18 Apr 2017

Niue celebrates its 5th Arts and Cultural Festival

2:42 pm on 18 April 2017

Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural Festival is now underway with hundreds of participants and visitors taking part in the week-long event.

The festival, which takes place every two years, kicked off on Friday evening with the official opening ceremony held in the island's capital, Alofi.

The small island nation of around 1600 people is bustling this week with tourists and visitors who have flown in from as far as Europe and North America.

Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural festival

Students of Niue High School perform the traditional Niuean dance called the Takalo Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

Mary Williams and her partner are on holiday in Niue and have travelled all the way from their home in Belgium.

While they were surprised to learn that tens of thousands of Niueans have settled overseas, Ms Williams said it was exciting to witness the strength of Niuean culture maintained on the island.

"I'm glad to see that this community and this island nation has really found a way to bring its people back and to keep these things alive," Mary William said.

Ukulele players perform at the cultural night

Ukulele players perform at the cultural night Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

There are only two flights a week into the island and peak season for tourism hasn't even begun yet.

But the festival, which takes place every two years, has been timed specifically to encourage more visitors in during Niue tourism's shoulder season.

The Acting CEO of Tourism, Saluma Hunt, said she was hoping to see a significant increase in the island's population this week.

Acting CEO of Niue Tourism Saluma Hunt

Acting CEO of Niue Tourism Saluma Hunt Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

"I'm feeling really excited actually and being in the middle of it all, it's so exciting," she said.

"We expect quite high numbers to be around but this is a good introduction to the high season."

The festival activities include music, theatre, dance, visual art exhibitions, carving workshops, poetry events and more.

The events feature local participants as well as overseas artists like Niuean artist Sarah Magaoa, a teacher from South Auckland, who is showcasing some of her artworks this week.

Sarah Magaoa with her mother Faso Magaoa, standing with some of her artworks which are on display at the Niue Tourism Centre

Sarah Magaoa with her mother Faso Magaoa, standing with some of her artworks which are on display at the Niue Tourism Centre Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

She said it felt good to come home and give back to her island.

"Because I was raised here on the island, I went overseas to do training and stayed on to work. Coming home and bringing back what I do makes me feel good. You know, that I'm able to return something back to the island," Sarah Magaoa said.

While her work is on display in the main town centre, other exhibitions are taking place all across the island in an effort to involve more remote villages.

Renowned Pacific artist John Pule has now settled back in Niue and is exhibiting his artwork inside his home in the village Liku.

John Pule at his home exhibition in Liku village, Niue

John Pule at his home exhibition in Liku village, Niue Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

He said many of the art works in the festival are a great platform to tell stories about Niue people and their cultural heritage.

Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural festival

Niue's 5th Arts and Cultural festival Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

At the official opening, Premier Sir Toke Talagi emphasised that the Arts and Cultural festival was more than just art and dancing, but a way to show the world what Niue is about.

"This is what this is about, it's not about the dancing necessarily although that's an important part of our culture, it is about the way we live, the way we think, the way we do things. Niue, we think, is a unique place and it's our slice of paradise and I hope you enjoy yourselves here", he said.

Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi, speaking at the official opening ceremony of the island's 5th Arts and Cultural Festival 2017

Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi, speaking at the official opening ceremony of the island's 5th Arts and Cultural Festival 2017 Photo: RNZI Indira Stewart

Sir Toke said he was hopeful the festival will show people how far Niue has come, despite mass emigration over the years.

While 1600 people live on island, nearly 30,000 Niueans live overseas.

"My expectation is that we all learn what it was like when we were very young, when I was very young, to where we have progressed to now."

"I certainly am very proud of the fact that we have done a lot of things that have made it better for people who want to stay here."

The festival will end on Thursday evening.