Melanesian Festival Of Arts And Culture Underway In PNG

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Day one highlights ‘close connection to the land and environment’

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 1, 2014) – The first day of the Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Monday has highlighted Melanesian people’ s close connection to their land and environment which they cherish for a very long time.

From the vibrant and colourful costumes of Papua New Guinea to the harmonious bamboo flutes and pipes of the Solomon Islands and the energetic movements of the Fijians and the Kanaky’s of New Caledonia, the festival brings together all Melanesians in the Pacific to celebrate under the theme "celebrating cultural diversity".

Also for the first time this year, the host country has extended invitations to other Melanesians from the Torres Straight Islands in Australia, West Papua in Indonesia and East Timor to give them the avenue to express their way of life as members of the wider Melanesian family in the world.

Dr Jacob Simet, Chairman of Papua New Guinea’ s National Cultural Commission emphasised that Melanesian culture is increasingly coming under threat from external influences and the festival is an important avenue of raising cultural awareness for Melanesia’ s young generations.

As the festival continues to grow and becomes internationally recognised, Dr Simet urges all Melanesian elders to lead the way forward in preserving and promoting Melanesia’ s cultural values and heritage.

For the Solomon Islands contingent, their participation in Papua New Guinea for the next two weeks is an important part of promoting, preserving and sharing their diverse and unique cultures through arts, music, dance and talents with their other fellow Melanesians.

The Solomon Islands contingent is a mix of elders, young and female participants each representing their cultural heritages which is expressed through dance, paintings, carvings, handicrafts, songs and music.

This form of preserving and promoting the unique and diverse cultures of the country has been one of the National Government’s key policy areas. This policy has been translated into action by the development of a national culture (kalsa) policy which is administered by the culture division of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The policy is aimed at promoting and encouraging cultural groups from all over the country to preserve existing cultures and revive cultures that are critically at risk of dying out for ever.

Director of the Culture Division, John Tahinao who accompanied the team said Solomon Islands is rich in culture which if developed properly into an industry would contribute positively to the development aspirations of the country.

"We have cultures, arts and talents that no one else in the world has and it is vital that we develop this into a commodity that will one day be the main contributor to our development aspirations in a positive and sustainable way," he said.

With the flare and glamour of the diverse cultures that begins on Monday 30 June in Port Moresby and will run for the next two weeks, the young generations of Melanesia who have the opportunity to witness this event have been given the golden chance to absorb and spread the message to their fellows which is important as Melanesians work together in "celebrating cultural diversity" in a region that boasts some of the world’s unique and diverse place in the world.

Key to this celebration is the Melanesians close connection to their ancestral spirits, land and environment which is emphasised very strongly in the many colourful costumes and energetic songs and dance that will be showcased and sounded all over Papua New Guinea and the rest of Melanesia in the next two weeks.

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