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Polyfest 2024: Day one brings colourful performances to Diversity and Māori stages

Riria Dalton-Reedy, Te Rito Journalism cadet

The sun was shining brightly today - a fitting start to the opening of this year’s Auckland Secondary Schools’ Polyfest.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Day one kicked off with Māngere College opening the Māori stage.

The wairua at the Māori stage was absolutely electrifying, as hosts Awatea Wihongi and Raniera Blake kept the crowd’s energy and morale high throughout the day.

Māori stage ‘electrifying’

School students filled the grandstand area, while spectators packed out the floor near the stage - all eager to support their favourite teams.

Karanga and haka tautoko flowed throughout the day in support of the respective kapa.

Many people, including event director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu, noticed the increased number of spectators on the first day of Polyfest this year - something not usually seen in previous years.

Last year, the Māori stage performances were held at a different venue and on different days.

A prominent phrase used in most of the kapa brackets (performances) was: “Tōku reo tōku ohooho, māpihi maurea, whakakai mārihi.”

Translated, the call is: “My language is my awakening. My language is the window to my soul.”

It is taken from a proverb by well-respected academic Sir Tīmoti Kāretū about language revitalisation and the importance of maintaining culture.

Marist College was second on stage and was one of three non-competitive kapa.

Year 8 student Marley Rodahl is no stranger to the stage. But the nerves still kicked in before the group’s performance.

“I was quite scared at first. But once I got on the stage, it was really fun because you get to just express yourself and just feel good about performing.”

Fellow Marist student Naila Rice-Clark said of her debut Polyfest performance: “Just seeing my mum in the crowd - I just focused on where she was and then smiled at her.”

Diversity Stage brings colour to Polyfest

Anyone trying to find their way to the Diversity Stage only needed to follow the crowd.

You could hear it before you saw it; with the vibrant energy matching the colourful traditional costumes.

Crowds cheered at any given opportunity - showing their unwavering support and appreciation for the diverse cultures of Aotearoa.

West Auckland’s Avondale College was a hot favourite and has several groups this year; representing Chinese, Indian, Fijian, Filipino, Japanese and Sri Lankan cultures.

Massey High year 13 student Naria Kalele, co-leader of the school’s Tuvaluan group, said she was proud of her roots despite having never set foot on the island before.

“That’s what I want to do before it actually goes down,” she said, acknowledging the climate change crisis affecting the Pacific region.

“One day I want to make it to Tuvalu.”

She said being a part of the group has helped her connect with her culture.

“Like the different things about how we’re supposed to present a fatele (traditional Tuvaluan dance), how the men and the women are different [and how] they have different things to do.

“I learned a lot from leading the group this year - and still learning.”

St Cuthbert’s had 10 groups registered - the most of any school at the Diversity Stage - and are due to perform tomorrow.

Arohanui Special School made its Polyfest debut on stage today and youngsters from Mt Richmond Special School are set to perform tomorrow.

The performances on the Diversity and Māori stages continue tomorrow; with the Diversity Stage also due to hold its prizegiving ceremony, as the stage closes for another year.

The Pacific Island stages - Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and Cook Islands - open on Friday and Saturday. For school performance schedules, visit the ASB Polyfest website.

Hero Image: Sharani Sujeevan, of the Epsom Girls' Grammar School Sri Lankan group, performs on the Polyfest's Diversity Stage. Photo / Jason Oxenham

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