The world’s biggest Tokelaun festival
Porirua will be playing host to the biggest gathering of Tokelauns in the world this Easter.
Tokelau Porirua Association president Alex Patelesio said up to 10,000 Tokelauns were expected to descend on the city for the Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Festival.
‘‘Porirua is the capital of Tokelau.
‘‘There’s more Tokes outside their homeland and most of them in New Zealand live in Porirua.
‘‘We have people coming from as far away as Hawaii.’’
With a 45-year history, there was no other event that brought the four atolls, or islands, of Tokelau together, he said.
‘‘It will be the sixth time Porirua has hosted it - if we can’t do it, nobody can.’’
Migration began in earnest in 1966 when a scheme was hatched to move most of Tokelau’s population of 1835 to New Zealand.
The festival began in the early 1970s as rugby competitions between the Tokelau migrant communities.
In 1979, the first official Easter festival was held in Porirua and it was the first one to include women with the sport of netball added to the programme.
While the original festivals were based firmly on sports, they now included much more of the Tokelaun culture, Patelesio said.
‘‘It’s about celebrating who we are and where we came from and making sure that our culture is still relevant in the modern world.
‘‘There’s a disconnect between the New Zealand-born kids and the culture they came from.’’
National president Antonio Patelesio said the four-day festival was great for Porirua’s economy.
‘‘There’s a lot of people to be fed and housed over that time, which will filter into businesses.’’
Rugby, basketball, volleyball and netball games would be held around the city, with the festivities based at Te Rauparaha Arena, he said.
Anybody with Tokelaun blood, married to a Tokelaun or who was ‘‘Tokelaun by association’’ was welcome to attend.
‘‘As Tokelauns become more and more wide spread and mixed with other cultures it’s important we have these festivals.
‘‘They’re always full of long lost Tokelauns finding each other.’’
According to the 2013 Census there were 7173 Tokelauns in New Zealand and 2007 in Porirua.
Koloi Patelesio, centre, leads Porirua College’s Tokelauan group for Polyfest 2013.