The Pacific Arts Festival Opening Cermonies
In blanketing but stirring darkness, the opening ceremony for the Pacific Arts Festival began. It was as though the time of transition between night and dawn reflected upon itself to embrace the space between spirit and the world of the physical. In those moments between light and dark, spirit and material, quiet anticipation and splendid energy… magic appeared like images in a darkroom. It was 4:30 in the morning, that time of possibility and potential when the night is still dark enough to see beyond the stars, but the sun is soon to rise and radically alter the fabric of the world. The constellation of makali’i remains engrained in my memory, alongside planets so vibrant you could almost trick your eyes into seeing the rings of Jupiter. A small fire on the beach gently illuminated a group of people from Papua New Guinea, and spears stood tall above the crowds as some of the few shapes decipherable.
Crowds numbered in the hundreds, perhaps even the thousands, vibrantly colored in their indigenous dress but in the darkness of the early morning, they all appeared only as people…as breath, as heart, as the fabric that unites us all regardless of the visible diversity that unfolded when the sun rose above the horizon to shine upon the earth.
Pacific Islanders shared the splendor of what defines and unites…. haka, song, dance, and music. Delegates of each nation accepted intricate shell necklaces in formal ceremony and raindrops fell, universally recognized as a blessing. Then we were told to expect something amazing, which I expected to be the fleet of vaka, visible only as single navigation lights upon the masts.
Instead, the sky erupted in a wild fireworks show with unlikely music absolutely blaring from the speakers (including, strangely, the theme song to the television show “friends”). It was quite a sight really, particularly given the soundtrack….
Then came something far more remarkable than the most sophisticated of fireworks shows, moments I cannot imagine ever witnessing again, even if I was to live a thousand lifetimes.
A fleet of traditional canoes from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands emerged as long silouhettes on the horizon, each paddled by at least fifteen people, moving at lightening speed and stunningly beautiful against the fleet of vaka moana.
These long dugout canoes are called tomoko, from the Western Province of the Solomons and traditionally used for head hunting. The sunrise became deeper as colors emerged.
Clouds rested softly over mountain tops, disappearing into contours of rock, and two different traditions of voyaging merged, sailing side by side.
As the morning’s first light began to illuminate the shoreline, the intricacy of these canoes and their crews emerged, along with the details of each vaka sail beyond. The tomoko moved stealthily around the vaka moana and then took turns racing to the beach, beaching themselves abruptly and scaring the life out of the crowds along the shoreline!
It was truly beautiful to watch all of the faces on land and at sea, an energy coursing through their expression that is difficult to convey with written word.
Warriors and goddesses welcomed the Pacific Voyagers to shore as the the light grew golden….
Hine Moana sailed proudly with lauhala sails…
Inter-island canoe Okeanos sailed with all the potential that sustainable solar-powered transportation carries to empower communities across the Pacific…
Traditional tomoko moved beautifully amongst the vaka moana…
Moments unforgettable, the air itself was alive, and if there is one aspect I will never forget it is the faces of humanity, shared hearts shining through their eyes, and the realization that in our diversity truly lies a truth so precious and timely…. that we are all one.
by Karen Holman, Pacific Voyagers