Festival culture: Building Pacific community

I’m very proud to work with Pacific Peoples’ Partnership, a local non-profit dedicated to supporting the aspirations of South Pacific islanders and helping build Indigenous linkages across the Pacific. This year, we celebrated our 40th anniversary! To mark the occasion we held our 22nd Pacific Networking Conference and 8th One Wave Festival.

I wrote this article about One Wave Festival for a special edition of Tok Blong Pasifik, our journal of news and views on the Pacific. One Wave is coming up again on Sept. 10-11th, 2016! Stay tuned and follow us on Facebook!

All photos credited to Mark Gauti (see more photos of One Wave at his Facebook page)

warless dancing

Warless getting the crowd worked up!

I’m a big enthusiast of festival culture, which is why I love being part of One Wave: I get to co-create a festival that inspires people to get involved in making change.

I first became acquainted with PPP when I was hired to coordinate the second One Wave Festival six years ago. Since that time, the Festival has seen an incredible array of arts mediums, from slam poetry and storytelling to South and North Pacific dance and drumming, reggae shows, hip hop jams, art exhibitions, participatory art projects, theatre, chalk art, live painting, and traditional carving. It’s been a place for emerging artisans to sell their natural and locally-made products.

We’ve showcased an eclectic mix of artists—traditional and contemporary, professional and emerging, North and South—sharing thought-provoking performances. We’ve opened up space for dialogue about colonial histories, cultural appropriation, social justice, climate change, and our shared oceans. We’ve developed a diverse network of followers and our youth-driven committee has learned much from our mentors, our Executive Director April Ingham foremost among them.

One Wave aims to build Pacific identity and community, nurture changemakers, and engage youth. We utilize the power of the arts to inspire action on shared concerns and issues that affect the peoples of the Pacific because we recognize our communities are interdependent. We do this by creating a celebratory and inclusive atmosphere and modeling a positive vision for change.

What makes this festival unique is that it’s about sharing cultures: honouring diverse voices while creating unity in celebration of what we all share. As visitors and settlers, we have a responsibility to care for the land, the water, and our communities with the leadership of our Indigenous friends and neighbours. PPP and our partners are part of a solidarity movement—one wave—connecting the North and South Pacific.

This was never more clear to me than this year at our 8th annual festival, our largest production yet as we combined it with our Pacific Networking Conference. A major theme was Indigenous cultural resurgence, with inspiring speakers, artists, and filmmakers. A boundary-pushing performance by Anneda Loup and Coast Salish artist Francis Dick showed how artistic collaborations between Indigenous people and settlers can be a powerful community-level approach to reconciliation.

One highlight that really captivated the audience was 14 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney of the Sliammon Nation and Kalilah Rampanen, of Cree heritage. The girls sung and spoke passionately about climate change and the importance of keeping cultures alive.

This year we were particularly honoured to have the blessing of Elder Joan Morris of the Songhees Nation, in addition to our friends Augie Thomas and the Esquimalt Singers and Dancers who regularly open our main stage as the event is held with gratitude on their territories.

Interactive installations, an arts station, and roaming human-sized puppets invited community members of all ages to be participants rather than simply observers. Centennial Square has become an important venue for One Wave because it’s very open and accessible—it’s a way for PPP to raise our profile with members of the public who wouldn’t have necessarily known about us. Over the years, we’ve engaged thousands of people and also raised our profile in the non-profit community by providing an important platform for social, environmental, and Indigenous organizations and local artisans to connect with the public too. This encourages a needed spirit of cooperation among our interconnected areas of work at a time when limited funding can drive competition.

Through it all, we’ve been committed to a goal of Zero Waste, showing that festivals don’t have to leave a negative environmental footprint. In fact, they are perfect places to model ecological citizenship (while having a blast!)

This festival would not continue to happen without immense contributions from our volunteers, staff, contributing artists, funders, partners, and supporters who keep showing up year after year. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved, and I’m excited for what we will create together in 2016 and beyond.

volunteer team at VEC

 

 

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