Fourth Melanesian Arts Festival opens in New Caledonia

13 SEPTEMBER 2010 NOUMEA (Oceania Flash)

The fourth Melanesian Arts Festival has officially kicked off in New Caledonia on Sunday, with an opening show depicting New Caledonia’s Kanak people’s history from ancient times right through to modern history. The Melanesian arts festival emanates from the Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG (comprising of Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS [National Kanak Socialist Liberation Front] movement). All Melanesian members have sent strong delegation for the two-week festival, which will end on September 24, 2010.

This year, New Caledonia’s organisers have also stressed the importance of this festival being held on an “itinerant” basis: it started on Sunday in Koné (Northern Province of New Caledonia’s main island) and will then travel to the Loyalty Islands province before it reaches the urban capital Nouméa. The travelling show is also symbolised by a series of traditional canoes taking the customs and tradition to each of New Caledonia’s provinces. This comes in contrast with the previous region-wide event held in New Caledonia in 2000: the Pacific Art Festival, which was almost entirely held in Nouméa.


This time, organisers say they want the two-week cultural fest to be a venue for exchange of cultures between regional peoples, in a two-way mode: local populations in the provinces and outer islands are being more implicated in the hosting, therefore projecting a more Pacific picture of the French territory. The Festival official theme (Melanesia 2010: Our identity is ahead of us”) is also strongly inspired from a visionary statement by charismatic pro-independence figure Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who was then one of the strongest advocates for both a preservation of ancient Melanesian traditions while at the same time embracing and integrating modern times changes. The Northern Province, where the opening show -choreographed by famed artist Richard Digoué- took place, is also the location of a billion dollar nickel mining plant, a project driven by Swiss giant Xstrata. As the host, New Caledonia is lining up the strongest delegation with over three hundred and fifty artists. Another three hundred and fifty are from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. They represent such traditional arts as music, singing, storytelling, dance, crafts, painting, sculpting, theatre, cinema or traditional knowledge (in medicinal plants, fashion, cooking, games, hunting and fishing). On the sidelines of the festival, a series of workshops and panel discussions will also promote exchanges on such topics as intellectual property, music, languages and identity, custom and politics in Melanesia.

Richard Thomson PHD & NCD Communication & Information Officer Chargé de la Communication et l’Information Santé Publique et Maladies Non Transmissibles SPC-Secretariat of the Pacific Community CPS-Secrétariat général de la Communauté du Pacifique B.P. D5-98848 Nouméa Cedex-Nouvelle Calédonie Telephone: +687 26.20.00 #473 Email: Web: