ASB Polyfest taonga for the late George Pomana

By Leo Horgan

The 42nd ASB Polyfest starts this Wednesday at 7:00am with a special flag raising ceremony and powhiri at the Manukau Sports Bowl. 

This year’s powhiri has special significance, marking the memory of one of the festival’s great leaders George Pomana, who passed away on January 1. Three carved taonga will be carried in in at the start by James Cook High School students, and placed at the foot of the Maori stage. These taonga will be presented in each of the three divisions of Te Whare Wanaga o Awanuiarangi Maori Stage to the group that shows the “greatest spirit of the festival”.

George Pomana played many roles at the ASB Polyfest as leader of James Cook High School cultural groups, and Tumuaki and Kaiako of the school’s Te Pou Herenga Waka.  He also lead the efforts of James Cook High School, when they were the festival’s host school from 2005 – 2007.

More recently, Pomana developed the structure of Kura Matua and Mana Kura Schools to host each festival stage, after realising that one host school for the overall festival had become too onerous.

When speaking of George Pomana, his friend and colleague at James Cook High School, John Brandon said – “George’s vision of how the festival could grow and still be hosted by schools, an essential element of the kaupapa, provided the structure for what we see today. His vision also created opportunity for more rangatahi to be recognised for their efforts and created a pathway for participants to graduate to winners.  He was a great leader and a wonderful man.”

Another colleague at James Cook High School, and stage co-ordinator for the Massey University Tongan Stage, Fane Ketu’u remembers George Pomana as “a great leader and someone who walked the talk”. Ketu’u said that Pomana “worked extremely hard and made many sacrifices for the ASB Polyfest to help make it the iconic youth festival that it is today.”