School festival unmasks cultural strands

School celebrates 'global village'

Last updated 09:00 15/03/2014

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Motivating words from movie star Jackie Chan had a Palmerston North secondary school embracing cultural differences with added energy.

Awatapu College's annual Festival of Cultures finished yesterday, with students from more than 30 nationalities donning dress from their home countries.

Along with Kiwis wearing Swandri shirts and gumboots, there were Japanese kimonos, Mexican sombreros, French berets, Tongan ta'ovala - or grass mats - and African-inspired face paint.

Head boy Seamus Elliott, 17, said the week was an opportunity to teach others about different cultures and celebrate the college's diverse composition.

"For me, it's all about school life and the different cultures we have here who come together to make the school body," he said.

"[As I said in assembly], in the words of Jackie Chan: ‘We live now in a global village and we are in one single family. It's our responsibility to bring friendship and love from all different places around the world and to live together in peace.' "

The school's cultural festival started in 2003 with a one-day celebration where students wore clothing from their home countries.

Now the week-long festival includes an international market day, assembly and dress day, as well as an Amazing Race-style competition, performances, games and traditional food tasting.

The school's director of international education Mary Mathews said it was about recognising students' cultures and customs, while raising awareness and growing world knowledge.

The international roll call includes Thailand, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Austria and France, just to name a few, she said.

Awatapu students Joe and Sam Phiri, 18 and 16, moved from Zambia to Palmerston North four years ago so their father could complete a PhD in veterinary science at Massey University.

The brothers said they loved New Zealand but would always call Zambia home, Sam said.

"This week is a chance to show people what Zambia is all about." "It's been a pleasure being recognised like this . . . it brings a sense of belonging and it reminds us of home," Joe said.

The pair won prizes for their effort on the school's international dress day by donning clothing replicating Zambia's traditional garb.

As well as wearing animal print cloaks, pieces of cloth and holding wooden staffs, their faces were painted in war markings of a chief and guard's traditional masks.

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- Manawatu Standard

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