Culture in harmony with nature: an unforgettable welcome in Honiara
An early morning on the first day of July, 2012…. silhouetted sails color the horizon, slowly approaching the shores of the Solomons against a back drop of distant offshore islands, all of varying shapes, appearing like mirages but rooted into the sea beneath towering cumulus clouds.
We are here in the Solomon Islands, for the Pacific Arts Festival, a gathering place for artists, dancers, musicians, carvers and many more weavers of spirit and beauty from across the Pacific.
Keala Kahuanui and Pua Case of Hawai’i stand on a distant peninsula, a quiet place as close to the sea as they can be, to call in the canoes with ancient chant. I can see them from afar, raising their arms to the sky…the mana of their intention and connection travels seamlessly across the sea.
One by one, the crews reach shore, welcomed by local Solomon Islanders dancing and filling the winds with the sounds of pan flutes. The bamboo flutes create distant sounds that send souls drifting, the same way that certain clouds or gazing at the stars might, reminding us of what has always been and inspiring us as to what could be.
The men playing these finely tuned instruments wear beautifully woven material around their waists, and around their ankles are nuts, strung to create music as they dance. The people of the Solomon Islands are beautiful, and remain captured in my mind with their eyes closed, playing flutes in rapture.
Once ashore, the voices of Pacific Voyagers grow loud and powerful, passion and emotion filling the air as they perform a haka.
As they touch land, they are greeted not only by the ancient, but also by the future, by the fruits of their voyage, their hearts, and their messages….printed on banners, hanging beneath the awnings of the yacht club for all to see.
Each tells a story unique to a particular vaka, a story of ancestral knowledge and experience, of realization and responsibility, of heritage and hope. In the middle are flags of many Pacific Island nations, surrounding an art piece, painted in earth tones and depicting balance of light and dark, land and sea, and all the potential of our vaka motu or inter-island canoe Okeanos, which has sailed here from Vanuatu.
Inside are more posters with powerful imagery, and slogans such as “nurture our lands: cherish mother nature and what she provides, defend our whales: protect the keepers of our ocean knowledge, respect all ocean creatures, Mana o te Moana: guided by the stars, at one with the universe, our blue canoe watched over by our ancestors, and treasure our reefs”.
Amongst messages of hope, there is dancing, beauty unfolding in human expression and laughter, some reuniting and others meeting for the first time, all before the vast sea, our mother.
Today felt like a entire lifetime unfolding but it was only the beginning. What awaits is immeasurable cultural exchange, of artists from across the Pacific, sharing their crafts, their song, and their dance in a remarkable kaleidoscope of beauty and hope, all falling within the embrace of the words chosen to represent this festival of arts….”culture in harmony with nature”….
Karen Holman, Pacific Voyagers