The 42nd Auckland secondary schools ASB Polyfest has got underway in Manukau City. The southern hemisphere's largest cultural competition began with a traditional welcome ceremony of the schools and trophies, including three new carved taonga to commemorate one of the festival's stalwarts' the late George Hori Pomana.
It was an emotional welcome for the family and students of James Cook High's Te Puutake Māori unit as they brought the three George Pomana Memorial Trophies in honour of their leader Hori Pomana.
Former Collegue, Mahia Nathan and Principal of Te Wharekura o Manurewa says, "Hori, return to us in spirit, return to us in spirit, return to us in spirit to this occasion that you, your teams and your school entered long ago."
Leader of Te Puutake Māori Unit Hammond Matua says, “I'm under a cloud of loneliness for him. As a result, today is tinged with great sadness that our father is not with us.”
The three trophies will be awarded to the group from all three divisions who shows the "greatest spirit of the festival".
Nathan says, "If you were alive, you'd be here advocating with convincing speech and challenging issues for the benefit of the students."
South Auckland's Alfriston College was the first group from division three to kick off the competition on the Māori stage.
Matua says, “Our focus for this year’s competition is for the audience to hear the tribute songs that have been composed by the students, which will be seen in all of our three groups.”
Te Rehia Matua, (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tuhoe) says, “We'll do what we came to do and make our Pāpā proud. He'll be smiling down on us.”
A record 228 groups from 60 schools are performing on five stages over the next four days, an embodiment of the saying by Hori Pomana, "Who are the benefits for? For the student."
Kaaden Takawe Kingi (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi) says, “His spirit lives within the children and also the meeting house of Te Pou Herenga Waka.”
Division three continues tomorrow. Junior team Te Puutake will entertain the audience with some of Pomana's favourite songs, composed by him.