By Ruci Farrell - firstname.lastname@example.org
The world's largest secondary school festival celebrating Maori and Pacific cultures and languages gets underway today in Auckland.
Opening ceremony at 2018 ASB Polyfest at Manukau Sports Bowl. Photo/ Facebook - Aupito William Sio.
According to Polyfest organisers, last year's festival drew more than 80,000 visitors from 62 schools and 10,521 students across the four-day event.
Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio, who will open Polyfest alongside Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, says the ASB Polyfest has come full circle in its 43 years, with pioneers returning to celebrate the iconic event.
In a first for Polyfest, a school from outside of Aotearoa - the Cook Islands' Tereora College - has been invited to perform as special guests at the festival.
One of the teachers accompanying students from Tereora College studied with Aupito at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara.
"We need to be exploring as many opportunities for the next generation to make sure that they are confident and proud of their cultures and languages," says Aupito.
"Students from Tereora College are coming with Mata, one of the founders of Polyfest, and that's exciting."
The Minister says Polyfest has come a long way celebrating New Zealand's Pacific roots.
Meanwhile, a Samoan sasa performed by 53 special needs students from Mount Richmond School is expected to draw large crowds to the ASB Polyfest's Diversity Stage today.
Teacher John Hassle says his kids are looking forward to their first taste of Polyfest.
"We've called it Pacific island fusion. A bit of Samoan. A bit of Maori stuff blended together. We try to put a little bit of everything in the show," he says.
Attending the opening ceremony are traditional leaders from around the Pacific region including Niue, Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa.
Opening Polyfest Speech by Minister for Pacific Peoples in Samoan and English
Speaking to the young people at Polyfest's opening ceremony, the Minister refers to the 4 Bs - the brown, the beautiful, the brainy and the bilingual - he asks for their voice in shaping a new vision for the Pasifika communities of Aotearoa New Zealand.
"Think about where we have come from, what you are doing, and the future, where you want to be. Think about what that means...When our Maori and Pasifika young people are successful, this country will also be successful and achieve its fullest potential...from the first arrivals of our migration story, to the parents who are here..."