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Thursday, 21 February 2019 07:38 am

Melanesians using local festivals to keep culture alive in NZ

Feb 23rd, 2015 | By | Category: Latest News, News

SOLOMON ISLANDS: A dancer at the Pasifika Festival. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: A dancer at the Pasifika Festival. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

PAPUA NEW Guinea and the Solomon Islands gave Melanesian cultures a strong presence at this year’s Pasifika Festival in Wellington’s Waitangi Park.

About 10 different Pacific cultures were showcased at the annual January festival, through performances, craft stalls and food stalls.

Wellington mayor, Celia Wade-Brown says Pasifika Festival is a way to showcase the cultural talent Wellington has to offer.

“I love the diversity of the Pacific nations and their positive passion for life,” says Mrs Wade-Brown.

The Papua New Guinea and Solomon Island groups love taking the opportunity to both get together, and to display their cultures in public.

Papua New Guinea Wellington community chairman, PK Siwi says his group performs in the festival to bring something different.

“We hope we provided more awareness of Melanesian communities in Wellington and in New Zealand and the many cultural backgrounds they bring with them,” he says.

Mr Siwi says the group performed in the Pasifika Festival, hoping to inform the crowd of the many cultures and traditions in the Pacific Islands.

“The different islands have different languages, cultures and traditions that are yet to be discovered and celebrated,” says Mr Siwi.

Wellington Solomon Islands Community president, Glo Oxenham says her group performs to be a part of the larger Wellington community.

“It’s a chance to showcase our culture, people, art and country,” she says.

Ms Oxenham says taking part in such festivals involves lots of dances and singing.

“Participating in such festivals always brings out how easy it is for our people to get back into the groove of things,” she says.

Tribal mudmen and lullabies were shown through dance and drumming of the two groups.

The Papua New Guinea Wellington community performed a dance about the Legend of the Asaro Mudmen from the Eastern Highlands province.

The legend is passed on through generations in Papua New Guinean culture.

Mr Siwi says the legend is the story of a tribe in the Asaro Valley being chased by an enemy tribe, and while fleeing their village they fell into the mud on the Asaro River bank.

The tribe hid in the mud until the enemy tribe left, and then came out of the mud.

When the enemy tribe came back to find them, they thought they were spirits and fled.

This allowed the tribe to reclaim their village and land, and they celebrated the belief that the spirits had helped them to be victorious

Mr Siwi says everything about the group’s performance is authentic, except for the costumes.

”The costumes were made here in New Zealand, but they are not far from looking the same. Other than that, everything is authentic,” he says.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Two dancers perform their groups dance. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Two dancers perform their groups dance. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

Ms Oxenham says one of her group’s performances was around a song performed by a French band called Deep Forest but originally sung by Afunakwa around 1970.

Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest is originally from the island of Malaita and is in the Baegu language. It’s a lullaby for a child sung by her mother,” she says.

Ms Oxenham says the song is the story of a young child crying because his parents are no longer around and his older sibling sings the song to comfort him.

Ms Oxenham says the dances are often traditional.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are culturally diverse countries and both group’s say they aimed to show this to the Wellington public.

Mr Siwi says most of the adults were born in Papua New Guinea, whereas the children that were up on stage were born in New Zealand.

“Since most of the adults are from Papua New Guinea, we do have a very strong connection to our culture and history,” he says.

Mr Siwi says they are a part time group, with an aim of keeping their traditions and culture alive in New Zealand.

“The best part is getting our children who are mostly born in New Zealand involved, so they can learn a thing or two about our culture and history,” he says.

Mr Siwi says there is not enough time or space to be able to teach the kids properly.

“Our concern is keeping the culture and the traditions alive within future generations.

“We want the children to be able to learn the beautiful and unique culture we have and are proud of,” he says.

Papua New Guinea has over 800 languages, according to Wikipedia.

“Papua New Guinea is a country with a large number of tribes, so we have a lot to showcase yet,” Mr Siwi says.

Ms Oxenham says they are a mixed group with around 50 members.

“We are families with small children but also young men and women who are enthusiastic about their culture and tradition back in the Solomon Islands,” she says.

Ms Oxenham says the group doesn’t face any challenges.

Mrs Oxenham says the Solomon Islands has over 80 languages and many cultures.

“For those of us in Wellington, we come together as one and we pick from the various provinces or islands for the dances we perform,” she says.

Mrs Oxenham says her group performs in festivals other than the Pasifika Festival.

“Members of our community form little dance groups for our annual independence celebrations in July, when we come together as a community,” she says.

COLD CROWDS: The crowd huddle together for warmth in not great weather conditions. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

COLD CROWDS: The crowd huddle together for warmth in not so great weather conditions. IMAGE: Ashleigh Manning.

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