As a country which likes to play host to visitors who come here for many different reasons, it is a particular pleasure to welcome those of you who are here for the Pacific Arts Association conference.
Well known for our hospitality, Samoa has been gaining quite the reputation in the Pacific and further afield for successfully hosting regional and international events including major political meetings and numerous sports events.
And why wouldn’t we?
As added extras for our visitors who are here for a particular purpose, is that we also offer the chance to enjoy our beautiful scenery; meet interesting people, experience our local cuisine and learn a little about our culture and traditions.
And relax! That’s something else we can teach you about.
We hope that the hosting of this Arts conference for the first time, will be just the beginning of many other opportunities for exchanges between our artists on island and those from overseas as well as visitors who have travelled here simply to attend as art lovers.
Our talented artists, who maybe traditional or contemporary in Samoa don’t always enjoy the same attention that we lavish on say, our rugby players for example. Nor are they acclaimed in anywhere near the same way.
And yet they deserve to be.
Living on an island can be a double-edged sword.
The physical isolation from the rest of the world does pose dilemmas at times for us as well as for many of our visitors.
Perhaps it is best summed up in a true story told by a guest to a resort owner out on the stunning Aleipata coast.
She said, “We have had such a great time, I am torn between telling all my friends about Samoa which means heaps of people will come, or not telling them so that this place stays the same, but then, you want to have guests, don’t you?”
And the answer is both yes we do, and no we don’t.
As locals, we do realise the importance of tourism for our economy. And besides there’s certainly no stopping family and those who have already been here, from returning time and time again.
But this particular conference is not only a wonderful opportunity for artists, academics and museum personnel to meet and exchange ideas with people of like-minded passions; it also highlights and showcases to the general public, the amazing range of talents and skills of Pacific arts practitioners.
Some of the artists we have spoken to such as Josh Bashford, interviewed on page 3 of today’s edition, also take the time to breathe in and store memories which may reappear in later work.
“It’s just not the photographs, it’s experiencing the places, so like this trip I’ve done here to Samoa, I have taken a lot of photos in the villages, things about village life, life in Apia and basically capturing things that I can add to my new series of work once I get back to New Zealand,” he said.
We believe the conference will be a great success with its wide range of activities, exhibitions and performances over the week for you to choose from.
It provides us, the attendees and the audiences, the chance to be inspired and challenged by what we see, hear, read and experience from dozens of perspectives.
And whether you take back photographs or just memories of your visit, we welcome you, thank you for coming and wish you a wonderful stay.