This week marks a historic occasion as traditional leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand, Fiji, Hawai’i, and Samoa are converging in Suva, Fiji, to reignite ancestral ties and lay the groundwork for the inaugural Pacific Traditional Leaders Forum 2024.

This pivotal meeting will include discussions about the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) in Honolulu, Hawai’i, from 06 – 16 June, with leaders deliberating the significance of traditional leaders’ engagement at the festival.

Esteemed royals Māori Kīngi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII and Samoa’s Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi arrived over the weekend and are being hosted by the Paramount Chief of the Kubuna Confederacy of the island of Bau in Fiji, Turaga na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau. Also in attendance with the blessings and endorsement of HRH Prince David Kaumūali’i Kawānanakoa, is a Hawai’i delegation comprising the FestPAC Commission Chair Kalani Ka‘anā‘anā, FestPAC 13th Festival Director Aaron Salā and Chair of the Office of Hawai’ian Affairs Carmen Hulu Lindsey.

“The significance of this talanoa for traditional leaders and its importance has yet to be realised. Ever so thankful to the core of Oceania’s traditional leaders for supporting this initiative and, more so, to those who actually made it to this talanoa despite other commitments. This is a first!” said the Turaga na Vunivalu na Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau.

During their time in Suva, the leaders will engage in discussions focussed on key agenda items for the Forum, including defining objectives, roles, and protocols, as well as deliberating on the importance of regional platforms for traditional leaders in fostering cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

The collective efforts of the Pacific Traditional Leaders Forum and FestPAC will serve to bolster regional unity and cooperation, address shared challenges such as climate change and sustainable development, and the vital role of traditional leadership in contemporary society.

This week’s gathering of traditional leaders coincides with Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs meeting, underscoring the significance of traditional leadership in the broader Pacific context.

The Pacific Community (SPC), through its Culture for Development unit, and Kami Pasifiki is proud to support this historic gathering as part of the Pacific Traditional Leaders Talanoa Pathway 2024, which marks a significant step towards celebrating rich cultural heritage and leadership traditions of our Blue Pacific.