- The Pacific Festivals of Aotearoa New Zealand: Negotiating Place and Identity in a New Homeland by Jared Mackley-Crump
The Pasifika Festival, the largest Pacific festival in the world, is held annually in March at Western Springs, Auckland. In 2012, it attracted between 100,000 and 200,000 people, including visitors, community members, and performers. In The Pacific Festivals of Aotearoa New Zealand: Negotiating Place and Identity in a New Homeland, Jared Mackley-Crump provides a welcome genealogy of this event, as well as other Pacific festivals, within the global context of “festivalization” and the specific sociocultural formations of race and migration policy in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The author adopts an interdisciplinary framework, making use of his ethnomusicology background, ethnographic fieldwork methods, and conceptual innovations drawn from Pacific and Indigenous scholarship. The key question guiding this wide-ranging book is: “Do Pacific festivals reflect the ways in which the Pacific diaspora is constructed, is imagined, and has evolved in New Zealand?” (4). The Pacific Festivals of Aotearoa New Zealand demonstrates this evolution through analyses of festival organization, musical performances, and interviews with key participants about identity, place, and belonging.
Part 1 provides a historical context for Pacific festivals in Aotearoa beginning with an overview of Pacific migration focused on the period from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. Major sociocultural and political policy changes during this time, such as the dramatic Dawn Raids of the mid-1970s, saw the deportation of thousands of Pacific people—many of whom were legal residents—and created widespread fear and mistrust. From this environment, the first festivals emerged as a creative response to marginalization. In subsequent decades, and as the New Zealand–born Pacific population has grown, new forms of cultural and political organization have emerged in concert with Pacific festivals around the country. Chapter 1 covers the origins of these and other multicultural festivals, in text and with tables, before moving on to an analysis of the Pasifika Festival and Wellington’s Positively Pasifika Festival in subsequent chapters. While this in-depth documentation will no doubt be a very useful historical record for interested parties, it contains a level of detail that may not appeal to more generalist readers. This could also be said about the analysis of logistics, infrastructure, and event management of the festivals. Nevertheless, at various points throughout [End Page 494] this first part we are treated to some fascinating insights as to the workings of organizational structures, including the way stakeholders narrate their roles and tensions between government and community groups in terms of engagement and control of the final event’s production.
Part 2 shifts focus to the “festival space,” based on fieldwork at both the Pasifika and Positively Pasifika Festivals that included the author working with organizers in the lead-up to the events. Four key themes emerge that comprise the chapters: logistics, leadership, and development; performances; community; and place, identity, and belonging. Sensitively rendered interviews with key administrative staff, performers, and “village” stall coordinators are a highlight of the book. However, very little sense is given of the composition of the festivals’ audiences, making it hard to gauge who attends. Are they predominately Pacific Islander? Or do Māori, Pākehā, and other non-Pacific people also attend? Nevertheless, Mackley-Crump creates intimate portraits of how Pacific identities are formulated in urban spaces as well as through transnational networks of kin and community. Hip-hop artist King Kapisi, for example, describes how his performances at Pacific festivals form part of his aim to inspire and “give back” to young Pacific people. Part of this obligation to the community also involves toning down swearing and performing the “happy” rather than the “angry” tracks, so as not to shame his family. Te Awanui “Awa” Reeder, of the group Nesian Mystik, humorously adds to this statement: “I’m not worried about the reviewers in the magazine; I’m worried about Auntie going...