Pasifika comes of age with gospel

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

After tomorrow's celebration of 10 island villages, festival embraces religion with combined service on Sunday

The Vaimutu string band practise before the Pasifika Festival. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Vaimutu string band practise before the Pasifika Festival. Photo / Richard Robinson

Island drums and sounds from the Pacific will be joined by those from traditional island choirs and church bands at this year's Pasifika Festival.

For its milestone 21st birthday this weekend, the festival has taken a new approach, expanding into two main days incorporating a combined Pacific Island church service on Sunday.

Tomorrow's main day at Western Springs will not change with the popular 10 villages - Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Tahiti, Kiribati and Aotearoa - showing off the best of the Pacificwith traditional foods, arts and crafts and entertainment.

But Sunday will see a different side of the Pacific. Dozens of choirs, gospel youth groups and church bands - including a 50-piece traditional Tongan brass band - will take to the stage in a 45-minute church service.

New festival event producer Stan Wolfgramm said it was something different after so many years. "It will be Pasifika as usual, except we've got a lot more gospel performances on the stages and we kind of see it as a traditional Pacific lunch with family.

"It's different, but we think it's a good thing and we're getting a lot of support."

Mr Wolfgramm said feedback from the Pacific community had been mixed as Sunday was traditionally seen as the sacred day and therefore trading was unacceptable.

"Some of the villages won't be there because it's their religious day. But we've combined them all and made pan-pacific villages. A lot of people I think are just waiting to see how it goes this year."

Auckland Council chairman of the Pacific People Advisory Panel the Rev Uesifili UNasa, who has been helping organise the combined service, said it was a chance to show off a different but very well-known side of the Pacific people.

"For Pacific people, it is our faith that brings us together. That is our unifying feature. It will be a big affair, with lots of great singing and hearing and seeing what young people have to say in different languages and songs."

Other changes made to this year's festival include a staunch rule about keeping foods traditional and the dropping of a theme.

In previous years the festival has taken on themes celebrating various icons, creatures or animals prominent in the islands, including the frigate bird, octopus and eel.

Mr Wolfgramm said the move was made to keep things authentic and true - something that was very much a theme at this year's festival.

"We had discussions and I kind of feel it's more important that if you're Samoan then you're Samoan. If you're Tongan then you're Tongan ... rather than to be a turtle or a flax tree.

"I think for our people to come and celebrate who they are, rather than everybody try to follow an icon, is more important. That's the direction we're going - bring to it what you are and not trying to follow something else."

Pasifika 2013

Tomorrow: Western Springs Park, 10am-5pm. Ten villages offering traditional foods, arts and crafts, clothing and entertainment on 11 different stages.

Sunday: Combined church service, 9am start. Festival from 10am to 4pm.

Parking: Available at Western Springs College in Motions Rd and at Motat, both $10 a day.

Transport: Free shuttle bus from Rossgrove Tce throughout the day. A free park-and-ride service will run from Unitec in Carrington Rd.

- NZ Herald

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