Pasifika in Auckland: Explore our Island culture

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Auckland has the largest Pacific Island population in the world. Vaimoana Tapaleao tells us the best places to soak up the culture.

MBrace Pacific Dance Group. Photo / Supplied
MBrace Pacific Dance Group. Photo / Supplied

For those of you visiting Auckland for the first time, you will have noticed surely by now that it is home to a significantly great and proud Pacific community.

The huge number of Tongan flags on cars may have been a clue, or maybe it was the number of churches around South Auckland. Or maybe you will have noticed that most of the All Blacks' backline - Samoan boys - call Aukilani home.

This weekend's showdown between Fiji and Samoa promises to be a great party, let alone rugby match, as thousands of people turn out to cheer on their teams, Pasifika-style.

Most of them will, arguably, be from Auckland. However for those of you new to the city, in true Pacific hospitality fashion we welcome you and invite you to find out more about this truly Pacific city.

SHOP - PASIFIKA STYLE

You can't get anymore Auckland-Pasifika than the Saturday morning markets in Mangere and Otara. They have been around for years and offer you the unique opportunity to buy anything from Pacific crafts and jewellery, clothing, fruit and veges and even a vacuum cleaner, if you're looking for one, all in the one place.

This would be the best place to buy Pacific souvenirs and gifts such as tapa cloth, handmade jewellery, coconut oils, frangipani perfume creams and clothing, as they are not only beautifully made but also easy on the pocket. Something many people like to grab at the markets are printed T-shirts with witty Pacific phrases or logos, which a number of stalls sell.

There is also a large food section at both markets including specialist stalls selling traditional island foods such as Cook Islands donuts and coconut buns. My pick is the pork bun. Forget the tiny things you get at a Food Court. For $2 you can get a hand-sized bun stuffed with so many juicy pork pieces the sauce dribbles down your chin. Not something to have every day, but definitely worth treating yourself once.

Both markets open throughout the morning however the best time to visit is early, from 7am to 10am, when it's buzzing with people, island music and activity.

Where: Mangere Town Centre, 93 Bader Drive or Otara Markets, Newberry St.
When: Saturdays, from 6am to 12pm.

ISLAND FASHION

The Westfield Style Pasifika fashion show is always a guaranteed show-stopper and is a perfect night of fashion and entertainment. You'll see unique garments inspired by the Pacific, with pieces made from raw materials such as coconut husk, tapa-cloth and flax. It's as much a wearable art exhibition as it is a fashion show and there are always great bands, dance groups and singers performing on the catwalk, providing more entertainment.

This year's show has a nod to the Rugby World Cup, with The International Designers Collection inviting designers from participating countries to create rugby-inspired garments made from NZ merino wool. Kiwi designers also take up the challenge.

When: Oct 18 and 19
Where: Vector Arena
Ticket details: Visit stylepasifika.co.nz

Also check out Cult Couture Fashion Awards, Saturday Oct 15, 8pm, Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre, 770 Great South Rd, Manukau. Ticket Direct or 0800 4 TICKET (0800 484 2538)

SOUTHSIDE TALENT

The Southside Arts Festival, formerly the Manukau Festival of Arts, is a great opportunity to check out lots of the Pacific talent in both the arts and music here in Auckland.

There's up to 30 different events including exhibitions, fashion shows, dance competitions and concerts that make up the festival. Best of all, most are free.

A must-see is The Mixer 2 Concert at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre. Some of Auckland's - and the country's - hottest musical talents will be on show including Rosita Vai, K One, Anonymouz and The Hypnotics. My pick is reggae band Three Houses Down, whose sizzling live performances have seen the boys become reggae royalty in America and Hawaii. Not to be missed.

When: Southside Arts Festival 2011: Oct 14 to Nov 6 (visit the website link above for ticket details and the full programme).

What: The Mixer 2 Concert:
Where: TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre.
When: Oct 28, 7pm to 10.30pm.
Cost: Gold, $30 silver, $20.

