One thing I love about Auckland is the number of festivals that happen on the weekends. There is ALWAYS something to do! Now that I’ve got way too much time on my hands, I try to pick just one big thing on the weekend so I’m making sure to relax a bit as well. And to my luck, one of the neatest festivals I’ve been to in a while was held nearby just a couple of weeks ago. The Pasifika festival.
An idea for a festival I never would have thought of, all of the small pacific islands set up booths to share their culture through crafts, food, dance and more. Since a trip to Fiji, Tahiti and Samoa are not planned for the near future, I thought I’d get a sneak peak of the places I long to visit! And there was even a Hawaii village! Good to see the good old red white and blue flying up the flag pole!
Held at Westerns Springs Park, all of the parking in the area was cordoned off. Getting a little annoyed, I found out it was because instead of trying to open up heaps of parking, oftentimes, as we’ve seen before in New Zealand, they block all the parking and a local school will let you park on their property for a fee to raise funds. I’m all about fund raising, and I think it’s a neat idea. I’m just not sure I’m sold on this strategy yet. They have free bike valet, which was pretty cool though.
I arrived in Fiji about mid-day and was immediately glad I decided to head to the festival. The stands were great, everyone was social and friendly and the park was a pretty lovely place as well. Since my travel typically revolves around food, I decided to start there and I picked up an ice cream in a pineapple and sat back to take in the festival.
It may sound a bit callous, or perhaps it’s only honesty, but the crux of all these locals was very similar. And I suppose it should be. The islands experience similar climates and geography, if not nearly exactly the same. Additionally, they have similar Polynesian roots. Like the local Maori hangi, or as many Americans may be more familiar with, the Hawaiian luau, the customs appear very similar on a quick pass. I have a couple of friends here from Fiji and Samoa, and these are some of the bigger islands, so I can almost pick the two out from a crowd. But otherwise, the bigger differences were perhaps by costume or dance. Though again, they share a lot of similarities.
I watched the Nive DJ teach a bunch of foreigners to dance, then I picked up a Mahi sandwich in the Cook Islands. I loved perusing their artwork, lots of beautiful beaches and sunsets! I was rather surprised at how raunchy a lot of the cultural dances looked when the big grass skirts were gone. The Kiwi’s, French, Americans and Koreans asked on stage to learn the cultural dances looked like they belonged in a club with some of those hip gyrations! But no one minded! It was all in good fun.
By Samoa, I needed a drink and got a small coconut to sip on as I made my way around the Western Springs Lake. Of course, New Zealand had our own Aotearoa village, highlighting Maori custom, and there was a Tonga village, followed by Hawai’i.
My biggest surprise, is how singularly focused the event was on the native peoples and customs. While understandable, especially since that may have been the intent of the festival, I can’t help but wonder, at what point do the modern day peoples, and the descendants of the British become included in the festivities as more than event-goers? Is Pacific Island culture exclusive to the native Polynesian peoples? Perhaps all I seek is a re-defining of the event to my appease my political stance on this. While the native Polynesians in Hawaii may not have wanted to join America just over 50 years ago, does the fact that it was admitted to the Union mean anything? I think it’s important to celebrate our differences, but also recognize our bonds and the unique gifts every group and background brings to each community as a cohesive unit.
After Hawaii I stopped by Tuvalu, the fourth smallest country in the world. After crossing a bridge over a posse of eels I got slightly lost on my way to Tahiti. It was as I wandered through the park that I came across what can only be described as the funnest statue I’ve come across in a long while. Come on, it’s pretty awesome! In Tahiti, I did some day dreaming for sure! Bora Bora is on my to do list!
And, to ensure it was the most fantastic day without Andrew yet? I found a $50 bill on the ground, no one around, no strings attached. Sweet!
For any teachers out there, I saw they had these pretty neat books out there in a series called “Children of the Pacific” which tell stories that are somewhat unique to those regions. They are about real children and their daily life and how it differs from the “norm”. The books are a bit pricey, otherwise I may have picked up a set for friends with children, but I figure perhaps if I share the link someone else might find a use for these neatly named books like “A Nest of Pigs,” “The Uga Hunt” and “The Rat and the Octopus”. Check out http://www.ChildrenOfThePacific.co.nz.
See you in the Pacific!