FestPAC Hawaiʻi 2024

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Keoni Souza: Trustee At-Large

We recently celebrated the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture 2024 (FestPAC) with the theme, “Hoʻoulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania.” Hoʻomaikaʻi to the FestPAC Hawaiʻi team, including my friends Aaron and Makanani Salā, and the numerous hands and entities that put it all together to make it the success that it was. The memories created will last a lifetime, and I am deeply honored to have been a part of it. Attending the festival was a transformative experience for me, both professionally and personally.

One of the most impactful aspects of FestPAC was the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with representatives from various Pacific nations. Our discussions centered around the necessity of working together to achieve economic prosperity, address climate change, and advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples. These conversations reinforced the idea that we are stronger together as we navigate the complexities of these issues. The forum was a beacon of hope, suggesting a future where Oceania stands united, resilient, and prosperous.

Beyond the professional and political discourse, FestPAC was a vibrant showcase of Pacific culture. The festival was alive with the sounds of traditional singing, the rhythms of dancing, and the intricate beauty of local weaving, carving, and crafts. Sharing these experiences with my family was profoundly moving. We enjoyed the opening ceremony at the Stan Sheriff Center as well as the festival village at the convention center.

My 5-year-old daughter was in awe exploring the festival village and marveled at the ocean water that greeted her as she entered. My wife and I reminded her that our lands are not separated – we are connected by one ocean. Next, we saw the glorious waʻa adorned with lei, a symbol of our ancestors’ ingenuity and wayfinding spirit. My keiki giggled as she heard her kumu’s voice chanting over the waʻa.

The projection of celestial bodies that led our people across vast oceans was another highlight. We showed our daughter Hānaiakamalama, the Southern Cross. It holds personal significance, as it is part of her name: NākiakūpaʻaoHānaiakamalama. We love this name that connects her to her mother, Mahina (moon), linking the moon and stars. This name also honors her family’s home in Nuʻuanu, at the base of Hānaiakamalama, Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. Thus, her name highlights both the celestial connection and her mother’s childhood home. Seeing her connect with this part of her heritage, playing and dancing among the stars, was a beautiful experience, bridging past and present in a tangible and meaningful way.

FestPAC offered a rare blend of professional enrichment and personal joy. It highlighted the importance of cultural exchange and collaboration in addressing the pressing issues of our time. Most importantly, it reminded us of the strength and resilience inherent in our Pacific identity. Through sharing these experiences, we hope to inspire others to recognize the power of unity and the beauty of our Indigenous communities as we strive towards a brighter future for Oceania. I hope that the connections we forged and the lessons we learned will continue to guide us, fostering a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect that will benefit future generations. Mahalo FestPAC Hawaiʻi!