See also Matala Tongan Festival (17 to 22 October) featuring dance, theatre and music with traditional and contemporary faikava.

SAMOAN MOVIE MAGIC

Samoa's first feature film is to be released here in New Zealand early next month. The Orator - O le Tulafale - is a film written and directed by Tusi Tamasese. Filmed entirely in Samoa, it is a story about a man named Saili, a little person, who is forced to overcome his fears to defend his land and family. The film is to premiere at this year's Venice Film Festival. From what the trailer shows, it's a typical look at the beauty and rawness of Samoan culture, faith, love, heartbreak, forgiveness and courage. Can't wait to see it.

When: In cinemas Oct 6.

EXPLORE THE PAST

The Pacific Lifeways Alive exhibition at the Auckland Museum offers a beautiful and very authentic display of artefacts from the Pacific of long ago.

There are more than 1200 artefacts from all parts of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. The display also looks at the Pacific's first contact with Europeans and the influence of the Western world on these communities.

Although it is an exhibition that has been around for years, it always provides a refreshing look at exactly how far we've come.

Where: Auckland War Memorial Museum.
When: Daily, 11am to 2pm.
Cost: All ages, free.

ULTIMATE ISLAND EXPERIENCE - TATAU

The art of tatau - tattoo - is very much alive within New Zealand's Pacific community and has become particularly fashionable in the past few years.

Tattooist Steve Ma Ching is a much-respected artist here in Auckland and has inked many a sports star, including All Black Sonny Bill Williams.

So if you really want to take a piece of the Pacific home with you (or think of it as a piece of SBW), head to the small shop in New Lynn, for the ultimate island experience.

Where: Western Tattoo Studio. 3100 Great North Rd, New Lynn, West Auckland.

Check them out on Facebook: Western Tattoo Studio

OTHER SUGGESTIONS

Bella Kalolo and The Symphony:
Kalolo is one diva you want to see. Her soulful, sultry voice is stunning. Catch her at The Cloud at Queens Wharf on Oct 10 from 8.30pm to midnight. All ages, free.

Black Grace - Verse 2:
The dance company is well-known for its on-stage fusion of culture and contemporary dance. See them at the Maidment Theatre. For times visit: www.blackgrace.co.nz

Matala Tongan Festival:
A week-long celebration acknowledging Tongan artists and their works. Gala day and craft market day.

Oct 17-22 at the Mangere Arts Centre.

Otara Fresh Gallery:
Art exhibitions with a difference. Shop 5, 46 Fairmall Otara Town Centre, ph (09) 274 6400. Open Tuesday to Saturday.

Pacific dance classes for children:
(Ages 5 - 13) Maybe piano lessons just aren't for your child. This might be the answer. Great North Rd, New Lynn, West Auckland.

Various dates, cheap term fees starting from $20.

Family Weekend at the Cloud:
Pasifika acts as diverse as Posue Dance Crew, New Caledonian ceremonial dances, the Niuean hymns of the Mutalau Ululauta Matahefonua Trust Choir, James Cook High School Tongan Group and Edgewater College's Niuean Cultural Performance Group, free lei making classes and more. From 10am Saturday and Sunday.

Forecourt, Queens Wharf.

Bula Fiji:
One Tree Hill College, Penrose, hosts a Fiji Festival (Saturday 10am-7pm) with more events Saturday and Sunday October 8 and 9. Look out for the Fiji Police Band at Queens Wharf on Saturday, outside Eden Park before the game on Sunday. Auckland University's Fale Pasifika hosts a Fiji showcase Sept 29 to October 10. And Ellerslie has adopted Fiji as its second team.

Gospel choirs:
Auckland's biggest Tongan church hosts 17 women's choirs, accompanied by brass brands.

Lotofale'ia Tongan Methodist Church, Orly Avenue, Mangere

Sunday Sept 25 Church service at 10am, performance starts at 12.

- NZ Herald

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