Cultural pride broadcast beyond the stage

Issue: Volume 101, Number 6

Posted: 20 May 2022
Reference #: 1HAUCz

Covid-19 settings meant ASB Polyfest 2022 operated in a different way this year, with no crowds and no stalls, but that didn’t stop families and supporters tuning in to witness the passion and resilience of ākonga taking the stage.

Epsom Girls’ Grammar Tongan Dancers.  Photo by Ben Campbell from BC Photography.

Epsom Girls’ Grammar Tongan Dancers. Photo by Ben Campbell from BC Photography.

The world’s largest Māori and Pacific Islands cultural festival, the ASB Polyfest, took place at the Manukau Sports Bowl in a different format than usual.

However, while the students took to the large stages without a ‘visible’ audience – performing instead in front of a panel of judges – families and friends across Aotearoa and beyond were able to support through their screens via livestream.

ASB Polyfest event director Seiuli Terri Leo Mau’u says, “Despite the challenges, we have had overwhelming support from students, schools and parents to go ahead with this year’s event in the livestream format. While it was different without the crowds, it’s about providing a safe place for our kids to perform this year.

“Our students have demonstrated that Covid can’t beat commitment, and they have stepped up on stage with pride and passion after navigating their way through the disruptions.”

Māngere College Samoan Group.

Māngere College Samoan Group.

Over four days, 68 performing groups from 28 schools competed in speech, song and dance on the following stages: Cook Islands, Māori, Niue, Samoan, Tongan, and a Diversity stage with groups from Fiji, India, Kiribati, Tahiti, Tibet and Tuvalu.

Avondale College principal Lyndy Watkinson was very pleased to see the festival go ahead as it means a great deal to those performing.
“ASB Polyfest is a significant part of the life of our school. The celebration and learning is not just from performing at the festival, but from the journey to get there,” says Lyndy.

The journey to get on stage has been a challenging one. Lyndy explains that students didn’t know who might suddenly need to isolate and so key people who would normally drive momentum might not be able to do so – through no fault of their own.

“Each group needed every member to see themselves as leaders so that as students came back from isolation, they could work with them during morning tea, lunch breaks and before practices started, to get them up to speed with the rest of the group,” says Lyndy.

Manurewa High School Samoan Group.

Manurewa High School Samoan Group.

Manurewa High School deputy principal Reverend Pennie Otto says the best thing he sees is the opportunity for ākonga.

“The best thing I see is the opportunity for ākonga to showcase and strengthen themselves in their own identity, their language and their culture. And also, big praise to the amazing staff members and community for sharing their knowledge and guidance with the students.”

Head of languages Linda Sime agrees, and adds, “It’s been an amazing journey, our students have been really resilient … there’s been so much going on in our country with Covid, but our ākonga have made us so proud and shown so much resilience.”

Paratene Ngata-Aerengamate from Rutherford College also spoke about how proud they are of the students.

“Couldn’t be prouder considering the circumstances that we’ve all been through. Despite lockdowns and isolations, it’s just a great feeling knowing we all, students and staff, worked hard in the build-up to this [Polyfest], went on stage and gave it what we had. 

“Our language and our culture is something really important to us, especially coming to this event to represent our Māoritanga, our Tuakiritanga, our identity. We love to represent our culture, our language and our people.” 

Avondale College Tongan Group. Photo by Ben Campbell from BC Photography.

Avondale College Tongan Group. Photo by Ben Campbell from BC Photography. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:00 am, 20 May 2022

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