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People in traditional dress performing music
Opening festivities at Stan Sheriff Center (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

The University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu and UH Mānoa played significant roles in the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), the largest gathering celebrating Indigenous Pacific Islanders worldwide that was held in Hawaiʻi in June 2024.

Hula performers
ʻŌlapa (dancers) from various hālau perform mele (songs) at festivities (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

The opening and closing ceremonies were held at the Stan Sheriff Center at UH Mānoa. Both events buzzed with vibrant energy as more than 2,000 delegates from 27 Pacific Island nations, including Hawaiʻi offered song, chants and dances to officially begin and end the event.

“Our university is honored to have served as a base, marking the beginning and end of such an anticipated event that is put on across the Pacific in an effort to preserve traditional practices and rich heritage of Indigenous arts,” said UH President David Lassner. “The diversity and creativity showcased by each participating nation throughout FestPAC has been truly inspiring.”

People at a conference
Pacific Higher Education Summit at the East-West Center

Throughout the 10-day islandwide festival, the UH Mānoa campus served as a home base for 1,527 delegates who stayed in student housing facilities. During FestPAC, UH Mānoa and UH West Oʻahu hosted a series of events, including performances and symposia open to the public. On June 10 and 11, Lassner spearheaded a two-day Pacific Higher Education Summit at the East-West Center. Leaders from more than 20 universities across the Pacific gathered to discuss mutual concerns regarding education access, broadband connectivity, and universities’ roles in addressing climate change and sustainability.

Seated performers
Two days of public performances at UH West Oʻahu

At UH West Oʻahu’s Campus Courtyard, audiences were treated to free performances showcasing traditional music and dances from Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Taiwan, French Polynesia, Niue, Norfolk Island, Guam, and Wallis and Futuna.

The Marine Education Training Center at Honolulu Community College also hosted traditional waʻa (canoes) that carried in representatives from various Pacific nations.

Hoʻoulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania

Salā seated on stage
FestPAC director Aaron J. Salā, who is also a program director at UH West Oʻahu (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

Organizers selected this year’s festival theme, Hoʻoulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania. In ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), Hoʻoulu lāhui means “to grow the nation.” FestPAC’s mission is to revive and sustain traditional practices and knowledge.

Originating in 1972, the festival rotates its host nation every four years and has grown into the largest of its kind, attracting participants from nations across the Pasifika (Pacific) such as American Samoa, Cook Islands, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For more go to the FestPAC website.

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