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Stephen Bedingfield  

photography, Canada

Impressions of the Hawaiian Conference Fire in the Pacific

The text here is by Mary Zemke, New Zealand.

A hula performance at the convention center one evening. The paintings are of Agnes B. Alexander (left) and Martha Root.
Fire in the Pacific International Bahá´í Conference, Hawaii, December 2001, photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada. More photos are at:

Fire in the Pacific 2001 was the theme of the 100th Anniversary of the introduction of the Bahá'í Faith to the Pacific region in December 2001, where the use of the arts were dominant at many levels. The conference highlighted the contribution of the indigenous believers through song, dance, art, and talks on specific issues of concern.

It was our bounty as New Zealanders as members of the Manukau Choir to be participating in the conference and representing NZ with our performance. We were a diverse group of singers of Tongan, Samoan, American, Persian, and of course Kiwi ethnicity.

An impromptu jam on the steps of the Hawai'ian Convention Center.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

We had prepared a programme of songs for one of the evenings, and had a pleasant surprise when asked to sing at the Hawaiian Bahá'í Centre at a potluck gathering arranged for the "early comers" to the conference on the day we arrived. A nice "dress rehearsal".The Hawaiian organizers provided us with lovely devotions to start each session. Every culture present had their moment out front to uplift and inspire us all. Many of the speakers gave innovative presentations with excellent use of graphics, digital photos, and music as well as the text projected from computers. In the afternoons we were given a choice of 50 workshops in the two days. There were dance workshops offering hula to hip-hop. Several dramatic performances were given; "Portals to Freedom" by Philip Hinton, and the very professional drama/opera, "Tahirih", produced and performed by Matahdeh Rice.
That's an article in itself.

The woman in the centre is from Samoa. She is flanked by Japanese women. The scene is in front of the Hawaiian Convention Center.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

600 people march from the grave of Martha Root to the grave of Agnes B. Alexander and onwards to the Hawai'ian Convention Center. The woman in the blue top and leaf skirt is from Oahu, Hawai'i. Princess Tooa Tosi Malietoa of Samoa (in the blue print dress) is just visible behind the sign carrier.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

The choir's first time on stage was following Princess Tasi, daughter of Malietoa Tanumafili, King of Western Samoa. She shared a letter on behalf of the absent King. The choir sang the powerful formal chorale "Pacifica". Our big evening was the Cultural Performing Night. We were all captivated by the songs, dances, dramas, and precious gifts presented to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Hawaii.

Our programme opened with a 20-minute video on the history of the Bahá'í Faith in NZ. Ken Zemke produced an archival/artistic masterpiece for this celebration. It brought tears to the eyes of many present.

The choir performed a lively Maori action song. We also sang a very moving Bahá'í Prayer in Tongan and Samoan. To close our programme we joined in with the Maori friends that had come to the conference from Whangarei.

Gary Sterling's band at a Ho'olaule'a (traditional outdoor festival) in Ala Moana Beach Park, sponsored by the NSA of the Bahá'ís of the Hawaiian Islands.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

Our 35 minutes were everybody's highlight. The cameras were gathered around and flashing. Soul Fusion, a dance group of New Zealand youth gave a spirited and meaningful performance.

The last night we once again shared our dulcet tones with the conference when we sang "Mirrors of Light", a song written by Grant Hindin-Miller and Kirsten Zemke-White.

Many joined with us in the soul-stirring chorus.
"Let us be the mirrors of the unseen world. May we free the colours of each shining pearl."

Left: Two Korean women speaking with an
Afro-American woman.

K C Porter at the keyboard.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

The final day the Hawaiians treated us all to an authentic luau in a park by the beach. We were entertained by some of Hawaii's most talented professionals and a fantastic salsa group under the direction of KC Porter.

Participants had brought with them arts and crafts, treasures, stationary, musical CD's etc.. for display and purchase at the celebration. Homeward bound for the 1200 visitors from 54 countries where we could share the inspiration, enthusiasm, joy, friendships, knowledge, and most of all love burning in our hearts from the Fire in the Pacific2001.

Arts Dialogue, June 2002, page 6.

Russ Garcia directing an ad hoc choir made up of participants at Fire in the Pacific.
Photograph by Stephen Bedingfield (, Canada.

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