"Diversity must not hinder unity," Indonesian Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan noted while opening the Melanesian Cultural Festival themed "Celebrating the Cultural Diversity of Melanesian World", in Kupang, on Oct. 28.
He said the festival is not only being held due to historical or racial factors but particularly to achieve a common dream of a peaceful, just, and prosperous world.
Cultural cooperation is a good way to develop a better future for the younger generation as it instills a sense of cooperation in economic, political, and social fields, among others, he remarked.
"Further interaction will help to create peace and welfare," he stated, adding that having a common vision will help to unify the younger generation.
The Melanesian culture must not only be maintained and preserved but also be developed further.
"Please allow the Melanesian culture to develop," the minister affirmed.
Representatives from Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Timor Leste are attending the first Melanesian Cultural Festival held in Indonesia.
From Indonesia, the participants include those from NTT, Maluku, North Maluku and Southeast Sulawesi, in addition to West Papua, and Papua.
According to New World Encyclopedia, the word Melanesia derived from Greek that means "black islands".
Geographically, the region extends from the western side of the eastern Pacific to the Arafura Sea, north and northeast of Australia. The Melanesian people are in general dark-skinned with broad features, and with black, kinky hair.
The Melanesian people were thought to have lived only in Indonesiaï¿½s Papua and West Papua provinces and neighboring Papua New Guinea. In fact, they could also be found in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Maluku, North Maluku, part of Southeast Sulawesi, and part of West Nusa Tenggara.
Indonesia has decided to organize the festival based on the reality that the majority of Melanesians are living in Indonesia, approximately 80 percent of them, Kacung Marijan, director general of culture at the Ministry of Education and Culture, said in Jakarta, recently.
"So far, many people thought the Melanesian race is only in Papua, while, in fact, they are spread in a number of countries," Kacung Marijan stated.
The Indonesian government has hoped that the implementation of the festival to help improve the public understanding of the Melanesian race, and strengthen cooperation among Melanesian countries.
"The forum is aimed at improving the mutual understanding and solidarity in the Melanesian region," he stated.
During the festival, participants could share knowledge and information on traditions and culture, the official added.
The festivals programs include conferences, art performances, a cultural exhibition and film screening.
Three Indonesian films are to be screened at the festival. These are "Atambua 39 C", "Tanah Mama" (Mother Land) and "Cahaya Dari Timur" (Light of the East).
Fiji and New Caledonia also send their movies to promote their traditions and culture during the festival.
Indonesian government is optimistic that the festival would help to forge closer cooperation among countries having a Melanesian population, such as Indonesia, PNG, Timor Leste, Fiji, and some other South Pacific nations.
The festival is not merely a celebration but also a promotion of the cultural diversity in Indonesia, according to Andreas Sitepu, the former Indonesian ambassador to PNG.
The event is also expected to help strengthen cooperation among Melanesian countries, he added.
He said Indonesia plans to increase cooperation with south Pacific nations as it has several things to offer.
From late February to early March 2015, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi had made her first official trips to Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands, and Fiji, seeking to renew Indonesias commitment to closer relations and cooperation with them.
Economic cooperation was the main focus of talks with these Pacific nations officials. "
Although the value of economic ties with these countries was relatively low, the trend has been improving over the past few years.
It was reported earlier this year, Indonesia planned to build a Melanesian cultural center to demonstrate the Joko "Jokowi" Widodo administrations commitment to close cooperation with countries in the Pacific region,
Besides, Indonesia will take part in the Third Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Investment Roadshow and Trade Fair to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia, on November 18-20, 2015. ***4***