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Posted by Philip on 15 March 2015, 12:48 pm in , , , , , , ,

When success becomes excess

People at PasifikaSaturday 14 March's NZ Herald editorial questions the future of the Pasifika Festival, dubbed the "biggest celebration of Pacific Island culture and heritage in the world". A short-notice move from its Western Springs Park home, because of the Queensland fruit-fly quarantine in the area, has been eclipsed by allegations of inauthenticity, over-commercialisation and anti-competitive sales restrictions by major sponsor Tip Top.

Amid threats of boycotts by Pasifika founders, Ateed, the Auckland Council's tourism, events and economic development agency, insisists that the Festival’s “uniqueness and charm” will remain intact. This despite “palagi” (non-Pacific) PR company Orange Productions scooping the contract to stage the event this year and allegations of non-consultation.

Pasifika turns 23 this year. It’s had a pretty good innings as far as events go, particularly spawning from cultural and community roots. I can’t think of another running as long in New Zealand.

Even commercial events, such as music festivals like Sweetwaters and Big Day Out, have passed their use-by date and retired. The HIV/AIDS-driven Hero Parade and festival morphed and buckled under its own confused, amnesic weight after ten or so years. Judging by the controversy its successor, Pride, tried to shrug off this year, the somewhat paradoxical celebration of queer culture, amongst the normalisation of gay marriage, looks headed towards the end of the rainbow.

Endings are difficult. They’re sad. Perhaps they remind us of our own mortality. So, in the same way that we cling to each other by refusing to switch off the life support until the very last minute, so we struggle to maintain the life of our suffocating rituals and institutions until their last, gasping moments.

When institutions like Sweetwaters, Big Day Out, Hero and now Pasifika start to stumble, the first question asked is always, “How do we keep it going?” Inevitably the answer leads us to apply patches, fixes and remedies, causing a sort of cancerous decay and disfiguration of the original intent.

Another question — which, I would hazard to say, is not asked nearly enough, particularly by those in positions of leadership — is, “How do we want to remember it?” In the case of Pasifika, it may just be that we need to be content with 22 years of successful memories.

Perhaps letting it decay naturally — or even compassionately ending it — rather than spoiling the memories with excessive years of artificial respiration, will allow something new and just as beautiful to grow in its place.

Image: Eventfinder.co.nz

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