Since it began 27 years ago, Auckland’s award-winning Pasifika Festival has grown to become the largest Pacific Island cultural festival of its kind in the world.
In the early 1990s, former New Zealand Herald Pacific affairs reporter Roy Vaughan worked with community leaders like Cook Islands Consul General Bill Te Ariki and Reverend Leuatea Sio to bring together different Pacific communities, churches and leaders around an idea of a ‘South Pacific Week’.
From there, the first festival was a joint initiative between the newly formed South Pacific Island Nations Development Association and the then-Auckland City Council, to celebrate and share Pacific Island cultures and bring Pasifika communities together.
Over the years, Pasifika has featured fashion shows, theatre performances, a pop opera and sports competitions, with input from numerous Pacific Island leaders, performers and community groups. Its duration has varied between one and two days, sometimes with ancillary events on preceding evenings.
In 1998, the village concept was introduced to show the diversity within the Pacific and ensure the cultural integrity and community connections of the festival, reflecting the islands’ diversity in terms of food, culture and lifestyle.
Pasifika now hosts 10 distinctly different villages, each with a performance stage and market, to show the diversity of the Pacific cultures represented. The villages represent the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Aotearoa, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Tuvalu, Tonga and Tokelau.
Each village has their own performance stage featuring traditional and contemporary performances and market stalls selling signature dishes and crafts unique to their culture.
The annual festival now attracts around 60,000 visitors over the two days (depending on weather); features about 220 local and international performance groups; and more than 200 food and craft stalls, including artisans who travel from the islands to take part.