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Tokelau Festival attracts thousands

From Dateline Pacific, 5:03 am on 20 April 2017
Listen duration 3′ :03″ (MP3 file, 3 MB)

The biggest Tokelau festival in the world wrapped up with a cultural performance over the Easter weekend in New Zealand.

The four-day event, now into its 17th year, is a mix of sports, careers, health information, and offers a chance for young Tokelauans in New Zealand to learn more about their culture.

More than 7,000 Tokelauans live in New Zealand, and just over 1,500 are in Tokelau.

Koro Vaka'uta reports.


Photos:
Young boys from Hutt Valley region performing their Fatele. Credit: RNZI
Kids getting ready for their Fatele performance. Credit: RNZI
Porirua dancers at Tokelau Festival. Credit: RNZI
Kids taking part in the events at the Tokelau Festival. Credit: Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua
One of the stands at the Tokelau Festival. Credit: Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua
Careers expo as part of the Tokelau Festival. Credit: Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua
Flag of Tokelau. Credit: RNZI
Tokelau drum. Credit: RNZI
Kids taking part in this year's Tokelau Festival in Porirua. Credit: Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua.
Hutt Valley region performing. Credit: RNZI
Roni Vaovasa, the new secretary of the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau. Credit: RNZI
Porirua performing at Tokelau Festival. Credit: RNZI
Young boys from Hutt Valley region performing their Fatele. Credit: RNZI
Dawn Patelehio, vice-treasurer of the Mafutaga. Credit: RNZI
Kids from the Hutt Valley region performing at the Tokelau Festival. In Tokelau, young kids are not allowed to perfom at the Fatele. Credit: RNZI
Auckland performing at the Fatele. Credit: RNZI
Supporters and singers from the Auckland region. Credit: RNZI
Taupo/Rotorua region performing. Credit: RNZI
Hutt Valley region performing at Fatele. Credit: RNZI
Auckland region performing. Credit: RNZI


TRANSCRIPT
The 2017 Tokelau Festival was hosted by the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua, just outside Wellington.

Kalolo Patelehio of the Mafutaga says the event goes back to the 1960s, and it's just grown from there.

"Although we have sports, various sports, but what's been happening over the last 10 years is that New Zealand born [Tokelauans] really look forward and they practise a lot for this cultural festival."

He says the event is also a platform for young Tokelauans born in New Zealand.

"Seeing the New Zealand-born to be so passionate and being so fired up about singing a Tokelau song, and dancing not necessarily perfect, but that's not important, the important this is that they are exposed to the dancing which is learning all the songs, it's like training."

Antonio Patelehio of the committee says this is the biggest event for Tokelauan communities in New Zealand.

"Well, it's the only Tokelau festival that brings all the four atolls together of Tokelau together, we include Olohega, who is part of America but historically has been part of Tokelau but it's the only event that brings us together as one nation."

Mr Patelehio says one focus this year was career options for young people.

"The hope for the future part of our vision, we have turned the volume a little bit more, this year we focussed on the IT industry and the digital world, we are encouraging our youth to consider that as a viable career options."

Dawn Patelehio who is the vice-treasurer of the Mafutaga says there's a real push to get more young people on board.  

"Obliviously with our theme, we are going to learn from our elders so that we can teach our young ones as well"

She also says this year for the first time young children were allowed to take part in the fatele (hatele) Tokelau or cultural dance.

My daughter is part of it and she's been buzzing for the last two to three months, and it goes back again to our theme, we want to bring our young people ones up, we want them to be proud of being Tokelau."

The New Zealand areas represented at this year's festival were from Porirua, Hutt Valley, Rotorua/Taupo and Auckland.

"I first attended the festival as a 15 year-old, in those days it was just mostly sports events," says Roni Vaovasa, the new secretary of the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau.

"In the start, it was a way for young Tokelauans in New Zealand to get together, and talk about their culture and about what Tokelauan meant for us, because there were so few of us," she said.

"The event has really grown since then, and it's great to see young people being proud about being Tokelauan."

"I now bring my own kids to the event, and this year my daughter is dancing."