MELANESIAN ARTS FESTIVAL IN VANUATU FEATURED MUSIC OVER WEEKEND

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By Caroline Yacoe

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 26, 2002 – Pacific Islands Report)---Musical events dominated the 2nd Melanesian Arts Festival over the weekend.

Fest 'Napuan 2002 continued on Saturday night with "The Best of Melanesia Bands," including Vanuatu's Naio and The New Ethnic.

Western style rock and reggae -- but with a Ni-Vanuatu flavor -- amplified from Saralana stage throughout the packed museum grounds.

Special light effects highlighted the bands and enthusiastic audience members, who broke into dance.

On Sunday, from noon until night, gospel singers and church choirs presented a "Melanesian Festival of Praise," which must have gladdened the hearts of all past and present missionaries.

In both events, the literally thousands of Ni-Vanuatu in attendance behaved with great dignity and good manners, making all visitors regardless of their ethnicity feel welcome and comfortable.

On Monday afternoon, dancers from Fiji, New Caledonia, the men and boys from Shefa province and the Small Nambas of Vanuatu revitalized the Festival Village.

With difference performances, they demonstrated yet again the variety and richness of their traditional cultural heritage.

Particularly unique were the masks from the Banks Islands in Torba province. These masks are still considered so sacred that they are usually destroyed by fire after use.

In a lighter vein, the young men of Pentecost mimicked some of their more playful initiation procedures and a North Ambae group invited "all men, women and pikinini" to join in their closing dance.

There is a long history of contact and exchange between Vanuatu and New Caledonia. So, concurrent with the 2nd Melanesian Arts Festival, a workshop between the elders of Tafea province and members of the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia met to discuss and renew the traditions of cultural ties.

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