Marcellin College

Auckland Polynesian Festival

How the Tongan groups are organised at the Festival

We interviewed Mr Semisi Talakia’atu a teacher in our mathematics department.

What inspired you to support our Tongan Group.

To start off with I like dancing and music very much. I am also a person who likes to see the conservation of Tongan culture.

This year the host school was Otahuhu College. How is the host school where all the meetings are held selected?

Any school can be the host school, but only for 2 years in a row. The host school for the following year is chosen by the Tongan Committee and the Principals' Association.

Can you tell us how the Tongan groups are organised?

All the Secondary Schools who wish to take part in the Tongan competition at the festival are invited to send a representative to a Tongan meeting. At this meeting a committee, including the chairperson and secretary will be selected by all these representatives. The secretary will have the job of liasing with the overall organiser of the festival Mr SeuSeu and organising the Tongan Stage.

How are Tongan judges appointed and what kind of qualifications do they need? Do they have to be Tongans?

To answer your first question, the committee will invite some people in the community who are very knowledgeable about Tongan culture to be the judges. For instance this year they asked Dr Makina (A senior lecturer from the anthropology department at Auckland University) to be the Chief Judge. They also asked Dr Manuatu who is a senior lecturer at the Akoranga Campus to be a judge. The judges can be different from year to year, depending on whom the committee wants.

To answer the second question, no you do not have to be a Pacific Islander to be a judge. For instance Richard Moyle from Auckland University has been a Judge . The committee nominated him because he has a great deal of knowledge about Tongan dance .

What do judges look for in each item, and how do they choose the winners.

The judges will circulate their criteria to every participating school.

First the judges will mark the song. Every song must be composed to fit the theme. The words of the song will be given to the judge and the marking will be based on that. The words of the song should not just be straightforward, it should have some metaphors in it.

The judges will also mark the costumes and whether they are traditional or not. Then they will give points for the actions i.e. the movements of the body and the beat ( the fasi)

We always seem to do 2 items. Is each school given a set number of items?

The Festival competition lasts for 2 days. If each school wanted to do more than 2 items we wouldn’t be able to fit all the performances in. But if we had 3 days we could….perhaps that’s something to think about.

There is also the time factor. We only have from February until March to practice our items. This is a very short time to so it is easier to stay with 2 items.

Why did our school do the Milolua again this year?

On the first day our Tongan team meets at Marcellin the students chose the dances. Sometimes the Punake decides but we allow our students to choose

The Tongan traditional dances change every year. New ideas are adopted by our Panakes and our Taufokanua. Our items were different from the way we had performed in the past. We are permitted to do this by the judges.

Mr Talakia'atu.

Mr Talakia'atu at the festival being dressed by his daughter Keleni.