Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean FALE (L) and Dr. Frances Koya Vaka’uta, Director OCACPS speaking at the event.
The official launch of SAILS Exhibition by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture & Pacific Studies (OCACPS) was held at the Laucala Campus on 14 March, 2019.
In her welcoming address, Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law & Education (FALE) highlighted the significance of the SAILS Exhibition as a celebration of the 21st year milestone of the OCACPS.
She explained that the humble beginnings of the Arts Centre was premised on a simple vision – a designated space that allowed for creativity and community.
A space, she said, that privileged Pacific voices and the development of contemporary Pacific Island arts by Pacific artists in the islands.
“The early art forms at the centre included visual arts, dance and music. Likewise, Pacific studies offerings focused on the postgraduate programme only.
Exceptional performance from the Oceania Dance Theatre at the Sails Exhibition.
“Today the Centre’s programmes and activities are better aligned with its three primary branches – the arts, culture and Pacific studies,” she commented.
Dr Kedrayate explained that because the Centre had been tasked with facilitating the majority of art and culture events for USP’s 50th anniversary last year, the section had decided to celebrate its 21st milestone this year.
“Last year the Oceania Centre showcased the wide range of creative skills here at the University and within our wider region. One of the highlights was the revival of the Pacific Cultural Week celebrations by means of a one-week Heritage & Arts Festival. Other activities included exhibitions, art competitions, seminars, the 50th anniversary mural and others,” she remarked.
Dr. Frances Koya Vaka’uta, Director OCACPS, who passionately shared her experience with the Centre as a young academic and artist, said she was privileged to have been part of its journey in many small ways.
She noted that upon appointment to her current position in November 2017, her one thought was how value could be added to the original conception of this ‘space’ that Epeli Hau’ofa dreamt of.
“How does a University support a section that is not quite a traditional art centre, nor fully academic department? And, how might I help create awareness of the value of the arts and of the need to professionalise the role of the artist?
“The memories that we have of Epeli in this space are not of an academic professor of words – they are instead of a deeply, reflective humble man with a wicked sense of humor – sometimes crude, sometimes biting, but always good humored. A man who supported the arts and the artists and who was consistently talking back to colonialism,” she shared.
Dr Vaka’uta said the vision is to establish the Oceania Centre “as a Global Leader in Pacific Arts, Culture and Pacific Islands Studies”.
Over the next 6-years, OCACPS will work to gain recognition as:
• A leading Centre for Pacific Island Studies;
• A Trend setter for the development of Contemporary Pacific Arts; and,
• A hub for the safeguarding of Heritage (Cultural/ Natural/ Spiritual) in the Oceania region.
“To achieve this, we will need to develop a transformative experience for students and artists focused on Pacific consciousness developed through academic rigor and research, creativity and advocacy,” she added.
The Centre’s new-look website was also launched by Mr Winston Thompson, USP's Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council.
The event was attended by Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Mr Thompson, several members of the Senior Management Team, distinguished guests and friends of the Oceania Centre.
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