Hawaiian cultural group “Island Breeze” connects with audiences across New Zealand.

Hawaiian cultural group “Island Breeze” connects with audiences across New Zealand. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

By Public Affairs staff, U.S. Consulate Auckland.

The high-energy, Hawaii-based Island Breeze team recently wrapped up a two-week cultural exchange tour of New Zealand with the support of the U.S. Embassy in NZ. While here, they highlighted the amazing culture of our 50th state, Hawai’i, and our shared Polynesian heritage – making stops in Auckland, Tauranga, Waikato and Rotorua.

Island Breeze are a Hawaiian/Polynesian cultural group whose mission is to showcase cultural traditions, language, fashion, art and music; provide educational cultural workshops showcasing traditional practices; and highlight their cultural identity and indigenous practices.

The Hawaiian Village at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival hosted Island Breeze. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Hawaiian Village at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival hosted Island Breeze. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

The group included a 10-person strong contingent of dancers, teachers and cultural performers/practitioners, who connected with local schools, community groups, and others conducting workshops and performances.

To kick start Island Breeze’s tour, the students of Nawton School in Hamilton were the first to meet with group and experience Hawaiian culture.

Island Breeze receiving a Haka tautoko (thank you cultural dance) from the students in honor of their visit and performance. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Following on from Nawton School, the group had the pleasure of performing at the 123rd Regatta of Turangawaewae along the Waikato River. The local community was in awe of the international talent, who provided an outstanding backdrop to the fast-paced river racing taking place. The group also had the honor of performing in front of the Maori King and was able to gift a token of good will and appreciation.

Lata Talasinga performing at Turangawaewae Regatta. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Lata Talasinga performing at Turangawaewae Regatta. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

The remainder of the tour led Island Breeze to Tauranga, Rotorua and Kelston in Auckland’s western suburbs, to perform and connect with local students – in particular Kelston Intermediate where a bilingual class was able to experience a full ukulele workshop, traditional painting and dance – all powerful elements of Hawaiian culture.

Island Breeze performing their opening dance to Kelston Intermediate. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Island Breeze performing their opening dance to Kelston Intermediate. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

To conclude the tour, Island Breeze performed at the Hawai’i Village at the Pasifika Festival in Auckland,  the world’s largest Pacific festival. . With 11 villages, each representing a Pacific nation, the festival once again drew crowds of more than 100,000.  Founded with a U.S. Embassy cultural grant five years ago, the Hawai’i Village draws thousands of attendees to connect with traditional Hawaiian culture, food, art and music. 

Consul General Higgins gave official remarks, highlighting growing tourism between Hawai’i and New Zealand (Kiwi visitors to Hawai’i have more than tripled in recent years to 68,000 in 2017) and the shared Polynesian heritage of New Zealand, Hawai’i and the South Pacific, before introducing Island Breeze as the headline performance.

The Hawaiian Village at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival hosted Island Breeze. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Hawaiian Village at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival hosted Island Breeze. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Needless to say the Island Breeze 2018 tour was a tremendous success, and continues to build on the fantastic connections that exist between Hawai’i and Aotearoa.

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