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MACFEST, A MEDIUM TO PRESERVE & DEMONSTRATE RESPECT FOR MELANESIAN CULTURES: DG LOUMA

PORT VILA, VANUATU (20 July 2023): The Melanesian Arts & Culture Festival (MACFEST) provides the medium to promote, preserve, and demonstrate respect for Melanesian cultures, identity and simply showcase to the world who we are. It is the MSG’s flagship event in our four-year cultural calendar. 

The comments were made by the Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat, Leonard Louma, while delivering his remarks during the opening of the 7th MACFEST yesterday.

“Our shared culture and customs bind us as Melanesians. Care must be taken not allow this opportunity of the MACFEST to be used for other purposes.   

“MACFEST is a cultural event, extensively infused with custom and tradition, and it is only proper that we acknowledge with thanks the customary landowners on whose land we are celebrating this big Melanesian cultural event,” DG Louma said.

“Earlier today, we paid a visit to Chief Teriki Paunimanu Mantoi Kalsakau III of Ifira to request his permission, as well as that of his people, to allow all visiting delegations from MSG countries, and the other Melanesian communities invited to participate in the 7th MACFEST, the liberty to display and celebrate our Melanesian customs, traditions and culture in the next 13 days.

“I feel proud that we did this customary gesture as this is the Melanesian way. This is the Melanesian sign of respect and the right way,” he added.

DG Louma thanked MSG participating contingents for travelling to Vanuatu for the 7th MACFEST, including the Torres Strait Islanders who graciously accepted the invitation to participate, also noting that one contingent will join later this week.

“MACFEST and events like this allow people from the world over to witness and enjoy the full range, and splendor of the Melanesian spectrum of customs, cultural and traditional colours.” 

However, he added that the bigger challenge is to ensure that our future generation can still enjoy the richness of the Melanesian customs, traditions and cultures, hence the need to make concerted efforts to mainstream the teaching of our Melanesian ways in our education systems. 

“Culture and custom can be leveraged to address many of the political, economic and social challenges we are facing. Solutions may also be found in them and it can also help inform Government policy options. There is much to learn from our cultures and traditions,” he said.

DG Louma commented that more resources must be channeled into our customary institutions and deliberate affirmative actions taken to embody and embrace customary governance and administrative structures and practices, to support and complement our adopted modern Government systems.

Furthermore, DG Louma stated the need to dispel the notion that Melanesia communities only live in Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and acknowledge and include Melanesians that live elsewhere.

“I am reminded that there are pockets of descendants of Melanesians in the Micronesian Group and the Polynesian Group. We should include them, like the black Samoans of Samoa - often referred to as Tama Uli - in future MACFESTs.

“In the past, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Australia and Taiwan were invited to attend. Let us continue to build on these blocks to make this flagship cultural event of ours even bigger and better in the years to come,” he added.

Caption: The march in the capital of Port Vila to officially mark the opening of the 7th MACFEST.

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