PACIFIC ARTS FESTIVAL RAISES CULTURAL DILEMMA

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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 30, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---As New Caledonia’s mix of indigenous artists, musicians and cultural performers plan protests around the 8th Pacific Arts Festival to be held here in October, issues of nationality and representation have also come to the forefront.

Take Patrice Kaikilekofe - a New Caledonian artist with roots in Wallis and Futuna.

Kaikilekofe paid his own way to attend the last Pacific Arts Festival in Samoa after failing in his bid to travel with the official team.

As an artist supporting a protest march on September 20th, he still faces exclusion from the event, which will be hosted for the first time in his own country.

Like many Pacific artists who’ve earned acclaim outside of their home countries, Kaikilekofe is no stranger to volunteering his time to local communities while feeling ignored by the official art and culture institutions.

In 1998, he organized a seven-minute performance art piece for the official opening of the Tjibaou Cultural Center. He was never acknowledged or paid for that work. He questions the mentality that he said ignores local talent but throws money at contemporary art from outside New Caledonia.

"The artists have problems with management in the institutions such as the Tjibaou Cultural Center," he says. "And so many of them are missing out on official recognition and the contacts that the 8th Pacific Festival of Arts can provide."

Having returned from training in New Zealand in 1996, Kaikilekofe paid his own way to the 7th Festival of Arts in Samoa because he could not get on the official delegation. He met up with another Samoan artist and they saw the need for a ‘fringe’ festival to promote the alternative streams of creative talent.

In 1998, he won international recognition at the 11th Salon Des Artistes d’Outre Mer in Paris, and went on to exhibit his work there.

Last year, Kaikilekofe partnered with New Zealand-based artist Michael Tuffrey in Australia where they presented their work to the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial meeting for Contemporary Art.

He and his colleagues watched as COFAP and the Tjibaou Center officials continued to sideline rather than highlight home grown talent.

He says it’s critical for the growth of Pacific art in any country that creative work be supported and recognized.

"I missed out on being part of the delegation to the last Pacific Arts festival. Now it’s coming to my own country, I am not going to miss out again," he says.

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