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Riga hosts Europe's Pacific Islands Festival

  • 2015-07-28
  • Michael Mustillo

From July 31 to August 2, Riga will host the Pacific Islands Festival Europe (PIFE). The festival will be held at the Riga Jewish Community Centre on Skolas Iela, and is held annually in a different European city.

The event had originally been planned to be held outdoors at Vermanes Garden Park in central Riga. However, due to exorbitant financial demands made on the organizers by the Riga City Hall for staging a cultural event, festival organizers were left with no other alternative than to explore alternative venues.

The Jewish Community Centre soon offered its services.

"The 150 pacific islanders who will be attending the event from all across Europe are extremely grateful to the Riga Jewish Community Centre for extending their friendship to all pacific islanders,’’ said the festival organizer, Mr. Suluo Daunivalu, a  Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London), a Fijian who resides between Vilnius, Riga, and Zurich. Daunivalu is the Curator of the Museum of Pacific and Oceanic Arts, located on Vilandes 16, right in the heart of Riga’s exclusive residential ‘’quiet town’’ quarter area.  

"We are staging a truly historical event. I believe Latvia has never seen such a large assembly of Pacific Islanders gather in Riga who will present and  display such diversity of cultural heritages drawn from the pacific islander regions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia,’’ said Daunivalu.

For three days, the Pacific Islands Festival Europe (PIFE) will take over the Riga Jewish Community Centre, occupying the ground floor, where stalls will offer the sale of traditional pacific island craft objects, as well as the second floor where an exhibition of traditional authentic artifacts and paintings from the South Pacific will be on display. Dance work shops and drama workshops will also be held throughout the day. The evening will also see dance concerts presented by pacific islanders who reside in various countries throughout Europe.

The Pacific Islands Festival Europe (PIFE) commenced in 2008, initially as a small gathering of Pacific Islanders residing in Berlin and throughout Germany. The festival has been ongoing ever since and has continually grown over the past five years. ‘’It attracts pacific islanders who mostly live in the northern hemisphere and in particular Europe,’’ said Daunivalu.

Previous years has seen the festival being staged in Helsinki, Berlin, Basel, and in 2014 the event was taken to the Spanish city of Barcelona.

‘’This year I’m introducing more performances and a larger contingent of pacific islanders will participate in the event in Riga’’ said Daunivalu.

‘’Though the festival is primarily intended for pacific islanders living in Europe, to get together and for families whose children have been brought up in Europe to reconnect with their pacific island culture and heritage through dance. Everyone who wishes to learn about Pacific Island culture is welcome to attend the festival.’’

‘’The festival message which we wish to get out about the pacific islands, is that there are many pacific islanders living in Europe who are professionally active in numerous professional fields. The festival aims at defining us not by the smallness of our islands, but by the greatness of our oceans” said Daunivalu.

‘’That’s why I was pleased when in June of this year the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, himself paid a visit to Fiji, representing the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, to meet Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama’’ said Daunivalu. This was one of the European Unions first official meeting since the coup of 2006.  

Fiji and the European Union have agreed to work together to tackle a series of international challenges, of which the most pressing on the discussion agenda was climate change.

Rinkevics himself stated that Fiji has striven to carry out remarkable reforms since the country returned to democracy, and noted the setting up its new parliament and ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture. Rinkevics further noted that Fiji appointing a number of women to key political positions may serve as an example to the entire Pacific region.

‘’Rinkevics also met with the Republic of Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola “to confirm Latvia’s interest in developing bilateral relations”. I was delighted to hear of this intention by the Minister Rinkevics. And I trust that the Pacific Islands Festival Europe (PIFE) which we are staging in Riga can serve as a bridge between Fiji and all Pacific islanders and the Latvian people, to enable them to learn more about our diverse cultures and traditions.’’ said Daunivalu.

This festival would not have been possible without the support of our general Sponsors – The Tapa Foundation. The Chairman, Juris Gulbis, has himself spent considerable years of his life in the South Pacific.

The highlight of this years festival will be the performance of the Vou Dance Group, which is considered  Fiji’s most versatile and internationally renowned performance Dance Company. VOU has performed hundreds of shows across Fiji and abroad showcasing a wide range of styles from Pacific, Bollywood, and traditional Fijian meke to Contemporary, Jazz, Ballet, Ballroom dancing and many others. All the way from California, The Pacific Breeze band, which is led by Tongan musician Kasete Naufahu, will be providing live music throughout the weekend. Also new this year will be a Polynesian Dance group based in Estonia called the Aka O Pele group. Further information on the ensemble is available at www.inesdance.com

Another festival highlight will feature New Zealand chef, author and television presenter Robert Oliver. Oliver is an Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, which is networked to that venerable educational institution which serves as a guardian of French culinary technique, and it dedicated to providing the highest level of culinary and hospitality instruction through world class programs.

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Information on the festival can be found at the website www.paradise.lv

Suluo Daunivalu, the organiser of the Pacific Islands Festival Europe (PIFE)  can be reached at the phone number Tel: +371 6788 5566

Further information on Pacific Art can be found at www.tapa.lv