Address on behalf of the Pacific Community by Leituala Kuiniselani Toelupe Tago – Elisara, Director, Social Development Programme - Opening of the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts


Your Excellency the Governor of Guam
Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegation
Representatives of regional and international organisations
Ladies and gentlemen.

I stand here with great humility as I deliver remarks on behalf of our Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, who is unfortunately unable to be with us today. I bring you warm greetings from our organisation, the Pacific Community or SPC. At the outset, I wish to convey our appreciation to the governments and administrations of Pacific Island countries and territories for all your efforts over the past years, since the previous Festival in Solomon Islands in 2012, to prepare for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, or Festpac2016. Thank you all for your commitment to being here and to making a contribution to this unique event.

Secondly, to the Governor and the people of Guam, thank you for your long and untiring efforts in preparing to host the peoples of the Pacific in your beautiful country. For many present here today, this is indeed their first visit to Guam and therefore their first opportunity to experience the Chamorro spirit and hospitality, and to appreciate your unique culture. Guam is only the second country in the North Pacific to host the Festival of Pacific Arts, since this event began in 1972, and we admire your strong commitment to this event, since Guam was awarded the role of host in 2008.

Ladies and gentlemen, as custodian of the Festival, SPC places great importance on the Festival as has been demonstrated through our close association with the host and participating governments, over the years, and in particular with the Government of Guam over the past three years. The Festival is the premiere cultural event of the region in which all our member countries and territories come together to share and celebrate their arts, customs and traditions, and deliberate on important regional cultural issues.

The Festival of Pacific Arts is a unique opportunity to celebrate diversity, while reinforcing a collective regional identity and spirit. As part of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific, SPC’s mission is to work for the well-being of Pacific people through the effective and innovative application of science and knowledge, guided by a deep understanding of Pacific Island contexts and Pacific Island cultures. Our mission is symbolic of our commitment and respect at the highest level for Pacific cultures as an important enabler for sustainable development in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, our theme for Festpac over the next two weeks is, ‘What we own, what we have, what we share, United Voices of the Pacific’. This theme speaks to what our individual Pacific nations have to offer, in celebration of our unique identity as Pacific people. It also reminds us that the Festival of Pacific Arts is truly ours as Pacific peoples. We have come a long way, having established the Festival together, we have joined forces to host the Festival together. We have participated in various activities during the Festival proceedings, and we have been able to manage the coordination of the Festival together! I think you ought to be congratulated and you all deserve a big round of applause!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Festival of Pacific Arts is the only regional Festival that has been held consistently for over 40 years, and one can only conclude that this is a true reflection of how much value and importance you and your countries place on the Festival.

FestPac 2016 has an ambitious programme and we acknowledge the hard work and efforts that went into pulling it together. We acknowledge the great care Guam has taken in preparing its own delegates and volunteers in revitalizing Chamorro culture through a series of workshops carried out over the past three years, and through reaching out to your diaspora across the United States and beyond. We are confident that your 500-member delegation will impress the many guests with your own cultural expressions. We also anticipate that those based outside of Guam will take back with them a renewed energy, spirit and pride, and the knowledge that they will continue to be part of our extraordinary culturally-rich Pacific family.

Ladies and gentlemen, we recognize that the Festival is increasingly becoming a place for dialogue and decision making on important cultural development issues facing the region and the global community. FestPac 2016 has attracted important arts and culture organisations from Asia, Europe and the ACP region, who will participate in the forums, symposiums and market events which will take place over the next two weeks. This demonstrates the Festival’s increasingly important international reach, and the growing interest in Pacific arts and culture worldwide. It is also an opportunity for Pacific artists, producers, arts managers and policy makers to network and drive opportunities for Pacific cultural development.

In closing I want to share a personal story. I was born and raised in Samoa by my grandparents and my grandfather, the late Toelupe Vaito’a Toelupe, who was a teacher by training and a true traditionalist and cultural Icon. My orientation as a young Samoan woman which evolved around this man has shaped the person that I am and my view of the world. This means no matter where I go, I will always be proud of my Samoan culture and heritage. This evening, as I stand before you with the greatest respect and honour, I am extremely proud to also be part of a rich and colourful Pacific culture and heritage. I acknowledge my grandparents’ teachings and orientation and will always be grateful for the opportunity to know and understand my own culture, because only then can I truly appreciate your cultures for ‘What we own, what we have, what we share, Unites us as Pacific people’.

Honourable Governor, to conclude, may I take this opportunity on behalf of the Pacific Community to wish you, your government and the peoples of Guam a wonderful, successful and memorable 12th Festival of Pacific Arts. SPC stands beside you and all the countries and territories represented here today, to celebrate our common heritage. I wish the delegations and participants a safe and enjoyable Festival.

Thank you for your attention.

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