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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 30, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---Artists, musicians and performing groups from New Caledonia will meet September 2 to plan protests during the 8th Pacific Arts Festival to be held here in October.

The protestors are angry over a lack of recognition in their own country.

Festival organizers are planning accommodation, transportation, accreditation, meals and media coverage for the hosting of thousands of performers for the Festival.

But New Caledonia’s arts community said they’ve been ignored in the planning of the event and will stage a public march on September 20. The march will bring together artists in music, theatre, dance, sculpture, writing and multi-media.

Among those leading the protest will be local artist Rene Boutin.

Boutin is among a small group of local artists who will boycott the official Festival exhibition to protest the lack of copyright laws protecting their work.

Boutin said those boycotting the Festival exhibition at the Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center are also disappointed by the lack of consultation by Festival organizers and Center officials.

While the copyright issue is just one of many issues fuelling the debate on cultural and artistic directions in the country, artists like Boutin and Patrice Kaikilekofe say the time is ripe for creative arts in New Caledonia to be heard.

About 20 local artists have been invited by the Festival organizers to exhibit their work during the festival. But Boutin said another five artists have indicated they will join him in their boycott of the event.

Boutin has been calling for laws to protect artistic property since 1975.

"At this time, people are beginning to understand the commercial value of the Pacific. This is recognized by the whole world, everywhere except in the Pacific," he said.

He said until artists receive legal recognition, money from Pacific arts, which is commercialized without payment to original artists, will keep pouring out of the region.

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