Pasifika stallholder: Last minute cancellation was 'ridiculous'

By Bronson Perich
The Masters of KMD Ukuleles. Source/File.

The Pasifika Community are reeling in shock at the last minute cancellation of the Auckland Pasifika Festival. Many had come from overseas, bringing the treasures of their homelands to sell in Aotearoa.

Fortunately, the out of work stallholders had been invited to other Auckland events to sell their wares. We spoke to several operators, who had set up shop at the Pop Up Pasifika flea market, held at the Pacific Business Hub and Manukau.

Māmā Teroro Totini (Ngāti Mutunga, Kuki 'Āirani, operator of KMD Ukuleles had come from the Cook Islands, to sell hand made ukuleles. Totini commented about the cancellation, "I think it's ridiculous! Very unfair."

Helping whānau in the home islands

Iri Maono shows the handmade crafts made by his whanaunga - Photo / File

Iri Maono, from French Polynesia commented, on how he felt when he heard the announcement.

“We were quite sad you know. We’ve spent a lot of money getting our stuff over from Tahiti.”

Selling Polynesian goods in Aotearoa is an important way for tangata Pasifika to help their whānau and villages. The operators explained how their commerce benefits their communities, both here and back home.

Maono explains his crafts are made by whānau members in the outer islands of French Polynesia. They make their living solely from the sale of these goods. 

"It's an opportunity for us to help them, because we can sell these off for them," Maono says.

The cultural value of Pasifika arts and crafts

For Māmā Totini, there is great cultural value in selling Pasifika handicrafts and taonga here in Aotearoa.

"Our people come to the Pasifika, for the products that come from home," Māmā Tōtini says.

"It’s the products we bring from home that make them feel at home."

Like other stallholders, these operators are fine with the cancellation. The number one issue is, that up until Friday 13 March, they were assured, that Pasifika was still going ahead. Māmā Totini expressed her frustration thus.

"I think it's ridiculous!"

"I mean we all knew about the Coronavirus a couple of months ago.

“Why didn't they cancel it a month ago!?"

Fortunately South Auckland events like Rage in the Park, and Pop Up Pasifika have given stallholders a chance to recoup their costs.

Māmā Totini has been selling ukuleles at Pasifika for the past 10 years. But after two years of consecutive cancellations, Māmā Totini is considering a change.

"I'm not sure if we're going to continue to come to the Pasifika, because they can't make up their minds!"