Teen makes trip of a lifetime

by Matelita Ragogo
Friday, 18 July 2008

When Hezron Inia celebrates his 13th birthday at the end of this month, it will not only mark the beginning of his teenage years.

Inia will be celebrating it in Pagopago, as the youngest in the Fiji delegation to the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts.

After the experience of the i tatau at Government House on Wednesday, the official announcement to the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo of the delegation's departure yesterday, the reality of being part of a much bigger picture is finally sinking in for the Rotuma youngster.

"I am proud to be part of the Fiji delegation to American Samoa," he said.

Asked what it was about hip-hop that maintained his interest, Inia says he enjoys it, admitting, however, that sometimes, hip-hop lyrics were violent.

"But it is also an outlet, like people can use it to vent their frustrations or if they are angry."

Inia will be the baby of the 90-strong Fiji delegation which left yesterday.

The festival will be held in Pagopago, American Samoa, where some 2000 artists from 27 Pacific island countries will converge for two weeks to share and celebrate their cultural heritage.

From the art of traditional healing to navigation, from theatre to meke and chants, Fiji will be represented in eight of the 13 categories at the festival.

Fiji Arts Council director Letila Mitchell told delegates they should take advantage of the learning experience the festival offered.

"It is an amazing festival there is a lot to learn and share at the festival itself,'' she told delegates during their final briefing at the Fiji Museum yesterday morning.

One of the traditional elders accompanying the delegation, Rotuma Council of Chiefs representative Kafoa Pene, told the delegates their youth was encouraging.

"I have been observing you. And I can see that you are essentially a group of young people and that is wonderful," Pene told them at the last briefing they had at the Fiji Museum yesterday. Fiji Arts Council chairman Michael Dennis asked the delegates to be good representatives of Fiji.

"Allow me to remind you of your responsibility when you return, you must share your experience and the knowledge you gain from your exposure at the festival," Dennis said.

The delegation was reminded by the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo that they carried a nation's good name and reputation on their shoulders.

"Do not forget that however you behave there, whatever you do, it is Fiji's name that is going to be brought up," Rato Josefa told the 90 delegates who went to conduct the i tautau ceremony at Governemnt House.

"People will talk about misbehaviour so never forget that you are going for Fiji. It happens and this must stop," Ratu Josefa, who spoke to the multi-ethnic delegation in English and Fijian, told the group.

In Fijian, Ratu Josefa said: "Lomani Viti, rogoci Viti, maroroi viti; ni veilomani, veikauwaitaki, veirogoci."

Ratu Josefa underlined the importance of thanking and continuously seeking God's guidance daily.

"Fiji stories from the past were about cannibalism and tribal wars. God has ended that and it is important that you continue to kneel in prayer every morning and evening you do not know the evil that is released, you need to continue to pray for his protection and strength," Ratu Josefa said.

Ratu Josefa also stressed the importance of obedience adding the delegation looked impressive in their uniform.