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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The ASB Polyfest: The Construction of Transnational Pacific Cultural Spaces in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Author(s): Ladwig Williams, Michelle
  • et al.

This paper connects historical and ethnographic research to examine the construction of physical and ideological transnational Pacific spaces within Aotearoa New Zealand’s longest-running Pacific festival and performance competition, the ASB Polyfest (The Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Cultural Festival). The festival was established through the self-determination of Māori and Pacific peoples and progressive educational leadership in Auckland during the 1960s and 1970s. First staged in 1976 as a competition amongst four community-driven “Polynesian clubs,” it has grown over four decades to involve approximately 10,000 individual participants and is a significant site for cultural transmission for transnational Pacific youth in Auckland. The origins of the festival are contextualised in the establishment of Māori and transnational Pacific communities in the southern suburbs of Auckland, who migrated for work opportunities during a period of rapid industrial growth and defied socioeconomic and geographic marginalisation. A present-day ethnography of rehearsals for the ASB Polyfest music and dance competition examines the processes by which physical spaces are transformed into socio-temporal spaces where transnational Pacific communities of practice are developed and a place of Pacific belonging is established. Ethnographic vignettes describing key milestones in festival preparation, and the culmination of these preparations at the festival competition, highlight the progression of the formation of communities of practice. These examples support the central argument that ASB Polyfest school cultural groups are uniquely constructed sociotemporal Pacific spaces where transnational Pacific identities are explored and represented.

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