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$250k FestPAC investment ‘money well spent’ on culture, says Kairua

Wednesday 26 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Culture, Entertainment, Features, National

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$250k FestPAC investment ‘money  well spent’ on culture, says Kairua
The Cook Islands delegation has been a highlight of the two-week festival, drawing roaring ovations from audiences delighted by the vibrant performances. FestPAC COOK ISLANDS/24062513

Cook Islands’ budget for the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), which wrapped up in Honolulu, Hawaii over a week ago, was around a quarter of a million dollars.

Emile Kairua, Secretary of Tauranga Vananga Ministry of Cultural Development, told Cook Islands News that the planned budget for the FestPAC team, which covered accommodation and the Vaka Marumaru Atua, was approximately $250,000

Kairua says Tauranga Vananga is in the final stages of reconciling the budget, and he believes it will fall under the initial figure.

“This is money well spent, this is money we have invested in culture,” Kairua said.

“As a Pacific family, the cost to be at FestPAC is probably money well spent if we place enough value on our culture – it’s what makes us who we are.

“We have spent a small investment to ensure that our identity is kept.”

The Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture, a celebrated quadrennial event that showcases the cultural traditions of the Pacific region, provided a powerful stage for the Cook Islands to showcase its acclaimed artistic talent.

The Cook Islands delegation was a highlight of the two-week festival, drawing roaring ovations from audiences delighted by the vibrant performances, craft work, carving and the significant voyage of Vaka Marumaru Atua to the 13th FestPAC in Honolulu.

Twenty-three members of the delegation returned home on Saturday, June 15, while the rest stayed on for another week, returning last Saturday.

Kairua, who returned over the weekend, said: “Undoubtedly, we made an impact on the festival itself, the calibre of the dancers even from our locals in Hawaii in Laie, they were overwhelmed with the calibre of the performances.”

He commended the performers for their outstanding shows.

“Regardless of what stage they were on, the same calibre was delivered and that is a testament to the discipline and the training that Jane (Rubena) and Mark (Short) put into the team.”

Kairua said Rubena and Short had a stringent process and strict guidelines in place for the selection of the Cook Islands National Arts Theatre (CINAT) team.

He strongly believes Rubena’s selections resulted in the best possible group representing the Cook Islands in Hawai’i. Their talent shone from the very first performance at the Sister-City-Signing ceremony with Honolulu.

“We took the best team that we could put together in a short time, I am very proud of every single person on that trip,” Kairua said.

“Overall, the team really did have an impact on us, including the artisans who demonstrated their crafts and who were also overwhelmed,” he added, acknowledging that there were sensitivities around intellectual properties – in particular for rito weaving.

Despite the polished performances on stage, there were some logistical hurdles and unexpected issues the team had to navigate behind the scenes including dramatic moments and “false stranded reports” and challenges to overcome.

“Their hearts were all in the right place,” said Kairua, not wanting to apportion blame to anyone.

“Whilst their intentions were right, we’ve just got to be mindful of how we do it. When we go to places like this, we’ve just got to be more informed about how we behave ourselves.

“We’ve always got to be mindful when we go to events overseas representing the country… the rule of the land comes first. We have always got to be considerate of the sentiments of our hosts.

“If there is any improvement to be seen in the whole exercise, it will be better prepared for the changes that happen.”