Greg Fleming talks to opening night director JR Pereira and PIBAC chairman Bruce McCarthy on the efforts to keep Pasifika's opening night on the calendar.
After a funding shortfall the Auckland City Council cancelled the traditional Pasifika opening night. But the Pacific Islands Board Auckland City (PIBAC) and the Pacific community rallied together and last week announced that they would be funding the opening night themselves. The event will take place at the Western Springs venue on Friday 13th.
The Pasifika community has fought really hard to keep the opening night, what's so important about it?
Culturally speaking openings are very important in all Pacific Island cultures, it is where we give thanks to God and our ancestry. The opening night has become an iconic event in the Pacific community and we wanted to see it maintained.
Will it be different than previous Pasifika opening nights?
Yes because the community has raised the money and we've all agreed that it is to be a very Pacific style opening and will have a more traditional slant than previous years.
What's going to feature on opening night?
PIBAC and the Pacific community are presenting Ta'alolo Productions. Ta'alolo is a traditional form of presentation in its highest form. The programme will start at 7 with the formalities and by 8pm the production will start and go on until 10pm.
Bruce, you believe that the festival should go back to its origins - what do you mean by that?
The Pasifika community would like to see the Festival come back to them. They feel that a lot of the traditional and indigenous performances, arts and crafts has been eroded and not balanced equally enough with that of its contemporary component. The Pasifika community fully supports the emerging contemporary culture but not at the speed at which their traditional and customary practices have been neglected at present.
What is currently being reflected through many of their children and the upcoming generation is an example of this serious imbalance. The high number of Pacific Island inmates and troubled youths in our prisons is another factor. They believe there is a definite connection or lack of it in relation to their traditional and customary which espouses priniciples of respect honour, trust, family and community collectivity.
You've funded the opening night the Pacific way - how have you gone about it?
This event is being funded mainly by the Pacific Island community. Some have donated substantial sums of money others have offered their services while others have offered themselves as volunteers for the night's event. They wanted the challenge put out there to our communities to step up and participate in any way they can. This has truly become a collective Pasifika experience.
Looking forward, do you feel the festival is sustainable in its current format? What changes would you like to see in future years?
I believe the festival - if it is to embrace what Pasifika really is all about by cultivating and preserving Pasifika culture and practices - then it will not only be doing the Pasifika community a great favour but people from afar will continue to enjoy the richness of Pacific culture. We should not have to go to places like Hawaii, who have a magnificent Pacific Cultural Centre, just to catch a glimpse of what is traditional Pacific culture when right here in Aotearoa we have the most concentrated Pacific population anywhere in the world. We need to make it truly a world class Pasifika Festival event. PIBAC and the Pasifika community must be included at the governance level where the important decisions affecting all things Pasifika is made. Auckland City will be all the better and richer for it economically, socially and politically.