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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, October 16) – The Cook Islands stuck its hand up for funds to help with cultural development when the European Development Fund (EDF) announced in the Caribbean at the weekend that a US$17.8 million pot of funds is available to develop culture.

This was welcome news to Pacific government cultural representatives who are attending the meeting in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The money is to develop the cinema and audiovisual sectors (US$10 million) and job-creating cultural industries such as craft, performance and music (US$7.8 million).

But the EDF support is available only to members of the 79-country ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group of states, 14 of them in the Pacific.

The second meeting of ACP Ministers of Culture was attended the newly-appointed secretary of the Cook Islands’ Ministry for Cultural Development, Raemaki Karati.

Karati said he could think immediately of ways the Cook Islands could tap into the fund.

"For example, we have our own audio-visual unit we would like to develop. The last six or seven years we have been involved in producing CDs and DVDs of cultural productions. But we need technical assistance to get it all up to standard."

According to ACP documents, "creative industries are establishing themselves more and more as potential vectors of sustainable development. Publishing, music, performance, cinema, multimedia and crafts are means of expression which reveal an economic potential. The global objective of these programs is to contribute to the development and structuring of cultural and audiovisual industries to allow them to improve local output, promotion and broadcasting. It is also a question of promoting cultural diversity, emphasizing… cultural identities… and encouraging intercultural dialogue."

The meeting was timed to precede the first ACP festival which runs to 21 October and involves hundreds of artists, musicians and performers from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The first live performances took place at the weekend in Santo Domingo’s heritage zone, with Pacific performers and artists due to appear later this week.

Among them are veteran Papua New Guinea artist Joe Nalo, Cook Islands fashion designer Marion Cecilia Kali Howard, a newly-formed Fijian contemporary dance group Rako led by Letila Mitchell, Fijian sculptor Ben Fong, Fijian musician Sailasa Cakau Tora and the Seven Stars Band from Samoa.

The festival also includes four days of symposiums which start today (CI time).

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