NIUE – Niue’s fifth 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.
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, 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.
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.
“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.
She said it felt good to come home and give something 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,” 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.
He said many of the art works in the festival are a great platform to tell stories about Niue people and their cultural heritage.
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 a
“Niue, we think, is a unique place and it’s our slice of paradise and I hope you enjoy yourselves here”, he said.
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.”