Since 1972, artists, performers, and cultural practitioners from nations throughout Oceania have gathered every four years for an event called the Festival of Pacific Arts. The festival has been held in Fiji, Aotearoa, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Australia, Cook Islands, Samoa, New Caledonia, Palau, American Samoa, Solomon Islands, Guam, and in 2020, Hawaiʻi will host this massive gathering.
The festival is the largest gathering in which Pacific peoples unite to respect and appreciate one another. Three thousand delegates from twenty-seven Pacific island nations will convene in Hawaiʻi to share and exchange their cultures. The festival will draw 100,000 visitors, attendees and participants from around the world in what amounts to a global market for art, ideas, and fellowship.
Nā Kumu Hula Mapuana DeSilva and Vicky Holt-Takamine spearheaded the effort to bring the festival to Hawaiʻi and Aunty Vicky recently visited the OHA board to share the plans for Festival of Pacific Arts in 2020. The vision for this festival is ambitious and exciting… “‘Ike aku, ʻike mai, kōkua aku, kōkua mai; pēlā ihola ka nohona ʻohana,” recognize and be recognized, help and be helped; such is family life. Recognizing and supporting each other as island nations is the theme for this event and it provides an immense opportunity for Hawaiʻi and especially the Native Hawaiian community to showcase our culture and all that it provides for Hawaiʻi.
The Festival of Pacific Arts provides a venue through which its participants are able to display unique art forms, to coalesce through shared traditions, and to strengthen bonds of fellowship that exist throughout the far reaches of the Pacific. It provides the Native Hawaiian community an opportunity to exhibit our culture and ʻike to the world through our own purview and from platforms that we create.
I believe this is an extremely rare opportunity where we can showcase all that is Hawaiian and also be very creative in highlighting areas where our culture and ancestral knowledge can drive change globally. For example, Aunty Vicky has shared her vision for using this opportunity to incubate and catapult agriculture and food projects, because after all, 100,000 people will have to be fed during this festival. A village of traditional hale covering Kapiʻolani Park is also envisioned. These efforts will create opportunity for small businesses and organizations from all over Hawaiʻi.
I expect the Native Hawaiian community will rally around this event and seize the opportunity to showcase the best and brightest ideas, projects, and people that our community has to offer. I look forward to seeing Native Hawaiians lead this effort on a global stage, in full ownership of our cultural identity as the indigenous, first peoples of Hawaiʻi. Finally, I am hopeful that our Hawaiian institutions will hit the ground running with our community to make sure that Hawaii as a whole maximizes this opportunity under the leadership and guidance of Native Hawaiians.