Observations on FestPac 2016

FestPac (held every four years) is an event which brings together people from islands across the Pacific to celebrate their culture and exchange ideas.

This year, the 12th annual FestPac was held here on Guam and it was awesome!

The performances were outstanding, and probably the most popularly attended events, but there were also literary/poetry readings, and wood carving, weaving, tattooing, and blacksmithing demonstrations. You can learn more about it here: https://festpac.visitguam.com/

As a newbie who only recently arrived on Guam, I feel extraordinarily privileged to have been here for this and managing to see so many different nations recognized.

That said, there were some themes that stood out.

Sex Sells

Yes, even at a festival ostensibly dedicated to higher cultural pursuits, the crowds went crazy for one group in particular that was willing and able to put it all out there. Namely, the delegation from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). While many delegations consisted of “average” people, I’m assuming the dancers from this delegation are paid professionals. They were all beautiful. The women’s costumes consisted essentially of feathered bikinis and headdresses, while the men wore little more than G-strings and body paint. And they knew how to work the crowd. One of my cohorts described their performance as Chippendales Goes to the Islands.

Don’t get me wrong, they were a lot of fun! And I really enjoyed their performances (yes, we saw them several times). But after a while, it was nice to enjoy different groups that actually had their clothes on.

I’m sure there will be an uptick in tourism to Rapa Nui in the coming months/years. Me? I’ll probably be going to New Caledonia. Those people know how to put on a show!

Read about the phenomenon here: http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/86629-rapa-nui-the-stars-of-the-show-on-guam

Body Confidence

The delegation from Rapa Nui aside, I was really happy to see every beauty standard represented from island to island. Big men and women took places of pride among their skinnier counterparts with little to no concern about their BMI. Western cultures can learn from this.

Hair Care

As a former hairdresser, I’m always on the lookout to see how people from different ethnic backgrounds deal with their hair. Aside for some lightening here and there, I was impressed to see that women from the islands largely kept their hair natural. This really clicked for me at the closing ceremonies when I noticed women from the Solomon Islands with tight curly hair sticking flags into their hair. So, not a relaxer or perm in sight. It’s a good thing.

The Diversity of Races

It was after I’d noticed the women sticking things into their hair that it dawned on me: These islanders represent more than just what we (as Westerners) think of as Pacific Islanders. From the people of Taiwan who look Asian, to those from Norfolk Island who look mostly Caucasian, to the delegation from New Caledonia who look like they’re from African descent, the variety was incredible. You learn something new every day.

I strongly recommend that you attend FestPac 2020 if you get the chance. It will be held in Hawaii.

Photos

Manny Crisostomo: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012164431392

FestPac 2016 Documentary Photographers: https://www.facebook.com/festpacphotodoc/

Steve Hardy: https://www.facebook.com/stevehardyphoto

Links

Learn more about FestPac 2016: https://festpac.visitguam.com/

FestPac 2016 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/guamfestpac2016/

FestPac on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_of_Pacific_Arts

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