Talanoa Gatherings at FestPAC

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Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) is a prominent event celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Pacific region. Among the various activities that highlight this festival, Talanoa gatherings hold a significant place. These sessions are more than just discussions; they embody a traditional form of conversation that is deeply embedded in Pacific Islander culture.

Talanoa is a traditional form of dialogue practiced in many Pacific cultures. It is a Tongan term, but the concept is shared across Pacific communities. Talanoa involves storytelling, sharing experiences, and open-ended discussions. Unlike Western-style meetings with strict agendas and time constraints, Talanoa is characterized by its relaxed and inclusive nature. Participants engage in conversations that are genuine, heartfelt, and aim to foster mutual understanding and respect. It is a process where emotions, experiences, and knowledge are freely exchanged, facilitating a deeper connection among individuals.

Participation in Talanoa is open to all community members, reflecting the inclusive spirit of the practice. At FestPAC, Talanoa gatherings attract a diverse group of participants, including cultural practitioners, artists, community leaders, academics, and policymakers. The sessions are often intergenerational, bringing together elders who share wisdom and younger members eager to learn and contribute. This mix ensures that a wide range of perspectives and experiences are represented, enriching discussions, and fostering a holistic understanding of issues.

Subjects discussed during Talanoa sessions are as diverse as the participants themselves. Common themes include cultural preservation, climate change, social justice, and community wellbeing. These discussions are crucial in addressing contemporary issues faced by Pacific communities while grounding the conversation in traditional values and knowledge. By focusing on topics that resonate deeply with the participants, Talanoa gatherings help generate practical solutions and strengthen community bonds. There will be four Talanoa Sessions at FestPAC.

Cultural Preservation and Revival: A prominent Talanoa session focuses on preserving and reviving Indigenous cultures. Participants discuss strategies for maintaining traditional arts, languages, and customs in the face of globalization and modernity. Elders share stories and practices from the past, while younger participants explore innovative ways to integrate these traditions into modern life. This importance of cultural identity and the role it plays in community resilience is emphasized.

Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship: Climate change is a pressing issue for Oceania. Environmental activists, scientists, and community members will gather to discuss the impacts of climate change on their ʻāina. Through storytelling and shared experiences, participants highlight the challenges, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events, and brainstorm collective actions to mitigate these effects.

Social Justice and Equity: This session focuses on issues such as gender equality, human rights, and access to education and healthcare. Talanoa participants share personal stories of struggles and triumphs, fostering solidarity and collective responsibility to empower marginalized voices and promote a more just and inclusive society.

Youth Empowerment and Leadership: Our collective future is in the hands of the next generation. In this Talanoa session, young participants are encouraged to share their aspirations, challenges, and ideas for leading their communities forward. Mentors and elders provide guidance and support, and the dialogue focuses on harnessing the energy and creativity of youth to drive positive change and ensure a sustainable future.

Talanoa gatherings play a crucial role in fostering dialogue, understanding, and collaboration among Pacific communities. By providing a platform at FestPAC for inclusive and heartfelt conversations, these sessions help preserve cultural heritage, address contemporary challenges, and inspire people to contribute to their communities. The diverse range of topics discussed underscores the richness and complexity of Pacific Islander experiences and the enduring importance of this traditional practice in modern times.