HONOLULU, Hawaii (PIDP/CPIS) – “Spontaneous exuberance.” Those are the words Caroline Yacoe used to describe the Pacific Festival of the Arts, held in New Caledonia Oct. 23-Nov. 3.
“That’s the feeling I started and came away with. It lasted from the very beginning to the very end,” Yacoe told Pacific Islands Report upon her return home to Honolulu.
Held once every four years, this year’s event brought together thousands of artists and performers throughout the Pacific in a festival that included performances, displays and an exchanging of cultural and artistic ideas.
“It was a large festival this year,” said Yacoe, a writer and artist who heads Pacific Pathways. “The delegations were very big, some had 100 or more. But I think they (festival organizers) did well given the circumstances. Even the rain didn’t deter people.”
Heavy rains during the start of the event delayed this year’s opening ceremonies. Also, the size of the festival posed some logistical nightmares for festival organizers.
Participants in the event complained about problems with lodging, food and transportation. Some said the number of delegates was higher than anticipated, which caused problems with hotels and other lodging facilities. Delegates also said the food was prepared to reflect more of the French culture rather than the Pacific. The venue in the capital, Nouméa, was crowded. And public transportation shut down at 6:00 p.m., which made it difficult for people to attend evening events.
“Some of them were quite isolated, especially the Papua New Guinea delegates,” she said. “It would have been more in the spirit of the festival of getting to know and working with each other.”
Despite some of the logistical problems, Yacoe said the festival was a success.
“The general feeling I got from the Kanak people from New Caledonia was that they were so exuberant that they were spontaneously dancing and singing on the beach in front of our hotel all afternoon just for the heck of it. They had so many years of cultural oppression that they were positive when they saw people responding to them. It was very upbeat,” she said.
“One night the Tahitians and the Rapa Nuians were partying and they didn’t want to stop even at 4:30 in the morning. It was very upbeat.”
Some of the festival’s highlights, she said, included watching the rarely seen people from Tommen Island in Vanuatu.
“Tommen Island is equivalent to Ni’ihau in Hawaii. It is very remote and undeveloped. When you go to Vanuatu, it’s a trek and you have to have permission. So it was an incredible opportunity to see these people sharing their arts,” she said.
Another highlight was watching Papua New Guinea delegates from West New Britain performing the sacred Tumbuan mask ceremonies.
Yacoe said she was also impressed by the traditional displays from delegates of the smaller Pacific Island nations, such as Niue, Tuvalu and Tokelau.
“There was such diversity and wide representation of the traditional cultures, including the remote areas,” she said. “There is quite a resurgence in pride in traditional works that are carried out in making new works.”
This was the second Festival of Pacific Arts Yacoe had attended. The last event was held in Samoa in 1996. She hopes to attend the next festival, which will be held in Palau in 2004.