Hawaiian hula takes centre stage at the Pasifika Festival this year, with one of the event's largest groups to take the stage travelling here especially.

More than 150 dancers and family members associated with the Na Maka o Pu'uwai Aloha studio, based in Waipahu, will touch down in Auckland tonight ahead of Pasifika, which kicks off tomorrow and Sunday at Western Springs Park.

Established in 1999, the group has performed to crowds in Hong Kong, Japan, France, London, California and most recently at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York.

They have also turned out to all the Disneyland parks around the world, save for the newly opened Disney Shanghai.


About 80 members of that group - including woman, men and children as young as 10 - will be on stage at the increasingly popular Hawaiian village.

President of Na Maka, Mandi Scott, said the dancers had been planning a trip to New Zealand for about two years with the purpose of learning more about Maori culture and protocol, as well as other Pacific identities.

Members of the Na Maka o Pu'uwai Aloha dance group will perform at this weekend's Pasifika Festival. Photo / Supplied
Members of the Na Maka o Pu'uwai Aloha dance group will perform at this weekend's Pasifika Festival. Photo / Supplied

"On our travel list, there are so many places I wanted to go to and New Zealand was one of the main ones,'' she said.

"This trip is for us to come and share our hula. We are going to stay in Rotorua at a marae, for us to really learn about the Maori culture and to see how they appreciate it.''

They will perform several traditional dancers and hula on Sunday, as well as a special chant honouring the goddess Pele.

The Pasifika Festival's reputation had reached them long ago, Scott said, and for many in their group, it would be the first time they would experience so many other Pacific cultures in one place.

She therefore also hoped that those on the trip reconnect with their own Hawaiian roots, given this new opportunity to showcase it to a crowd that is arguably not too familiar with Hawaiian performance.

As well as dance and performance, there will be arts and crafts stalls and lots of food - both contemporary and traditional - specific to that particular island.


Pasifika 2018, being delivered by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, will again feature 11 villages - Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Tokelau, Tahiti, Samoa, Niue, Hawaii, Kiribati, Aotearoa and Fiji.

This year's Pasifika celebrates its 26th birthday and is being held later than the usual second weekend in March.

For the first time, it will run after the Auckland secondary schools' ASB Polyfest, where more than 10,000 students performed and which attracted about 100,000 people to the Manukau Sports Bowl last weekend.

The new project manager for the festival, Leisa Siteine, said the change followed discussions about potentially attracting more youth - in particular, those who would not otherwise be able to attend Pasifika because of practices for the upcoming Polyfest.

Siteine said there was also a wish in the future to have some of those school groups show off their winning performances at the different village hubs at Pasifika.

"They wouldn't be as pressured because it's not a competition and it would give them a chance to show off their performances again to more of the community.''


WHEN : Saturday, March 24-Sunday, March 25, 9am-5pm.
WHERE: Western Springs Park, Auckland.
WHAT: Food and crafts from: Aotearoa, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti and Kiribati.
TIPS: Take public transport and don't forget a hat, water bottle, sunscreen and good walking shoes.