21 Apr 2017

Disappointment over lack of overseas Niueans at festival

9:16 am on 21 April 2017

While Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural Festival attracted many tourists, there is disappointment in the number of overseas Niueans who attended.

The week-long festival, which takes place every two years, closed with a finale showcase on Thursday evening in the island's capital, Alofi.

One of the festival's aims is to help connect Niue's local population of around 1600 people with the nearly 30,000 Niueans living overseas.

While hundreds of participants and visitors took part in this year's festival events, there were significantly fewer overseas Niueans attending than in previous years.

Pilena Vakaafi Motufoou was selling food in Alofi's commercial centre this week, where many of the festival's main events were held.

She said this year's festival was different.

A food vendor at Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural festival.

Pilena Vakaafi Motufoou Photo: RNZ/ Indira Stewart

"There's a lot of changes in the festival this year. It's a lot less people. It's sad to see," she said

"We would like to see all the other Niueans from Auckland, Australia also. It would be nice to have them here with us."

Another vendor Mitakilio Tafulua, agreed.

"This one was a little bit slow. We just stay and watch out...'are they coming or no?'

"Some of them are busy from family reunions, some of them are late to come," Ms Tafulua said.

The festival is a joint initiative by Niue's Tourism Department as well as the Taoga Niue, a cultural division of the government.

Moira Enetama heads the Taoga Niue and said while numbers were lower this year, she was still pleased with those who participated.

Niue festival

Moira Enetema, the Director of the Taoga Niue, a cultural arm of the government. Photo: RNZ/ Indira Stewart

"This is it. Only a few people to share the work and a few people to attend the activities but hey, we have people who turn up to express themselves to say that they are the Tagata Niue, this is [their] Vagahau,"Ms Enetama said.

"Of course it requires a lot of effort and commitment and to a standard that we want our visitors to come back again to future festivals."

Ms Vakaafi Motufoou said improvements could be made to how the next festival is planned and marketed.

"The co-ordinators for the festival have to come up with something that really attracts the eye of the [overseas] Niuean people and something that really perks them up to come to the island."

Premier Sir Toke Talagi said the festival has deviated from what he originally thought it should be and said that he may review it, if he wins his seat in next month's election.

Toke Talagi

Sir Toke Talagi Photo: RNZ/ Indira Stewart

"We are trying to do too many things in a short period of time when we should split it," he explained.

"So don't be surprised if next year, if I am still the Premier, that I split the festival into two parts. One, the performing arts and the other one, the cultural and Taoga Niue aspects of it."

The next festival is set to take place in 2019.