NOUMEA, New Caledonia (February 23, 2000 -OFO)---The 8th Pacific Arts

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Festival will be held in Noumea, primarily at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and
four New Caledonia villages (Mont Dore, Koné, Poindimié, Lifou), from October
23 to November 3, the organizers have announced.

The festival, which takes place every four years, originally was scheduled to be hosted by New Caledonia sixteen years ago. It was cancelled then because of political unrest.

For the year 2000 festival, some 2,000 visitors from 27 Pacific countries and territories are expected to converge on the French territory for what is considered the Pacific Islands region's biggest cultural event.

Organizing committee chairman Dewe Gorodey said the festival provides an opportunity for New Caledonia to make up for what it missed in 1984.

Due to recent changes in the political structure of New Caledonia (and the gradual transfer of competencies from the French state to what is to become an "overseas country"), the festival was nearly cancelled a second, but finally a grant was received from the European Union (which is financing 20 percent of the total budget of 410 million French Pacific Francs -- about US$ 4 million) to help support the regional event.

Half of the budget comes from New Caledonia and still another part from UNESCO.

The theme for this year's festival will be "Talks of Yesterday, Talks of Today, Talks of Tomorrow."

"It's all about finding out together where our respective cultures are with regard to tradition, to the invasion of technology and how we can evolve towards tomorrow," Gorodey said.

The festival will feature dances, theatre, operas, concerts, exhibitions, conferences and workshops.

The opening ceremony will be directed by Aborigine choreographer Raymond Blanco and held at Magenta Stadium, organizers said.

The participating countries already committed to participate include Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Hawaii, Guam, Cook Islands, Fiji, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Norfolk, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, French Polynesia, Easter Island, Samoa, American Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

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