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Performer brings hula heritage to festival

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014
Pasifika
INAUGURAL VILLAGE: Aulii Mitchell is looking forward to showcasing his culture in the Hawaiian Village at Pasifika Festival this weekend.

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Aulii Mitchell has Hawaiian hula in his blood.

He was six years old when his great-grandfather, grandfather and mother started teaching him the traditional dance and his passion for it has only grown since then.

Hula originated in Hawaii and is often accompanied by traditional music. Hand motions are used to represent the words in a song or chant.

It relates to tales of love, war, travels and the wonder and beauty of the Hawaiian islands, Mr Mitchell says.

"It's special to me because it's my identity. It's who I am. It's why I was put here on this earth."

Mr Mitchell is excited to be the village co-ordinator and cultural adviser for the inaugural Hawaiian village at Pasifika Festival 2014 at Western Springs Park this weekend.

The culture has been represented at the festival for about the past 10 years but it was previously incorporated into other villages.

Traditional and contemporary hula will be on display on the day, including performances from dance schools throughout the North Island.

He is studying Hawaiian hula for a masters programme in applied indigenous knowledge at Te Wananga O Aotearoa.

The hula group he teaches, which is called Halau O Moananuiakiwa, will also perform at the festival.

Around 20 traditional practitioners of Hawaiian arts are coming to Auckland for the event. Activities range from the art of lei making, bamboo stamp printing and learning how to prepare the Hawaiian staple of poi, or taro. It's made by mixing water with taro root which is boiled and then pounded to make a paste.

On the hour those involved in the village will perform a chant of gratitude and hand a sheet out so visitors can participate.

"It's a chant to come together and celebrate as well as to give thanks to our ancestors and the gods."

There will also be food stalls with Hawaiian fruit, smoothies and yoghurt and craft booths selling goods such as shell necklaces and earrings, bags, T-shirts and hula garments.

For this village he hopes people come and experience aloha, Mr Mitchell says.

"Aloha is that spirit of who we are, where we come from. It dwells in our spirit. It means love, hello, goodbye, passionate, gratitude - it means so much," the 53-year-old says.

The most common misconception people have about Hawaiians is that they are similar to Americans, he says.

"We don't identify with Western life.

‘We are very much our own people."

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There may not be many Hawaiian people living here but the diversity of other cultures is enriching, he says.

Go to aucklandnz.com/pasifika for more information on the festival.

- East And Bays Courier

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