The Hawaiʻi Delegates in Melanesia


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Note: This is the second of three articles about the people of the Pacific coming to Hawaiʻi for the Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPAC) this June, 2024.

In 1980, I travelled with others from Hawaiʻi to Papua New Guinea, as a delegate to the South Pacific Festival of Pacific Arts (SPFA, now FestPAC). Keahi Allen organized the Hawaiʻi delegation because the state government did nothing to support or organize a group.

Photo: Kekahi alaea no nā Kuahiwi Kiʻekiʻe
Kekahi alaea no nā Kuahiwi Kiʻekiʻe o Nū Kīnī.

Papua New Guinea is located in the region of the Pacific known as Melanesia. Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands are in this region. In Papua New Guinea, there are countless linguistic groups—839 languages. There are countless languages and cultures. Languages differ from valley to valley.

While ancestors of the Hawaiians traveled through Melanesia, a few picked up Melanesian DNA. When one looks at Melanesians there are many familiar things to us Hawaiians. For example, some people of Melanesia like the Fijians make tapa cloth. Some make lei of flowers or of feathers. Some people of Melanesia strike a pahu (drum) or use bamboo pipe organs. Here are some pictures from that 1980 festival to show familiar things.