Islands get ready for year’s biggest Pacific event

Auckland’s Pasifika Festival is a showcase for the Pacific communities living in Auckland of culture, food and music.

The festival from 12-13 March is expected to attract 100,000+ visitors over the two days, after returning to Western Springs, Auckland’s favourite public space featuring a lake surrounded by grassy areas and trees.

(Last year the event moved to Hayman Park in Manukau because of an infestation of Queensland fruit fly in the nearby suburb of Grey Lynn.)  With thousands of exhibitors and performers organised, village co-ordinators have worked hard to ensure this year’s event will provide an authentic island experience for visitors.

Tonga Village co-ordinator Mrs Wailangilala Tufui says the Women’s Handicraft Group with the Tonga’s Ministry of Commerce have booked eight craft stalls. The group is returning for its third year, bringing distinctive authentic Tongan mats, handmade tapa and baskets.

The unique Tongan Tapa cloth takes several months to produce and are hotly in demand in the local community. The labour intensive process involves many women in the village in harvesting the paper mulberry trees, peeling and soaking the bark before beating the bark thinly, piecing it together to form a larger piece. A king sized bedspread piece sells for around $300. Larger tapa that are used for weddings, funerals and other special events can go for up to $1000 each.

Selling also carries on the week after Pasifika when people rush to buy before the groups return home, says Mrs Tufui. Pasifika not only generates income for the women and members of the visiting groups but reconnects family members to their communities.

Mrs Tufui has organised an extensive entertainment programme featuring the distinctive Tongan brass bands, violinists and church group performances. There are 14 groups planned for Saturday with a special appearance of a group from Tonga at 11am.

Samoa, the biggest Pasifika village, is situated across the road in front of the Western Springs Stadium, with 26 food and 15 handicraft stalls. Samoa Village organiser Ulalemamae Te’eva Matafai has organised decorator Lautofa Tulagalua from House of Décor in Onehunga to add a special touch with decorations around the entrance way.

There will also be a showcase of traditional Samoan Tatau or tattooing by Marks of Polynesia – Suluape Tatau – Su’a Alaiva’a Petelo Suluape and his son Su’a Paul Junior Suluape.  Ms Matafai said well known Tattooist and his son are coming from Samoa especially to provide live demonstrations of the art of Tatau using traditional tools and especially imported inks.  The Epiphany Pacific Trust – Aganu’u Fa’asamoa and the Pacific Events & Entertainment Trust are working in partnership to call on the Samoan community for one male who would like the Tatau and four women wanting their Malu done at Pasifika.  The Tatau costs around $5,000 or $1,500 for the malu.

And if Auckland weather continues to boil as it has in past weeks, thirsty festival goers can also line up for fresh green coconuts direct from Samoa at Dennis Pili’s The Coconut Hut. The coconuts or ‘niu’ are supplied via Samoa Agro Fresh Limited who are known to ship container loads for the two days.
Ms Matafai says, they have also opened up for 2-3 vendors from Savalalo Markets in Apia to attend and earn some income following the devastating fire that destroyed the entire market in January.

Cook Islands
Meanwhile, Cook Islands co-ordinator Bernard Tairea is all about authenticity. The volunteer co-ordinator of many years says he has had some healthy discussions on what is being sold from the stalls and he is definite that he wants the village to be about being local to the Cook Islands. In the past he had noticed items being sold that were not from the Cook Islands. “Be local and bring local island stuff,” he says. Cook Islands foods, costumes, handicrafts, black pearls — no dyed, fresh water or Tahitian pearls or hematites (beads made from iron ore). He suggests sellers offer authenticated certificates to ensure the black pearls are genuine and encourages buyers to ask for the certification.

Mr Tairea has high expectations from the village asking them to give “500% effort” to promote the best image of the Cook Islands. He has gathered a faithful crew of volunteers to help pack in and out of the village. There will be a special tent and Tivaevae (traditional quilt making) demonstrations over the weekend. Cultural groups and performances are once again a huge draw card with one dance group coming from the Cook Islands. The flow on effects from Pasifika for dance groups, in the past who have had 100 corporate bookings as a result of performing at the festival. He has also heard of stall holders making large sums helping to off-set their costs in coming from the Cook Islands during their low season.

The two largest villages, Cook Islands and Samoa are near the Western Springs Stadium entrance. The smaller villages of Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati are side by side, with Tahiti and Hawaii. Niue, Fiji, Aotearoa and Pan Pacific stages are placed around the park. The Pasifika Festival will open on Saturday 12 March at 9am in the Niue Village with a flag raising and blessing and closes on Sunday 13 March.


Pacific Periscope