Melanesian Arts and Culture should be at forefront of Agenda Discussions

L-r: Mr Simione Tuimalega, Arts and Culture Officer, Mr Andrew Houlia, MSG Secretariat Deputy Director General Mr Peter Eafeare, Mr Henry Nihopara, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mr Henry Bill, Sports Development Officer, Mr Denis Marita, Director Solomon Islands Department of Culture and Mr Caspar Pule, Acting Director Sports Solomon Islands after consultations in Honiara.

Arts and Culture are normally found at the back seat of our budgets in Melanesia and it is time we start to standardize our portfolios and sensitize the issue by bringing these to the forefront of agenda discussions.

These were the sentiments of Mr Henry Nihopara, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Solomon Islands during the MSG Secretariat’s Sports, Arts and Culture team’s round table talks in Honiara last week.

Consultations with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture along with Solomon Island Directors and the Assistant Director of the Department of Culture revealed more positive feedback for the team under the leadership of the Deputy Director General Mr Peter Eafeare, as they held the last round of their consultations with stakeholders to realign the MSG Sports and Arts and Culture programmes.

Mr Eafeare started his consultations by acknowledging the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the successful hosting of the 6th Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture (MACFEST) held in June 2018. The theme of the 6th MACFEST, “Past Recollection, Future connection” tied a strong link with what the Secretariat is embarking on, confirming that Arts and Culture is the glue that connects us to the past and directs us to the future.

The agenda for the Arts and Culture programme consultations was to meet the cultural focal points in the MSG Member States to discuss strategies to move forward along with implementing decisions made from the 6th Ministers of Culture and Arts Meeting (MCAM) which took place in Solomon Islands in 2018. Preparations and a chance to confirm a date for the second Ministerial meeting in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea were also part of the team’s consultations. The team will further discuss results of the Culture Symposium and 6th Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival held in July 2018 and begin dialogue towards the preparation of the 7th Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival which will be held in Vanuatu in 2022.

Mr Denis Marita, Board Member of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) and Director of the Solomon Islands Department of Culture, discussed their role as a member of IFACCA along with some of the benefits they have as members, identifying many projects that can help safeguard Arts and Culture in the sub-region. The consultation also highlighted the importance of creating a network between the Melanesian States, emphasizing the value this will have in the sub-region enabling countries to share information along with supporting each other through and achieving successful practices in each member state.

Mr Nihopara mentioned how Arts and Culture was in many specific goals in our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and should be used as a mechanism for ongoing dialogue within the Melanesian States.

“The connection of our Culture, our people and our resources is something very unique and something we must be proud of so we should look at where the connection is and how it falls in line with our development procedures in our SDGs.” said Mr Nihopara.

He added there was a lack of visibility of Culture and Arts, “If there is a connection to our Culture and Arts resource especially in terminology, then we should be looking at ways on which we can make this connectivity visible so we can then maintain the connection and pass our knowledge on to the next generation.”

Leading the consultations on behalf of the Director General Amena Yauvoli, Mr Eafeare, remarked “Culture and Tradition is not just about the way we dress, the style we sing and dance, in fact it is a holistic approach that our Youths, in this idle time must know who we are, where we came from and where we are heading.”

He added the importance of the Secretariat’s role in steering these significant programs “The Secretariat is here to facilitate these programs, our leaders have mandated the Secretariat to deliver these programs within our member countries to ensure we align ourselves with the Sustainable Development Goals. The MSG Prosperity for All Plan, Chapter 3, Social Inclusivity and in Strategy 13, spells it out clearly and our draft Sports Strategic Plan 2022’s vision is, ‘Active Melanesia’.”

Mr Nihopara thanked Deputy DG Eafeare and his team for their hard work and commitment in visiting the Member States to meet with stakeholders before he acknowledged and commended the leadership of MSG DG Yauvoli in ensuring the Secretariat continues down the path of bringing the Melanesian people together as one. He reassured the team that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Solomon Islands will continue to support and assist the Secretariat where needed on how Arts and Culture is preserved, promoted and safeguarded by all member states.

The MSG Secretariat Sports and Arts and Culture Team Leader Mr Eafeare Deputy DG, Mr Simione Tuimalega, Arts and Culture Officer and Mr Bill Henry, Sports Development Officer returned to Vanuatu on the weekend where they will now compile the findings of their consultations.

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