SECOND MELANESIAN ARTS FESTIVAL CONTINUES IN PORT VILA

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By Caroline Yacoe

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 20, 2002 – Pacific Islands Report)---The sun was missed during the second day of the Festival’s activities but not the gigantic French tricolor flag -- at least three times the size of the other participating countries’ flags -- that had dominated the opening ceremonies.

Today only the Kanak flag of New Caledonia along with those of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu waved proudly at the Festival Village.

The New Caledonia delegation of l70 people continued a strong presence among the performers. By combining guitars with the leaf drums they formed a pleasing combination of traditional and contemporary music.

During breaks in the performances small boys kicked balls across the dancing field and business was brisk at the thatched stands set up along the Festival Village.

Laplap, the traditional dish of Vanuatu made of yams, taro, manioc or banana with coconut milk and sometimes fish or chicken, as well as barbecue meat sticks with onions and peppers and homemade cakes were big sellers. Colorful lava lavas, woven bags and canoe models decorated some of the stands.

In the evening visitors had a choice of bands playing at the states of the Festival village or opposite the new national museum.

Films were also available at the museum’s stage or in the chiefs’ Nakamal.

A little further out of town -- but well worth the trip, as a packed house testified -- was the "Won Smol Bag Haus" theater. With minimal sets but lots of energy and talent this superb theatre group presented "The Old Stories": how the islands of Vanuatu were formed, contact with white men and the resulting cultural conflicts.

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