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By Tiana Haxton, RNZ Pacific journalist in Hawai’i

“One body, one people, one ocean, one Pacific” was Samoa’s powerful statement during the parade of nations at the official opening of the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC).

It was a sentiment echoed loudly and proudly by all other parading nations.

Rapa Nui’s delegation exclaimed, “we are all brothers and sisters, we are a family!”

This strong spirit of unity connected the Pacific delegates who had all travelled across vast oceans to attend the 10-day festival hosted in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

“Ho’oulu Lahui, Regenerating Oceania” is the underlying theme of the event.

Festival director Dr Aaron Sala said the phrase is an ancient Hawai’ian motto from the reigning Monarch of Hawai’i in the 1870s, instructing the community to rekindle their cultural practices and rebuild the nation.

He saw how the theme could be embraced by the entire Pacific region for the festival.

‘Power of that phrase’
“The power of that phrase speaks to every level of who we are.”

He saw the phrase come to life at the official opening ceremony over the weekend.

Host nation dancers at FestPAC 2024
Host nation dancers at FestPAC 2024. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Tiana Haxton

Almost 30 Pacific Island nations paraded at the Stan Sheriff Center, flags waving high, and hearts full of pride for their indigenous heritage.

Indigenous people of all ages filled the arena with song and dance, previewing what festival goers could expect over the next two weeks.

Dr Sala was impressed by the mix of elders and young ones in the delegations.

“The goal of the festival in its inception was to create connections between elders and youth and to ensure that youth are connected in their culture.

“The festival has affected generations of youth who are now speaking their native languages, who are carving again and weaving again.”

‘It’s so surreal’
Speaking as she watched the opening ceremony, the festival’s operations director Makanani Sala said: “it’s so surreal, looking around you see all these beautiful cultures from around the world, it’s so humbling to have them here and an honor for Hawai’i to be the hosts this year.”

The Tuvalu flag bearer at FestPAC2024
The Tuvalu flag bearer at FestPAC 2024. Image: RNZ Pacific/Tiana Haxton

The doors to the festival village at the Hawai’i Convention Centre opened the following day.

Inside, dozens of “fale” allocated to each nation were filled with the traditional arts and crafts of the Pacific.

It is a space for delegates and event attendees to explore and learn about the unique cultural practices preserved by each nation.

The main stage is filled with contemporary and traditional performances, fashion shows, oratory and visual showcases, and much more.

The FestPAC village space invites the community to journey through the entire Pacific, and participate in an exchange of traditional knowledge, thus doing their part in “Ho’oulu Lahui – Regenerating Oceania.”

The Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture runs until June 16.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

American Samoa
The American Samoan delegation at FestPAC 2024. Image: RNZ Pacific/Tiana Haxton
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