‘Polynesian soul’ – schools, performers and diversity on show at Polyfest

Samoan dancers from an unnamed Auckland secondary school in Polyfest 2017. Image: Radio Waatea

Six stages, four days, 214 groups from more than 60 schools, 10,000 performers and up to 40,000 spectators … The four-day festival of Māori, Pasifika and other cultures has become a highlight of the Auckland calendar over the 41 years of its existence.

This year’s event kicked off today with a flag raising ceremony at the Manukau Sports Bowl, and the Māori stage was the first to open, reports Radio Waatea.

Event coordinator Theresa Howard said there had been months of preparation from the rangatahi, and for many it was about celebrating their culture rather than competing.

“The diversity stage is definitely one highlight for many people as we don’t exclude any cultural groups, no matter what they are or whether they are from the Pasifika Islands or the Asia Pacific,” she said.

“So we’ve got some Hawai’ians groups performing, Tibetan and Kiribati. A lot of different groups.”

Mayor Len Brown said it was time the city truly expressed its “Polynesian soul”.

“There is a lot of singing about our city and very clear the passion and pride and mostly it reflects the fact we are the proud sons and daughters of Aotearoa New Zealand here in the heart of Polynesia and that is our place in the world and this is the time we best reflect it with the young spirit of city and the nation, proud and very loud,” he said.

LISTEN: Polyfest 2017 on Radio Waatea

AUTi reports that Auckland University of Technology gave a grant of $1000 to each of 12 schools in sponsorship towards the cost of their Polyfest teams – Alfriston College, Aorere College, Botany Downs Secondary School, De La Salle College, James Cook High School, Mangere College, Manurewa High School, Otahuhu College, Papakura High School, Papatoetoe High School, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and Tangaroa College.

“We appreciate that a huge amount of preparation goes into their performances, which goes hand in hand with a huge amount of pride in their school, culture and community,” said Jayne Mayerhofler, director of Future Students at AUT.

“The costs associated with performing can be challenging for schools. We hope that this sponsorship will relieve some of the pressure for these groups and their supporters, so they can concentrate on fine-tuning their performances for the stage.”

The patronage comes as part of the new South Campus School Partnership, which formalises AUT’s ongoing engagement with local schools – from professional development for staff to preparing students for higher education.

The principal at Otahuhu College, Neil Watson, said the school was delighted to have the support of AUT.

“It’s a great opportunity for our college and the community,” he said.“We have hundreds of kids practising daily and ex-students coming to help out.”

Polyfest ends today.

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