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Water fights Thai ritual

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
Thai Festival

ON DISPLAY: Siritha Phetbamrung will play the string instrument known as a khim and Kamonchanok Rongrak will play the traditional drum or klong at the Auckland International Cultural Festival.

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Revellers in Thailand celebrate the three-day Songkran Festival with huge water fights in the streets at the end of the dry season in April.

But you don't have to jump on a plane to see what it's all about.

Aspects of the celebration will also be showcased this Sunday during the free Auckland International Cultural Festival at Mt Roskill War Memorial Park from 10am till 5pm.

Maneeka Campbell is the founder and president of Thai Culture New Zealand Society.

"Mainly we want to show New Zealanders how our New Year's ceremony is done," she says.

Water plays a key role in Thai culture.

People use it each morning to wash the hands and feet of elders as a sign of respect.

They also use it to clean Buddha images in household shrines and monasteries - an act designed to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year.

Residents take to the streets with bowls and containers during Songkran and use them to throw water over each other.

"There is a lot of music and drumming. It's a big party on the street," Mrs Campbell says.

Friends Siritha Phetbamrung, 23, and Kamonchanok Rongrak, 17, are among performers and will play traditional Thai music.

Miss Phetbamrung plays the string instrument known as the khim and Miss Rongrak, 17, uses a drum or klong.

The friends also share a love of dance and have been performing as part of the Thai Culture New Zealand Society at community events for the past three years.

The girls' dance skills are self-taught and they like to learn both traditional and contemporary styles from different regions of Thailand.

"If there's a festival coming up we try to find a new dance to practice. We create our own dances by watching YouTube," Miss Phetbamrung says.

"We like traditional styles because we wanted to keep our culture.

"Even in Thailand people are losing their culture.

"They tend to be more Western in their way of thinking."

The international festival is always a fun day, the AUT student says.

"We always go and see other dancers and try the food of other cultures.

"It's a good opportunity to see all these cultures you might not know a lot about," she says.

WHAT'S ON AT THE FESTIVAL

Come and celebrate the diversity of the city at the Auckland International Cultural Festival.

War Memorial Park on May Rd, Mt Roskill will be packed with about 100 food, craft and display stalls, four cultural zones and performers across four stages. Events will be held on March 30 from 10am to 5pm.

Wesley Intermediate School will provide parking at a cost of $3 a day.

Go to aucklandcouncil. govt.nz and search Auckland International Cultural Festival for details.

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