Polyfest to showcase record 8000 student performers

10:44 pm on 18 March 2024
McAuley High School Niue Group

McAuley High School's Niue Group at last year's Polyfest. Photo: LDR / Supplied

An Auckland councillor is calling on people to support the world's biggest secondary school Pacific and Māori performance festival when it gets underway from Wednesday.

The ASB Polyfest will be held in south Auckland's Manukau Sports Bowl from 20-23 March. It will feature 239 performing groups from 69 schools across Aotearoa.

Organisers say they expect a record 8000 secondary school students performing traditional Pacific and Māori song and dances.

Manukau Ward councillor Alf Filipaina said people should get behind it and experience the wonderful atmosphere.

"It's amazing, it brings our communities together," Filipaina said.

He remembered the beginning of Polyfest in 1976, when it was started at Hillary College (now known as Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate) in Ōtara, by a group of students and teachers.

It began with just four schools, with students and teachers eager to demonstrate the pride of cultural identity.

The festival's first ever competition winners were Māngere College, followed by Hillary College and Seddon High School (now known as Western Springs College).

"Look what we got now, and how big it's grown. And the main thing is these students want to show off their culture and I think that is so cool."

ASB Polyfest Maori Stage, Day One, Auckland, New Zealand, Monday 3rd April 2023.
Photo: Ben Campbell / BC Photography

Sacred Heart College's kapa haka group. Photo: Ben Campbell / BC Photography

Filipaina said he was a part of the Polyfest when he started his career as a police officer, and was still involved as a councillor for Auckland.

"We see the benefits of it in our kids and our community. Tāmaki Makaurau, come down, you will enjoy it."

Students will perform and compete in speech, song and dance across six cultural stages - Cook Islands, Maori, Niue, Samoan, Tongan, and a diversity stage comprising cultures such as Chinese, Fijian, Tokelau, Indian, Korean and Sri Lankan.

Tibetean Dance St Cuthberts

A Tibetean dance from St Cuthbert's on last year's diversity stage. Photo: LDR / Supplied

Polyfest director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu said school entries have returned to pre-Covid numbers.

The theme for this year's festival is "Me anga whakamuri kia kohe whakamua - looking to our past to determine our future".

"It is our hope that our young people and schools will continue to draw on the stories of our ancestors to help them navigate their futures with a sense of self, a sense of belonging to something bigger and a sense of empowerment, knowing that the future is in their hands."

ASB commercial partnerships executive manager Mark Graham said they were proud to support Polyfest.

"It's been amazing to be part of this event over so many years and to see it progress into the festival it is today," Graham said.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs