Students at a Whangarei school are now eager to learn to speak Mandarin after they were treated to a taste of China through puppets, magic and a strongman act.
Chinese performers are in New Zealand for the Asia New Zealand Foundation's Lantern Festivals, and for the very first time the foundation brought their school visits to Onerahi Primary School and Whangarei Intermediate School.
Annmaree MacGregor, deputy principal of Onerahi Primary School, said the performance was important for the school because it had recently introduced Mandarin to its curriculum.
"The students loved it, they are really excited to learn a new language and culture," she said.
Puppeteers from the Shanghai Puppet Theatre, a magician and strongman act from Guangzhou Acrobatic Arts Theatre, and musicians from the Guangdong Traditional Philharmonic Trio were in Whangarei yesterday.
Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King said the school visits are a long-running feature of the foundation's Lantern Festival programme.
"These school visits give hundreds of New Zealand children the chance to learn about the traditions of the lunar New Year and the lantern festivals, and to see the performers close up and ask them questions. It's a fantastic way for them to learn about China. These interactions also give children from Chinese New Zealand families the confidence to talk about their own culture in their classroom."
The Northern Advocate went to Onerahi Primary School where the students were captivated by the range of performances. The Shanghai Puppet Theatre's cloth puppet routine, which saw puppeteers fold and knot large pieces of cloth to create puppets and scenes, amused the students who could not stop laughing at the different shapes created with the cloth.
The strongman act left students wide-eyed as two men showed off their skills by performing one-handed handstands on shoulders and doing all sorts of flips and tricks. But the magic show had students questioning how it was possible for the magician to pull several bags containing origami out of an empty paper bag.