Auckland's Polyfest welcomes crowds back for 48th year

After three years of disruptions caused by Covid-19, Polyfest returned with a bang this year.

With crowds allowed back to watch performances, around 60,000 people took the opportunity to do this over the four-day event reports Tagata Pasifika. 

And it was a welcome return, says new Samoan stage judge Nafanuatele Lafitaga Mafaufau-Peters, who was thoroughly impressed by the turn out. 

“It’s been amazing,” she says.

“Coming from being a teacher and being on the other side of this whole process I’ve just been so proud of the students in terms of their energy (and) their effort.” 

Braving the morning drizzle early in the week for her people was Miss Samoa New Zealand, Shilohm Filipi, who was happy to see everyone back together again.

“It’s been very good to get everyone back. Festivals are a key corner stone in bringing our community together and it gives the kids something to practise and learn and hopefully uphold even after the festival,” says Filipi.

Being one of the largest Pacific festivals of its kind, Polyfest hosted 55 schools this year with one student from Wesley College, especially happy to take part.  

“We’re very good. We’re full Fijian and we just want to represent. Vinaka.”

As we headed to the Tongan stage, Mangere College Tutor and ex-Polyfest performer, Seluvaia Iloahefaiva, spoke about the importance of Polyfest for our youth.

“It’s really important to have these festivals for our young people because I think, if we don’t, especially in Auckland or New Zealand, we’re going to lose ourselves (and) our roots into who we really are.” she says.

Reiterating the importance of the festival was Tina Maro, who couldn’t contain her enthusiasm at the Cook Island stage. 

“The presence is beautiful,” she says. 

“When we wanna come and celebrate we celebrate with our food, our dances, our laughs, our smiles… I’m just happy. We’re so blessed!” 

More than 180 groups took part in this year’s annual Polyfest and 48 years on, the competition remains relentless. Considering the past few years of hardship, it was evident that it was just what most Aucklanders needed. 

Photo: Ann-Tauilo Motuga