Fijian Group makes history at Polyfest

On Thursday, 21 March, the combined Westlake Fijian group performed at Polyfest on the diversity stage for the first time, making Westlake history.

The group consisted of 15 Westlake Boys and 11 Westlake Girls and was tutored by Laisa Rasovo, accompanied by members of her extended family. The performers and a group of supporting students had to be up super early to catch the bus to Polyfest at 7 am. They had a beautiful day of sunshine to experience Polyfest afterwards. The performers walked onto the stage singing the traditional Bula Maleya and performed a Meke dance, which was very well received by the audience. A small group of senior students were also privileged to go to Polyfest on Friday, 22 March, to support the Westlake Boys Tongan Group’s performance. This account of the Polyfest experience is from one of the Fijian group performers, Year 11 Maddisyn Nolan So’oula.

Bula Vinaka, my name is Maddisyn Nolan So’oula. I am a Samoan Pasifika student, and I was a part of the combined Westlake Fijian Polyfest group for 2024. Despite not being Fijian, I took this opportunity to represent a beautiful Pasifika culture and our school at Polyfest. I anticipated that the majority of the members within the group would be Fijian and familiar with the cultural dancing and each other, but that didn’t stop me from showing up at every rehearsal, practice, and meeting. Over the five weeks we spent practising, I developed numerous friendships with others who I now consider close friends. I started the group only knowing one person and I left the group having made an amazing group of friends, both boys and girls. Performing within the Fijian group was an amazing experience and is something I am so thankful for participating in. This group not only offered me experience but new friendships, perspective on culture and appreciation. Although we had a smaller group than most, It was beautiful to see the diversity within the group; we had people from all different Pasifika cultures: Samoan, Tongan, Niuean, and even Maori. It didn’t matter if you were starting fresh or if you were familiar,everybody came together to help one another create a beautiful traditional Fijian meke.

The combined Westlake girls and boys Fijian Polyfest group for 2024 performed on Thursday, 21 March, you wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but we had only just over a month to create, teach and learn our meke. Despite the limited time we were running on we managed to perform a beautiful traditional Fijian meke successfully at Polyfest. We got on that stage and gave it our all and performed our hearts out.I was so appreciative when I saw the amount of students and whanau who went out of their way to come watch us perform. It was so bittersweet and made the whole day entirely more special. This group has offered me so many opportunities within the Pasifika community. Not only that, but I have learnt so much about the Fijian culture and traditions. Getting involved in Pasifika activities here at Westlake Girls opens you up to entirely new experiences and knowledge, Polyfest is an excellent way of showcasing the beauties of the Pasifika culture that students have spent numerous hours preparing to perform. I have taken so much out of my experience as a member of the Fijian group and can’t wait to engage in more cultural activities and educate others on what I have since learnt. And finally, to our tutor, Laisa Rasovo, a parent to two of the Westlake boys members. She was extremely dedicated to our grou. She gave up hours of her free time to create our outfits, run practices, and prepare for our big performance and for that we are extremely grateful. Without Laisa, we wouldn’t have created such a beautiful take on a Fijian meke and been able to represent the Westlake school for its first Fijian Polyfest group ever in history.

Many memories were made over the short period of time I spent with my Polyfest group but I cherish those memories deeply and highly encourage people from all cultures to participate next year. I hope I have made an impact on increasing the participation within future Pasifika activities and hope to see some of you next year!

Bula Vinaka vakalevu, and Moce Na Tamata Kecega!