Pasifika Festival Enlightens US Student
American university student Hailey Tucker questioned her own cultural identity when she attended Auckland’s recent Pasifika Festival.
“As much as studying abroad has taught me about the South Pacific and specifically New Zealand, I have learned just as much and gained as many new perspectives about myself, the United States and what it means to be an American,” Tucker writes in a feature for the student newspaper of the University of Southern California, Trojan Daily.
“[Pasifika] was the 25th annual celebration of Pacific Island cultural and the largest in the world. The festival featured ‘villages’ from 11 Polynesian cultures, some of which I had never heard of – Niue and Tuvalu, to name two. I instantly recognised Fijian, Hawaiian and Samoan villages.
“Everything varied in content, but it was all being carried out by people who care deeply about the preservation of their culture and wished to share it not only with their own people, but others who are interested as well.
“The festival really got me thinking, though: What cultural identity do we pass down from generation to generation as Americans? Maori children often learn their native language and rituals, but there isn’t an equivalent for us. Perhaps we take for granted the fact that American culture isn’t going anywhere, so we don’t feel a pressing need to showcase our best act for the rest of the world.
“There was something powerful in watching passion come from these nations, and it had nothing to do with fireworks or hot dogs. Everything about the festival was promoting empowerment through cultural identity.
“I have been very lucky to be able to experience the culture of not just one country, but an entire region during my time in New Zealand, and it has brought to my attention many of the deficits that Americans lack in cultural areas.”
Original article by Hailey Tucker, Daily Trojan, March 31, 2017.