The opening of the 11th Pacific Festival of Pacific starts with pomp and ceremony at Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara. Dion provides an on the ground assessment of what took place...

Diary - Day 4

Lawson Tama Stadium

A record crowd packed out the Lawson Tama stadium in Honiara to witness the official opening of the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts. The setting was spectacular, and the local support was impressive with the main Kukum highway backed for some kilometres, packed with eager festival goers. On my way to the eastern entry gate, I come across a truck loaded with warriors probably from Malaita heavily clad with shields and arsenal, and decorated like devils possessed. I rush to grab my camera as I know this to be an opportunity not to miss, and I almost get my head taken off in the process! If ever I wanted to sense the experience of paparazzi this would surely come close. I still managed to get that photo though.

The crush

I would hazard a guess that that it is rare site to see these numbers encountered thus far for the festival as we were crushed from both incoming and outgoing festival goers. I happily made my way to the top of a mound with local Solomon Islanders to get a sense of their take on the whole experience, what I experienced was extremely polite, courteous people who offered me a good spot to view the activities on the main field.

Welkam delegates

The entrance of the delegates was fairly stock-standard, as far as a Pacific festival is concerned. Each party entered to thunderous applause dressed in their countries/provinces/ nations traditional attire, and then performed with vigour in front of their respective flag, which was coordinated by a series of seated participants. This was a real delight for me, as you could see the participating delegate’s energy unfold before our eyes; drama, athleticism, and humour. Thus, delivering to the Festival theme, “Culture in harmony with nature.”


The Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, provided an important message in his keynote Festival address regarding climate change: “It is not merely an emerging issue but an issue that needs to properly addressed.” There was a strong emphasis on this throughout his speech.

The prime minister also remarked that “Culture is the last gold mine in the Pacific and our identity may be at stake; we must work together to strengthen our understanding of our unique cultures”. I thought that this was a poignant point in his speech considering that all Island nations are facing degradation of environs, globalization and increased mobilization of peoples and resources across the world.

The speech continued for some 20 minutes which seemed like it went too quickly. The evening was punctuated with fireworks, and a loud applause rung throughout the stadium that could be heard for some distance.

The Festival of the Pacific Arts is the largest gathering in which Pacific peoples unite to gain respect for, and appreciation of, one another within the context of the changing Pacific. Dion will be strengthening Pacific networks, exploring resources for the Australian Museum's social inclusion project that assists marginalised Pacific youth in NSW, and presenting a paper at the Pacific Youth forum to be held during this period.

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