Pupils proud to share their culture through Polyfest

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Southland Boys' High School Year 13 pupils Junior Lafoga (left) and Elisara Kuresa (both 17) with members of the school's Pasifika group Toa Moana during a practice session last week.

JUNIOR Lafoga and Elisara Kuresa have been actively involved in Murihiku Polyfest since its inception 12 years ago, as performers and backstage volunteers.

The Southland Boys’ High School (SBHS) pupils said they had got involved in Polyfest while at New River Primary School because their older siblings and cousins were involved, and they had continued on at secondary school because they enjoyed the event and the “brotherhood” of the SBHS’s Pasifika group Toa Moana.

“It is a fun thing to be a part of,” Junior said.

“It’s fun, especially with the islander boys around the school coming in,” Elisara said.

The Year 13 pupils now lead the 25-strong SBHS Pasifika group.

Hosted by Murihiku Maori and Pasifika Cultural Trust, Murihiku Polyfest festival gives young people from early childhood centres through to senior secondary school groups the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the Maori and Pasifika cultures with the wider Southland/Murihiku community.

What started as a one-day event in 2009 has now grown into a five-day festival because of its popularity and increasing demand from groups wanting to take part.

Junior and Elisara said Polyfest was about sharing their cultures with others, and they encouraged others to get involved.

“It is heaps of fun when you perform,” Elisara said. “The nerves go away when you are on stage.”

The pair thanked the organisers of Polyfest for giving them an opportunity to show their Samoan culture.

Toa Moana support teacher Junior Tonga said the boys were in their element when they performed.

“They are going to be a huge loss [to the school] when they move on as they have been a key part of the group and are very gifted performers.”

Murihiku Maori and Pasifika Cultural Trust director Pauline Smith said supporters like the two SBHS boys were the key to the festival’s success.

“They are creating the succession for the event.

“Being in it from the start, they obviously see it as important and also they have become role models for the younger ones coming through.

“Those boys have spent a lot of time in other schools tutoring and passing on their skills and knowledge and, although they are still young, they are already giving back.”

The trust was granted funding from the Ministry of Youth Development this year towards its Whakamanahia te Rangatahi, Youth Mentoring Project, which matches young people with the event’s key leaders to build their skills, knowledge and capacity and enable them to have a stronger leadership role at its events.

Murihiku Polyfest, ILT Stadium Southland, August 27-31

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