The 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival (MACFEST) commenced yesterday with a spirited parade, leading from Vanuatu’s main market to Saralana Park.

The procession was led by custom dancers from Aneityum island, carrying Vanuatu Prime Minister (PM) Ishmael Kalsakau in a traditional basket, followed by custom dancers from various provinces of Vanuatu and other Melanesian countries participating in the festival.

PM Kalsakau expressed his gratitude and spoke about the significance of the event during his official speech. He stated, “With appreciation for the delegates received from the chiefs of Ifira with the chiefs of the Vaturisu Council Of Chiefs, they have obtained the blessing for every Melanesian country to come and participate and showcase their culture in the 7th Festival.”

He acknowledged the challenges faced by each country since the previous MACFEST in Honiara in 2018, saying, “After the 6th MACFEST in Honiara Solomon Islands back in 2018, there are difficult challenges that each country has encountered. As the most disaster-prone region in the world, Vanuatu has extremely shared weather challenges and natural climate activity besides its essential challenges. When we stayed strong in our hearts and resilient to endure to hold these setbacks.”

PM Kalsakau reflected on the festival’s purpose, stating, “MACFEST was created to bring our people together, we meet to inspire and celebrate our unique languages, traditions, and culture that identify us as Melanesians.”

He added, “Culture plays a Biblical and a very significant role in addressing some of the burning issues that we are facing today, climate change, Non-Communicable Diseases and more, so the values set by our forefathers are essential to keep our social fabric together through time.”

Addressing the theme of the festival, he said, “This MACFEST theme ‘Rebuilding my Melanesia for our common destiny’ has been chosen as such to largely reflect on all the important subjects of the reconstruction of our respective country and more so our sub-region as we are all ready to rebuild our sub-region to fulfill the aspiration to lead us to the common destiny which embodies the very existence in the region while we have established and we all know as the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).”

PM Kalsakau urged the people of Vanuatu to look after their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the festival.

“In the next ten days, you will be close friends and families, Vanuatu must make sure our Melanesian families are safe and stay at peace,” he said.

With that, the head of the Vanuatu Government officially declared the 7th MACFEST open, setting the stage for a celebration of Melanesian culture and unity in the days to come.