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"we are here to ensure that our identity will never be negotiable" - Aeau Christopher Hazelman


Aeau Christopher Hazelman

The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) commenced with a vibrant and diverse display of indigenous Pacific culture in Hawai'i. This year’s event, hosted in O’ahu, marks a significant gathering after an eight-year hiatus, bringing together over 2,500 delegates from 27 nations. The festival aims to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and unity of the Pacific Islands through traditional performances, exhibitions, and ceremonies.



Emphasising Cultural Significance

The festival began with a stunning opening ceremony at the University of Hawai’i Stadium. Indigenous people of Hawai’i, the kanaka maoli, set the tone with a powerful welcome, embodying the strength and synchronisation of their traditional movements. The performances were followed by a parade of nations, each delegation showcasing their unique cultural heritage through dance, music, and ceremonial gifts.


Taiwan, a new addition to the festival, opened the parade with an energetic performance, which was warmly received by the audience. Guam, the previous host of FestPAC, led the parade and offered ceremonial gifts to Hawai'i's Governor Josh Green. Each delegation, from Wallis and Futuna to Tonga, presented gifts that reflected their cultural identity and craftsmanship.


Samoa's Message of Unity

A standout moment came from Samoa’s delegation, led by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Aeau Christopher Hazelman. In his address, Hazelman emphasised the importance of cultural preservation and unity among Pacific nations.


“And that is why we are here,” Hazelman said. “Every day is an opportunity for Samoa to shine the light on all of our young people, to shine the light of culture, to shine the light of our language. O le tupuaga ma le faasinomaga, your genealogy and your identity is not negotiable and in Samoa, we are here to ensure that our identity will never be negotiable in our ohana, our islands of the Pacific. Too often around the world, they look at us as small island states but in the words of the late Epeli Hauʻofa from Tonga, we are not small island states, we are the caretakers of the largest ocean in the world! And although we are all from different parts of the Pacific, we share one body of ocean, and when we look from above from the satellites, we see there are no boundaries, there are no borders, we are one body, one people, one ocean and we will continue to show that.”


Hazelman’s speech resonated with the festival's overarching theme of unity and shared heritage, reinforcing the idea that the Pacific Ocean unites rather than divides the island nations.


Showcasing Cultural Diversity


Throughout the 10-day event, venues across O’ahu, including the Hawai’i Convention Center and the Bishop Museum, will host a variety of cultural exhibitions, workshops, and performances. Each nation brings its unique traditions to the forefront, from the intricate tapa cloths of Tonga to the dynamic siva afi fire dance of Samoa.


Papua New Guinea’s delegation, with their plumed headdresses and bold painted bodies, and the First Nations peoples of Australia, performing with the didgeridoo, exemplify the diversity and depth of Pacific cultures. New Zealand’s performance, acknowledging both Kiingi Tuheitia and the late Hawaiian monarchy, highlighted the shared history of noble families and tribal unity.


Despite logistical challenges, such as Fiji's reduced delegation due to airline accommodations for other nations, the spirit and energy of the performers remain undiminished. The festival serves not only as a celebration but as a reminder of the resilience and vibrancy of Pacific cultures.


FestPAC 2024 is more than a festival; it is a reaffirmation of cultural identity and unity among the Pacific nations. As Aeau Christopher Hazelman eloquently put it, the Pacific Islands are the caretakers of the largest ocean in the world, bound together by a shared heritage and identity. This festival stands as a testament to the enduring cultural ties and collective strength of the Pacific people.


For more detailed information on FestPAC 2024, including schedules and specific events, visit the [official FestPAC website](https://www.festpachawaii.org/about/).

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