World’s biggest Tokelau gathering
An estimated 4000 to 5000 people are expected to descend on Porirua this week for the Tokelau International Festival.
The four-day sports and cultural event, which starts on Friday, is the biggest gathering of Tokelauans in the world. They will come from all around the country including some from as far as Hawaii.
The biannual festival had its humble beginnings among smaller groups of Tokelauans in the 1970s in Wellington. It has grown to the point where a national body has been established – Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau I Niu Hila (MTTNH).
The 2006 New Zealand Census identified around 6819 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, the majority in the Porirua area.
MTTNH president Charles Kalolo Patelesio says the theme this year is ‘‘Mai na matua, mo ki tatou, kin a fanau – Learning from yesterday, living today and hope for tomorrow’’.
‘‘The world is changing but this festival is our commitment to ensuring our Tokelau community is sustainable as a cultural haven, that inspires the younger Tokelauan generation to maintain their culture and identity,’’ he says.
Festival project manager Antonio Patelesio says this year is the 40th anniversary of the celebrations.
‘‘These festivals showcase Tokelauan culture, language and sporting talents. This year there is a stronger focus on youth.’’
The festival will begin with the arrival of teams and families on Thursday. Many of the teams will be hosted at the various halls, churches and camps around Porirua.
Friday will bring an opening ceremony; meetings, networking, mix and mingle activities throughout the day.
‘‘Saturday is when the action begins,’’ says Mr Patelesio. Mana College grounds will host rugby and tag tournaments, there will be netball at the Mungavin Ave courts, while Te Rauparaha Arena will host the volleyball tournament.
Cultural dance performances will be the focus of Saturday night, followed by a combined church service on Sunday and an arts and community expo at Te Rauparaha Arena. Sports finals and prizegiving will be on Monday.
Festival communication officer Catherine Mu says people throughout the country and overseas have been practising and training for the tournament.
‘‘There is a definite buzz around Porirua and our groups are raring to go.’’