News & Events

Festival of Cultures: Celebrating connections and community

Friday March 15 2019

It’s that time of the year again when different cultures in Palmerston North converge to celebrate diversity and community. The Festival of Cultures is one of Palmerston North’s longest-standing community events. This year the festival will be on 16 to 23 March, featuring entertainment, food, performances, workshops and cultural activities galore.

Photo shows group of women and children in traditional cultural dress.

Thousands of people gather in the city every year for Palmy’s Festival of Cultures.

For sisters Sea, Levi, and Feaolafani, it’s a time to once again showcase their unique tradition—just like they did when they debuted in the late 90s, at the festival’s first year. They are leading Le Masina Arts and Culture Group, a Samoan family dance ensemble.

“Our family love dancing. We’re doing the traditional Samoan dance. It’s my passion to teach this tradition to our young girls and to our community,” Lemalu Sea Tini Tulitua says.

Sea moved to Palmerston North in the 1970s. She eventually got married and raised her children here. Sea says she is very proud of Palmerston North and how welcoming the city is.

“I wouldn’t live elsewhere. We’re part of this community. We love the idea of all cultures joining and coming together. It’s one thing with Palmy: We respect each other’s cultures.”

Photo shows four Pasifika women in traditional cultural dress with flowers in their hair.

The Le Masina Arts and Culture Group.

Le Masina Arts and Culture will join more than 20 local and international performers at the World, Food, Craft, and Music Fair line-up on Saturday 23 March. There will also be more than 100 food and craft stalls and the ‘Have-a-Go’ tent, where festival-goers can try out free cultural activities.

The Festival of Cultures will open with the colourful Lantern Parade on Saturday 16 March. Hand-crafted lanterns will fill the Square. Many of these were created during the lantern workshops organised by REACT (Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Centre Trust). The night will burst with street performances, a Balkan-groove marching band and the unveiling of the new centrepiece Year of the Pig lantern. The Manawatū Chinese Association is doing the parade’s lion dance. The association’s president, Allan Young, says this is a time for people to join and share in the festivities.

“The Lantern Parade symbolises reunion. It’s for everyone to reunite and celebrate. Through events like this, we are more enriched and aware of each other’s cultures and identities.”

Photo shows people carrying colourful lanterns through the Square at night with the clocktower in the background.

The Lantern Parade on Saturday 16 March will kick off the week-long festival.

Throughout the week, there will be many other events and activities as part of the festival. One of those is the Festival of Colours on Friday 22 March at the Manawatū Riverside Park. It is a student-friendly event inspired by India’s Holi Festival.

“Palmy is such a vibrant and colourful city. We have so many students coming from diverse nationalities from all around the world. With the Festival of Colours, they will get to see a new festival and they’re going to enjoy so much,” Priyanka Sharma, one of the Festival of Colours organisers, says about the paint powder party.

Palmerston North City Council funds and organises this event in association with the Manawatū Multicultural Council.