HONOLULU (HONOLULU PUBLIC RADIO)—People call FestPAC, the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture, a life-changing experience because of the immersion in Polynesian cultures it offers. Preparations are already well underway for the next FestPAC in Honolulu.

FestPAC was started in 1972 to stimulate regional cultures that were on the verge of disappearing. Now, 27 nations participate, with carving, tattooing, filmmaking, dance, music, architecture, navigation and canoeing; healing arts, ceremonial arts, culinary arts, fashion design, and more.

The next FestPAC is set for 06 -16 June, 2024 in Honolulu after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Incoming FestPAC Director Aaron Sala said Hawaii has sent delegations of esteemed artists to the event since the mid-1970s.

“Delegations that went early, they were made up of people like Mahi Beamer, Lahela Kaʻaihue, Nalani Kanakaʻole. These people we think of now as kumu, as loʻea, as masters of our culture. They paved the path for us,” Sala said.

Randy Fong, cultural affairs Vice President at Kamehameha Schools, led delegations in the 1990s when FestPAC was held in the Cook Islands and Samoa.

“Mapuana de Silva, kumu hula of Halau Mohala ʻIlima took up the mantle. She’s done now, I think five festivals,” Sala said.

The festival creates community among often far-flung islands, where traditions and cultural activities have been revived, thanks to this opportunity. Youth teams sometimes train for years to perform, representing nations that are part of the fabric of Hawaii

“What’s awesome for us is that it’s the Samoan congregations, the Tongan wards, Josie and We Are Oceania. It’s all these awesome friends that we get to say, ‘Okay, this is us now. We got to get together and figure this out,” Sala told Hawaii Public Radio.

FestPAC happens every four years in a different host country — it last convened in Guam in 2016. 2024 is Hawaii’s first opportunity to host.

With high-level dignitaries normally in attendance, Sala is enthusiastic about diplomatic discussions that inevitably accompany the cultural exchanges.

“We have islands in the Pacific that are literally sinking into the ocean. We have to respond to that. The festival is a moment for us to take a breath, to celebrate ourselves in this beautiful ocean that we live in,” Sala said. “And then to come to the table and say, we have work to do I see you, you are sitting there. You see me, I am sitting here. Let’s get to work.”

Over 2,000 artists and artisans converge for these events with ground costs normally covered by the host country. Events are free to attend.

Arts and culture, educational and sporting organizations traditionally partner with public institutions and venues as well as individuals to make the festival a truly community-wide event…..PACNEWS

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