Pasifika Festival performers return to stage after two year-delay

Pasifika performers are ready to get back on stage at the Pasifika Festival this weekend after it was cancelled for two years in a row.

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Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Thousands are expected to attend the two-day festival that celebrates the Pacific cultures of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland with music, dance, arts, crafts, demonstrations, storytelling and food.

The annual festival, usually held at Western Springs, will be taking place at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium this weekend on Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Pasifika Festival has been cancelled two years in a row, in 2019 after the Christchurch terrorist attack and last year due to the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Shirl’e Fruean
Hip-hop artist and tutor Shirl’e Fruean Photo: Supplied

Hip-hop artist and tutor Shirl’e Fruean, also known as Queen Shirl’e, has been performing at Pasifika since 2000 and said this year’s festival has been a long time coming.

“We’ve been waiting for the last two years to get on this stage.”

She said Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns had been hard on performers and this weekend was significant.

“A lot of our gigs have been cancelled and you know as artists this is what we rely on and for some of us, it’s our bread and butter.”

She runs pathways to performing arts which is an after-school development programme based in Māngere. She said the Pasifika festival gave them an opportunity to perform live on stage to an audience, some for the very first time.

“It’s massive, Pasifika is massive, especially for this programme. We rely on Pasifika Festival to give our next generation of Pasifikas a platform.”

“It’s really hard for young people to be on those big stages so to get given an opportunity on Pasifika is a key step forward for our kids and I think this is what I’m really focused on is giving our young people a platform.”

Fruean is performing on the Samoan Stage at 11am tomorrow morning alongside some of her students.

Auckland Unlimited head of major and business events Richard Clarke says there is great anticipation for Pasifika Festival this year.

“After being cancelled for the last two years, it is fantastic to be able to proceed with Pasifika Festival this year,” Clarke said.

“It’s an iconic event that celebrates our wonderful Pacific communities and brings together family, friends and communities.”

Eight villages will be set up with nine Pacific Island nations represented this year, Aotearoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.

The eighth village, new to the festival this year, is the Fale Pasifika Village that will host the islands of Hawai’i and Kiribati.

Each village has a performance stage where cultural groups will perform traditional and contemporary dances. Market stalls are also set up selling food and merchandise unique to each culture.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend along with Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Minister of Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

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