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By Jack Metta The National, Papua New Guinea

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (October 25, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---The opening of the Pacific Festival of Arts may have been postponed but Papua New Guinea performers entertained hundreds of spectators and performers who had already turned up at the stadium.

The PNG contingent was among the first busload of delegates to arrive at the stadium, only to be told by officials and security personnel at the gates that the official opening had been postponed because of rain.

But all was not lost as Papua New Guinea's Kutana Theatre group, from Morobe province, were in full regalia for the occasion.

They elected to put on an impromptu performance under the shelter of the stadium, much to the delight of Nouméa residents and security personnel inside and outside the stadium.

It was a cold wet afternoon, with temperatures dropping to around 24 degrees Centigrade, with sporadic showers over Nouméa throughout the day.

The PNG contingent members, who are camped at Jules Garner College outside Nouméa, have settled into a routine of daily rehearsals since their arrival..

However, complaints have emerged among the group, ranging from unappetizing food, transportation limitations, poor logistics planning and the language barrier restricting effective communication between locals and visitors.

Meanwhile, group leaders Steven Lisi and Lawrence Mou, of the West New Britain Theatre group Muga, said they believe that more Papua New Guineans should be involved in promoting the country's culture at forums such as the Festival of Pacific Arts.

Mr. Lisi lamented the lack of preparations back home that had restricted full participation by a wider spectrum of Papua New Guineans.

"I believe that what it boils down to is the lack of attention by the relevant authorities to encourage the need to prepare and expose our culture to the outside world," said Mr. Lisi, a director on the Tourism Board.

"The onus should be on local level governments to fund potential cultural groups within their local level government areas, and encourage and support them for their involvement at international events," he said.

Various potential groups should be provided with funding to kick-start their preparations towards attending such arts festivals.

Papua New Guinea sent a 280-member contingent to the last Festival of Pacific Arts in Samoa, compared with 96 this year.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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