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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 6, 1998 - Radio Australia)---The inaugural Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival has officially opened in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Richard Dinnen reports the festival is being held as the Solomon Islands celebrates the 20th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain.

"Hundreds of artists and performers from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands paraded into the festival village in Honiara for the opening ceremony.

"It's a celebration of traditional Melanesian culture, but the underlying theme is concern at how quickly traditional cultures are dying out in some parts of the world.

"Organizers hope this festival will become an ongoing means of preserving and enhancing traditional Melanesian cultures.

"Solomon Islands Cultural Affairs Minister Leslie Boseto says Melanesian governments must take every possible step to ensure their indigenous cultures survive into the next millennium and beyond.

"Reverend Boseto says a good first step would be to make traditional cultures part of the mainstream school curriculum.

"The festival continues through this week and independence day will be celebrated tomorrow.

"Richard Dinnen, Honiara."



HONIARA, Solomon Islands (July 6, 1998 - Radio Australia)---The Governments of the Melanesian region have been urged to do more to promote knowledge and understanding of their indigenous cultures.

The Solomon Islands Home and Culture Affairs Minister, Leslie Boseto, made the call at the opening of the first Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival in Honiara today.

The festival brings together artists and performers from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands.

Reverend Boseto says Melanesian Cultures should be taught in mainstream school courses and governments should take all possible steps to ensure indigenous cultures survive.

"These are our identities and values," he said. "The generation of tomorrow may lose them if the national government do nothing to recognize our place in a contemporary society. Foreign influences would undermine our identities and values if we do nothing to sustain them."

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