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Did you know that celebrating our culture is very important? The proverb above is from the Cook Islands and it means that when we come together to celebrate, we not only have fun, but it also makes us feel happy and proud of who we are.
One of the biggest celebrations of Pacific Island cultures is the ASB Polyfest. This festival happens every year in Tāmaki Makarau Auckland and involves students from over fifty schools. It's a four-day event that showcases traditional dances, music, and songs from different Pacific Island cultures like Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, and Māori. There are also food stalls, craft vendors, and cultural displays to check out.
The original idea for the festival came from a group of teachers and people in the community who wanted to show off the cultural heritage of Pacific students in Tāmaki Makaurau schools. The first festival was at Hillary College, Ōtara and students from a small range of Pacific communities performed. Since then, the festival has really grown, with students from over fifty schools in Tāmaki Makaurau and other parts of Aotearoa participating.
The theme of the festival in 2023 was "Mana Motuhake – Creating one’s own destiny." This means that everyone has the power to shape their own future and make their dreams come true. Each cultural group has their own version of this theme in their language, like "Be proud of your language & rooted in your identity" in Samoan, "The authority to ensure that our language and culture lives on is with us" in Tongan, "Let us navigate the way towards our future destiny" in Niuean, and "Mana is the pathway to your destiny" in the Cook Islands.
The dance competitions are definitely a highlight of the festival. Teams from different schools and community groups perform traditional dances from their respective cultures on six different stages. There is live music and impressive choreography, costumes, and stage presence.
But that's not all - there are also cultural performances, speeches, and other events that celebrate Pacific Island history and culture. The speech competition is a great opportunity for young people to showcase their knowledge of their culture and heritage, and winners can even receive scholarships or cultural trips.
The ASB Polyfest is not just about watching performances. It's also a chance for students to show off their talents and learn more about their heritage. They can share their culture with others and learn about the cultures of their friends. It helps people understand each other better and makes our community stronger.
Overall, the ASB Polyfest is a fantastic way for the Pacific and wider community to come together, celebrate their shared culture and traditions, and share them with others. It's a lively and exciting cultural event that's not to be missed! So, next time you have the chance to celebrate your culture or attend a cultural event, remember the Cook Island proverb, "E rua te kanga o te tamanuia," and embrace the joy of celebration!
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