The real, healthier Pasifika

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

The popular festival has been going for 22 years and draws up to 90,000 spectators. This year, organisers say they are paying tribute to the old ways and keeping it authentic.

Mama Masina is one of the Pacifica Mamas, who are regular favourites at the Pasifika Festival.
Mama Masina is one of the Pacifica Mamas, who are regular favourites at the Pasifika Festival.

It's been 22 years since the Pasifika Festival introduced Auckland to the sights, sounds and tastes of the islands.

This year, event organisers are taking it back to the old school - weeding out anything remotely "non-Pacific" and paying tribute to the authentic and traditional world of Pasifika.

Hawaii also makes its first and long-awaited appearance as one of the 11 villages on site this weekend, and there is also excitement over a waka display that will include a huge canoe on the main lake at Western Springs Park.

Director Stan Wolfgramm, now in his second year at the reins, says it is all about keeping the festival unique and real.

"We're trying to make Pasifika really and truly authentic in its crafts, performances, dances and foods - we've been sorting out the toffee apples and the candyfloss.

You will no longer find hot chips, as deep-fried foods are out and healthy options in.

Only authentic foods will be sold, including hangi-styled meals and delicacies from the 11 different villages, such as palusami (meat and coconut cream cooked in taro leaves) and the Cook Islands' favourite desert, poke, made from ripe bananas and coconut cream.

"It's been about talking to our people about how to make it a more authentic festival because if we don't do it, then we're going to lose it," Mr Wolfgramm said.

"They understand it. But it has been hard for some people, so we've been talking to a lot of groups over the past few months."

Organisers work closely with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, which manages the staging of the event.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said it had worked closely with village co-ordinators this year to create island-themed menus and make sure villages were sticking to the authentically-Pacific theme.

Mr Wolfgramm, a former model, actor and writer, worked on the successful Westfield Style Pasifika fashion show for many years.

A feature this year will be the first-time inclusion of a Hawaiian village. And for the first time, two waka will be in the park. One will be on the main lake, the other will be used as part of demonstrations on land.

Mr Wolfgramm said: "The Hawaiians have been supporters of the festival for years, yet they don't have their own village. It's something we wanted because Hawaii is a very big part of our culture. It makes up the Polynesian Triangle."

Up to 30 groups, including musicians and hula dancers, are travelling from Hawaii to perform at Pasifika.

This year will be the second time the festival has included a Sunday event - a nod to many Pacific people's connection with the church.

An early morning combined Pacific Island church service will take place on Sunday, before villages open for the afternoon.

The Rev Uesifili Unasa, who is helping to co-ordinate the Sunday service, said the service would not only acknowledge another aspect of Pasifika people, but also celebrate leadership within the community.

"It gives another perspective on what we celebrate, as a people. We've got more community leaders involved in the service and that's about making our leaders a focal point as well.

"Community leaders in the Pacific are very important and that's what we're showing here - that it's not just about the food and crafts."

Newly appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will say a reading at the service, and Mayor Len Brown is to give a welcoming speech.

A Tongan brass band will perform, as well as a Niuean and Tuvaluan choir.


Highlights

Mama Masina is one of the Pacifica Mamas, who are regular favourites at the Pasifika Festival.
Mama Masina is one of the Pacifica Mamas, who are regular favourites at the Pasifika Festival.

Mama's the word

The Pacifica Mamas from West Auckland are bringing a whole lot of laughter and fun to the Tahiti village this year.

The group - made up of 15 women aged between 60 and the late 80s - are part of the Pacifica Arts Centre in Henderson.

They are regular favourites at the festival and are known for their expert weaving skills and singing.

Centre director Jarcinda Stowers-Ama said they were going to show traditional weaving techniques using contemporary materials such as old plastics.

"We're doing that to show families that you can create many wonderful things with materials you have around the house. The aim then is to have those people go back home and recreate what they've learned with us."

The group - affectionately referred to as "the Mamas" - travel from village to village each year.


Haare Williams will tell stories about waka and navigation of the high seas in days gone by.
Haare Williams will tell stories about waka and navigation of the high seas in days gone by.

Waka at Western Springs

For the first time, the main lake at Western Springs will be occupied not just by swans but by a double-hulled traditional waka too.

The waka - named Pumaiterangi - is 9m long and has an 8m mast.

It will be for display only, but a second waka will sit on land nearby and is designed to be interactive.

Experts will teach people how traditional lashings are made and talk about how ancient Pasifika and Maori navigated the seas.

The initiative is a joint venture between the Voyager NZ Maritime Museum and Waka Quest.

Acclaimed Maori community leader Haare Williams said: "We're going to be doing a lot of story-telling and talking about our backgrounds and ancestry. It's going to be hands-on and that's what we want people to really take up, because we learn by observation and then application."

Mr Williams said the display would specifically target youngsters and try to get them excited about the ways of the old.

"We'll be talking about the stories of Maui and of navigation ... and the relevance of those things to our lives today."


Keola and Moanalani Beamer will perform in the first Hawaiian village to be installed at the Pasifika Festival.
Keola and Moanalani Beamer will perform in the first Hawaiian village to be installed at the Pasifika Festival.

Aloha from Hawaii

One of Hawaii's top musicians is in town this weekend and is hoping to show off the spirit of aloha (love) through song and dance.

Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slack-key guitarist, will perform alongside his wife and kumu hula (hula expert) dancer, Moanalani Beamer, tomorrow and Sunday.

The couple have been performing for almost 30 years and have toured around Asia, Europe and South America.

This is their first time travelling to New Zealand and Mr Beamer said they were looking forward to showing off their culture to Kiwis.

"For us, and for many people in Hawaii, the music really conveys the spirit of aloha. We believe that when you share music and dance like this, you heighten the peace in the world," he said.

This is the first time a Hawaiian village has been organised at Pasifika and it is expected to be a highlight of the festival.

- NZ Herald

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