Polyfest strengthens connection to cultural identity

posted: 7:00 pm - 23rd February 2020
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(Picture caption:The Marcellin College Tongan group performs at ASB Polyfest in 2017.) 

Of Samoan, Maori and Niuean heritage, Finlay Samasoni-Tukuitonga has always felt a strong connection to his Pacific culture.

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The South Auckland born and raised Marcellin College Year 13 student says taking part in ASB Polyfest not only allows him to strengthen his understanding of his cultural identity, but it also allows him to embrace his heritage in a way that is not possible in a classroom environment.

Marcellin College, a Catholic co-educational secondary school in the Auckland suburb of Hillsborough enters cultural groups into ASB Polyfest every second year, and Finlay has been fortunate to take part in the Samoan group in Year 10 and 12. 

He is disappointed not to be performing this year but says he will be supporting other groups taking part at the event, staged from March 18-21 at Manukau Sports Bowl.

Participating in the festival has meant a lot to Finlay during his journey through secondary school – he believes students taking part this year will gain so much knowledge and confidence from it.

“The overall experience, from the food to the performances are exceptional – it is an event you’ll remember for years to come and you will make memories you will never forget,” he says.

This year is the 45th anniversary of ASB Polyfest, which features traditional music, dance, costume and cultural speech competitions.

In 2020, the theme is: Mā roto mai i te Ahurea whirikoka, ko te whakaora tinana, hinengaro, wairua me te ira tangata, translated as, Healing the body, mind, spirit and soul with the strength of Culture.

Students compete on five stages, performing traditional items from the following cultures – Cook Islands, Māori, Niue, Samoan and Tongan. 

There will also be a Diversity stage featuring performances from a range of cultural groups including Fijian, Tokelau, Chinese, Korean and Indian. 

The four-day event will open with a flag raising ceremony conducted by Tainui Kaumatua, Stage Representatives, along with the Kura Matua Host Schools and the other Mana Kura Host Schools for each stage. 

This is followed by the Powhiri, which has been the most significant part of the festival since its beginning in 1976. 

The Christchurch shooting tragedy on March 15, 2019, affected the last day of ASB Polyfest and news of its cancellation affected everyone involved.

This year’s event is greatly anticipated by participants and spectators alike.