Try a taste of Thai cul­ture

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By KA­RINA ABA­DIA

REV­ELLERS in Thai­land cel­e­brate the three-day Songkran Fes­ti­val with huge wa­ter fights in the streets at the end of the dry sea­son in April.

But you don’t have to jump on a plane to see what it’s all about.

As­pects of the cel­e­bra­tion will also be show­cased this Sun­day dur­ing the free Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Cul­tural Fes­ti­val at Mt Roskill War Me­mo­rial Park from 10am till 5pm.

Ma­neeka Camp­bell is the founder and pres­i­dent of Thai Cul­ture New Zealand So­ci­ety.

‘‘Mainly we want to show New Zealan­ders how our New Year’s cer­e­mony is done,’’ she says.

Wa­ter plays a key role in the fes­ti­val.

People use it each morn­ing to wash the hands and feet of elders as a sign of re­spect.

They also use it to cleanse Buddha im­ages in house­hold shrines and monas­ter­ies – an act de­signed to bring good luck and pros­per­ity for the new year.

Res­i­dents take to the streets with bowls and con­tain­ers dur­ing Songkran and use them to throw wa­ter over each other.

‘‘There is a lot of mu­sic and drum­ming. It’s a big party on the street,’’ Mrs Camp­bell says.

Friends Siritha Phet­bam­rung, 23, and Ka­mon­chanok Ron­grak, 17, are among the per­form­ers and will play tra­di­tional Thai mu­sic.

Miss Phet­bam­rung plays the string in­stru­ment known as the khim and Miss Ron­grak, 17, uses a drum or klong.

The friends also share a love of dance and have been per­form­ing as part of the Thai Cul­ture New Zealand So­ci­ety at com­mu­nity events for the past three years.

The girls’ dance skills are self-taught and they like to learn both tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary styles from dif­fer­ent re­gions of Thai­land.

‘‘If there’s a fes­ti­val com­ing up we try to find a new dance to prac­tice. We cre­ate our own dances by watch­ing YouTube,’’ Miss Phet­bam­rung says.

‘‘We like tra­di­tional styles be­cause we wanted to keep our cul­ture.

‘‘Even in Thai­land people are los­ing their cul­ture.

‘‘They tend to be more Western in their way of think­ing,’’ she says.

The in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val is al­ways a fun day, the AUT stu­dent says.

‘‘We al­ways go and see other dancers and try the food of other cul­tures.

‘‘It’s a good op­por­tu­nity to see all these cul­tures you might not know a lot about,’’ she says.

Pho­tos: KA­RINA ABA­DIA

On dis­play: Siritha Phet­bam­rung will play the string in­stru­ment known as a khim and Ka­mon­chanok Ron­grak will play the tra­di­tional drum or klong at the Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Cul­tural Fes­ti­val.

Pas­sion­ate vol­un­teer: Ma­neeka Camp­bell, left, is the pres­i­dent of Thai Cul­ture New Zealand So­ci­ety.

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