ARTS MARK NIUEAN CENTENARY

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By Leonard Kumitau

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (November 1, 2001 - Manukau Courier)---Niuean arts and crafts are alive and well in Manukau even though the tiny Pacific nation is thousands of miles away.

A group of women belonging to various weaving groups gathered at the Otara Music Arts Center as part of the recent Niue Focus Week held in conjunction with the nation's centenary celebrations.

The women demonstrated the weaving techniques used to make hats, baskets and fans as well as preparing traditional foods like the takihi, where sliced taro and paw paw (papaya) are layered and covered with coconut cream.

Coordinator and past president of Niue Kaufakalataha Louisa Lavakula says the focus celebrated 100 years of British and New Zealand government protection of Niue.

"It's an event every Niuean wants to be part of and although some of us cannot be in Niue to celebrate it, we still wanted to do our bit here in New Zealand," says Mrs. Lavakula.

"Niuean women in this country doing this work want to maintain their culture and skills here."

She says this can be difficult when the proper materials needed are not available in New Zealand.

Mrs. Lavakula says the much sought-after leaves from the pandanus tree have to be imported from Niue, something most weaving groups cannot afford to do.

"If we want to keep up the skills here and share it with other Pacific nations, then we need more funding to buy the proper materials instead of using things like raffia," she says.

The focus week ended with a prize giving for the best artworks before a traditional feast put on by the groups.

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