17 Oct 2023

Fijian language week ends with national day celebrations in NZ

1:34 pm on 17 October 2023
Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023

Young dancers perform at Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023 Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton

Community pride of Fijian culture has been showcased at the annual Fiji Day Festival in Aotearoa New Zealand over the weekend.

Hundreds of Fijians who call Aotearoa home gathered to celebrate the countries 53rd Independence Day to end Fijian Language Week.

Mangere Centre Park was filled with the tantalizing scent of local delicacies, sounds of traditional singing, and the sights of a range of handmade arts and crafts, cultural performances and more.

It's the 8th time Fiji Day has been officially marked in New Zealand and event Co-ordinator Greg Traill said it's only getting bigger and better every year.

He was especially touched seeing the many families who brought their children along to the event.

He says it is very important for youth to connect with their heritage and experience a slice of home away from home.

Gesturing behind him he says: "The Fiji cultural ceremony going on in the background; that's part of our fiji language week for our kids to know their culture."

"It's really awesome to see the display of culture going on at the moment and for New Zealand born Fiji kids to preserve and sustain our language."

Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023

Fiji Day opens with a traditional Kava ceremony Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton

Fiji Day also improves the mental health of the community living in Aotearoa.

The Service Clinical Director for 'Folotofale', a Pasifika mental health service, Qoriniasi Tuifagalele said these gatherings help reassure and boost morale amongst dispersed Fijians that may not have other opportunities to connect with their culture and community.

"This is huge for the well-being for iTaukei Fijians," he said.

"For some of us, we don't see each other as often as we would do back in the islands, but I think for now, just to be able to look at someone you havent for 12 months, it gives hope that we're still alive and that helps with our well-being."

Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023

Fiji Day proves to be a fun family event. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton

According to the 2018 census, there are close to 20,000 Fijians in Aotearoa, and the number is expected to have grown since.

The largest residential population is in Auckland where over half the figure live.

The Fijian government acknowledged the importance of connecting to these members, sending its foreign affairs assistant minister Lenora Qereqeretabua to attend the event.

"Our nation is a vibrant tapestry of culture and traditions and languages and its this diversity that distinguishes us, while our unity defines us," she said.

Qereqeretabua mingled with the community as she explored the festival market stalls, taking in all the scents and sights.

"It's just wonderful to see so many of our diaspora come together you know, I can smell the curries, I can smell the Fiji style barbecues, there's going to be great entertainment."

She said such events are all about "unifying our diaspora because we've got Rotumans, we've got Indo-Fijians, we've got Indigenous Fijians, we've got so many other communities from Fiji that have called Aotearoa home, we just have to get everybody working together."

Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023

Community members take photos with Hon. Lenora Qereqeretabua. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton

Fiji Day was a huge success, filled with a sea of smiles and a deep sense of pride and belonging for the Fijian community within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over a thousand people were milling around, with families laying out mats on the grass to sit down as they enjoyed the range of entertainment put on by local ethnic groups.

The performances went on until late into the afternoon with families leaving with full tummies, and full hearts.

Fiji Day Aotearoa 2023

Hundreds attend Fiji Day Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tiana Haxton