministry’s submission to hold the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture in 2014.
The Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture is the biggest cultural gathering of Melanesian countries. It is hosted every four years in different Melanesian countries.
The challenge to staged an event as big as the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture rests with respective departments and other agencies. In this case the National Cultural Commission is the principle government organization tasked with the responsibility to organize the festival. Other government departments and organizations such as the National Events Council and the Ministry of Sports, National Events, and the South Pacific Games are also involved in organization of this event.
The theme of the festival is: Celebrating Cultural Diversity among five the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) of countries: Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea.
The Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture will highlight the importance of cultural diversity in the Melanesian sub-region of the Pacific. It will bring together the Melanesian traditional and contemporary artists to share their arts and culture. These include traditional and contemporary dance, singsings, music, fine arts, literary arts, theatre arts, culinary arts, fashion design, textiles, and traditional games.
Arts and culture in the sub-region of Melanesia is the source of inspiration and strength of the Melanesian people. Melanesia is a region rich in cultures and arts that are both exotic and lively, revealing a myriad of faces, moods, and complexity in their existence.
In some sense there exists close similarities among peoples and cultures of Melanesia. It is not so difficult for people from the MSG countries to identify and relate to each other every time their paths cross or that in their co-mingling in different occasions and environment.
Cultures and arts of Melanesia are the people’s expression of themselves as a people and their expression of their livelihood and identity. Melanesia it must be said is as diverse as its people and their geographical locations.
One can travel from the most southern temperate climate of New Caledonia to the most humid tropical mountainous island of New Guinea poised near the Equator. It is as if the world’s most diverse and cultural groups are precariously placed on the face of the earth, scattered in isolated islands, have the ideal site for the world’s treasures to be hidden from being discovered. Indeed such ideas were first those that drove the European imaginings to explore further south, to the South Seas in search of the new El Dorado.
And what the Europeans found were people, black people, whom they immediately scribed in the label Melanesians. Their cultures were profiled as primitive and stone-aged, an ideal environment for greater enlightenment and implantation of Western European civilizing attributes.
Much was lost but much remains in as the basis for Melanesians’ claims on social cultural identity. The cultures of Melanesia became their sense of who they are. The diverse cultures held them together. The cultures served as the storyboard of their ancestry and their lives were woven into the social and political fabrics of their societies.
In many of the societies of Melanesia the traditional institutions and knowledge systems provided the explanations of their world. It is the best-kept secret that soon attracted a drove of western scholars and interested culture collectors. Much of these took place in the early 1900s, leaving a world that is both understood and misunderstood. Even today scholars and political analysts are intrigued with the cultural changes and style of political decisions that refuse to conform to those expected of them.
It is a sub-region that is becoming a very powerful block in the South Pacific region. The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has been a very solid group driven to find answers to some of its challenges in a region as diverse as its geo-political environment.
The 5th Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture is a testament to the importance the member countries place in their diverse arts and culture. Celebrating together for the last four festivals had given them a resolve to continue to do the same for many years to come. Celebrating their cultures and arts in different countries had also brought peoples together and given them strength and vitality as a unique group of people.
In one year I travelled through the Melanesian islands in 14 days visiting islands as remote as Ouvea in New Caledonia, Ureparapara in Vanuatu, Santa Anna in Solomon Islands and Panapompom among the Woodlark group of islands in Papua New Guinea. The people I met in these islands have never shied away from displaying their cultures with pride. Their cultural dances went from very elaborate dance performances or singsings to the fine artistic expressions in their amulets, shells, and wood works such as carvings and canoe prows.
One can never get enough of the Melanesian arts and culture, even if one comes from within the culture and knows the arts.
The Melanesians are not simple people living simple lives, but complex people with diverse cultures and expressions surviving for thousands of years.