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'We are continuing our traditions and cultures' at Wellington Pasifika Fest

Kiribati youth performing
Source: RNZ Pacific

Wellington, NEW ZEALAND — Wellington's Pacific community came together to honor their rich cultural heritage at the Wellington Pasifika Festival over the weekend.

With sights, sounds, and flavors evoking the essence of the Pacific, participants embarked on a journey through the diverse island nations of Te Moana Nui O Kiva.

Drawing in a crowd of over 15,000 people annually, the event holds significant importance in preserving cultural ties to their homelands.

"It's incredibly important so that we can make sure our identity is solid," Brienela Tauira Kisona, the Mistress of Ceremonies, said.

"We do that by surrounding ourselves with people that identify with the same cultures, to ensure that we are continuing our Pacific traditions and cultures."

Representatives from Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia showcased their crafts, cuisine, and captivating performances, highlighting the significance of the festival.

Solomon Islands community vice-president Selwyn Teho said the event provides an opportunity for all.

"It's a day where we come and share our cultures with other Pacific countries too and then we share it with the whole Wellington community."

Teho also emphasized the importance of youth involvement in cultural preservation, expressing pride in seeing different generations unite on stage.

"Seeing our new generation and the older generation together on the stage is just really amazing" he said, adding: "It means a lot to us."

Echoing similar sentiments, the Porirua Samoana Methodist Youth Group said having family support at cultural events was special.

Vaioleni Aiono led a team of first-time performers on stage while their parents cheered them on from the audience.

"It's very special especially for our young girls who are first time performing so they do get stage fright and so it’s good to have our mums and dads here to support our young kids while we celebrate our culture with everyone here," Aiono said.

Samoan youngsters grace the stage, many for the very first time. [Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton]

PMN radio personality Susnation Seta, alongside Cook Islands champion dancer Caroline Bishop, engaged attendees in traditional dance forms of Ura Kuki Airani.

Seta expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share Pasifika heritage.

"The crowd and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. It is an absolute honor to be celebrating Pasifika excellence at a festival like this."

Another special guest was international opera tenor, Benjamin Fifita Makisi.

The Wellington-born Samoan-Tongan singer has returned from Europe and has been enjoying performing at community events back home.

He said performing Polynesian songs overseas is always well received and he was proud to bring the experience to his hometown.

"It was really nice to come and showcase it (Opera) back home," Makisi said.

"Events like this is a really good way to outreach to the community and to our own people."

Saturday's resounding success underscores the enduring vibrancy and value of Pacific Island heritage in Aotearoa.

The Wellington Pasifika Festival yet again left attendees eagerly anticipating next year’s event.


Samoa News points out that another world renown arts & culture festival will be held in Hawaii this coming June 06- 16, 2024 — the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture. The festival that should have been held in 2020, was postponed due to the COVID pandemic.

The theme for the festival is Ho’oulu Lahui: Regenerating Oceania. American Samoa will be participating in the festival, according to its facebook page.

FestPAC is recognized as the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders was first launched in 1972 by the South Pacific Commission, now known as the PacSPC, in Suva, Fiji. It’s held every four years, with each FestPAC hosted by a different Pacific Island, whether a nation, a U.S. territory or U.S. state, on a rotational basis.

The more than 40-year-old festival showcases a foundation of cultural exchange and celebration of the arts & cultures of the many Pacific islands. (It would be celebrating 50+ years if it had not been postponed in 2020.)

American Samoa hosted the 10th FestPAC in 2008: Su’iga’ula A Le Atuvasa. The theme still resounds in the territory with an area of Utulei beach dedicated to a park area named after the ’theme’ which comprises fales for community daily use and the Tufele Cultural Center used by the community for special events such as music, agriculture, and business festivals, as well as ‘Ava ceremonies and special ocasions for visiting dignitaries by the government.