Celebrating Resilience and Unity: The 13th Annual Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture

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Photo: Stacy Ferreira

Aloha mai kākou,

The 13th Annual Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) opened with an electrifying display of pride and solidarity.

The festival’s opening ceremonies ignited the Stan Sheriff Center with a vibrant parade of nations, led by our cousins from Taiwan. What ensued was a seven-hour spectacle of pageantry, where over 20 delegations from across Oceania showcased their native attire, songs, chants, and music, celebrating a shared heritage that transcends our islands and atolls.

Central to the evening was a stirring speech by Marshall Islands’ Minister of Culture and Internal Affairs Jess Gasper, Jr. His words resonated deeply, going viral on social media as he passionately articulated the festival’s significance saying, “May this festival be a testament of the beauty and resilience of our cultures.”

His voice, filled with both pain and pride, recounted the Marshall Islands’ tumultuous history, marred by the devastating impact of nuclear testing. “In the Marshall Islands, they dropped 67 nuclear weapons,” he declared, his voice unwavering. “They destroyed our way of life. They relocated our people…and yet we still have our culture! WE ARE STILL HERE! WE ARE STILL HERE!”

The crowd erupted in cheers. For many, Gasper’s words struck a chord that surfaced both the historical trauma and our enduring resilience. In Hawaiʻi, where the echoes of colonial injustice and military devastation to our ʻāina, kai and wai reverberate, his message of cultural survival resonated deeply.

As Gasper concluded his impassioned address, the spirit of unity was palpable. The arena transformed into a stage of celebration, as attendees jumped to their feet to dance and celebrate. In that moment, his declaration of resilience became a universal anthem for the festival, proclaiming that across the vastness of the Blue Continent, “WE ARE STILL HERE!”

Gasper’s speech, immortalized on social media, garnered two million views within days – a testament to the power of his message. On platforms like Micronesian Viral’s Facebook page, viewers from around the world witnessed the strength and beauty of the Marshall Islands and our shared defiance against historical injustices and contemporary challenges.

The festival continued to unfold with performances that bridged the diverse cultures of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Each delegation, with their distinct rhythms and stories, added a layer to the tapestry of Pacific unity.

At the festival one truth became abundantly clear: in the face of adversity, the cultures of Oceania have not only survived but are thriving. From every delegation the pride and resilience of Pacific peoples shone brightly. FestPAC was a testament to the enduring spirit of a region bound by the ocean that unites, rather than divides.

Gasper’s words, “WE ARE STILL HERE!” serve as a rallying cry for the Pacific’s First Peoples, a reminder that our cultures are not relics of the past but living testaments to resilience and strength. As the festival ended, the echoes of drums and chants lingered, carrying with them a promise – that the spirit of the Pacific, forged through centuries of adversity, will continue to shine brightly for generations to come.

Me ka haʻahaʻa,

Stacy Kealohalani Ferreira
Ka Pouhana | Chief Executive Officer