Canterbury Polyfest: ‘Celebrating language, culture, and identity in the South Island’

Te Aratai College along with 26 other schools are gearing up for Canterbury Polyfest on Saturday at Hagley Park.

The Linwood school has teamed up with Mairehau High School bringing about 80 students to the event.

Te Aratai College principal Maria Lemalie said it’s extremely important for her students, especially being from Canterbury.

“They’re not as exposed to their culture as often as our Auckland or Wellingtonian schools,” Lemalie said.

“We’re only a small amount of our population here in Christchurch, but a number of our young people are second or third generation Pasifika peoples, so it’s really an awesome opportunity for them to showcase their language, culture and identity.

“They feel that they still have an offering to their ancestors and are also maintaining their native tongue of their grandparents.”

Lemalie has been helping out at Polyfest since 2003 – only a few years after its inauguration in 2000 – she has seen it grow from about eight schools to 27 this year.

There’s only one stage, unlike Auckland’s Polyfest festival where different Pacific nations are showcased on different stages.

“It’s not competitive so it’s more a celebration of culture. I know lots of our students want it to be competitive, however, we’re more about celebrating language, culture, and identity in a South Island context.”

Year 13 student Ethan La’sua Cooke is Te Aratai’s Samoan lead performer, taking on the role as the mānaia, traditionally seen as the chief’s son.

His team started working on the 15-minute set in early January.

“It was quite a mess at the start, not going to lie, but everyone came together.”

Cooke said school sports and weekends were sacrificed to participate in the event, which he said was easily worth it.

Head girl Dormay Laufiso said it was a blessing to be on stage dancing with her “brothers and sisters”, sharing in each other’s culture.

“This is our first year doing different cultures, with the Polyfest that we did the year before we only did the Samoan culture, but this year we’re doing a mix of Fijian, Tongan and also Samoan.”

Te Aratai Head girl Dormay Laufiso

Laufiso said she wanted the audience to feel a sense of unity from the performance.

Both Laufiso and Cooke said participating in Polyfest was privilege and not a right.

“For me it’s very special, I can say grateful because I am getting this opportunity not to only express myself but my parents and my family,” Laufiso said.

Principal Lemalie said at the end of Polyfest students normally come out of it more disciplined and engaged with school.

“My kaupapa or challenge for my kids is that if you can be spend copious amounts of time practising, you can still do the same with your schoolwork and with your sport and with your relationships.”

Gates open tomorrow (Saturday) morning at Hagley Park, Te Aratai College and Mairehau High School are 17th on the performance list.

Te Aratai principal Maria Lemalie

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button