The first annual Siale Festival is kicking off this weekend in Wilmington, CA. Hosted by the Tongan Friendship Society, much has gone into creating this event which celebrates Tongan culture through music, dance, and crafts. The festival will begin with a traditional kava ceremony which will unveil the rest of the entertainment throughout the day. We were able to catch up with the organizers of the event to find out how this all got started and what we can expect this weekend.
TWID: How did the Siale Festival begin?
TFS: Just over a year ago Lucky Mataele, his wife Nyoka Mataele, and Oloka Fifita started this non-profit with the purpose to continue to teach and preserve the Tongan culture and traditions to the youth here in America. Their dream was to have a festival where the Tongan culture could be highlighted and celebrated along with the other Pacific Islanders (PI). Plans were started but due to lack of financial support, it was postponed, then the passing of Lucky Mataele, (who was the President at the time) put another hurdle in the way of progression towards the Siale Festival. It was through the hard work of the board members and love from friends and family through fundraising and donations that Tonga Friendship Society was able to hold the event this year. It is through this festival that those dreams the elders had are coming to fruition.
TWID: What is the purpose of the festival?
TFS: The mission statement of Tonga Friendship Society (TFS) is to advocate and empower Tongans and all other Pacific Island communities through programs that promote health, education, friendship and cultural preservation to achieve self-knowledge and become self-sufficient and contributing members of the American society. Through the Siale Festival we wanted to celebrate and share the great Tongan culture, through dance, song, and crafts. Also teaching the youth to hold fast to the rich values ingrained in the Tongan culture.
TWID: What kind of events are going to be taking place during the festival?
TFS: At the Siale Festival this year, we will be having performances from different Pacific Island groups. Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti will all be represented by various halaus along with individual singers/artists, but the most exciting portion of the program will be the Tongan youth groups from all over southern California performing various Tongan numbers and the kalapus’ musical numbers. (See attached schedule)
TWID: What do you hope to accomplish during the festival?
TFS: TFS hopes to shine a positive light on the Tongan community, giving them a little voice as a whole community and allowing them to feel like they are part of something while remaining unique as they are. We hope to give the youth an event to participate in that is exciting, entertaining, and safe, and at the same time helping to preserve a culture that is so far away, but so deeply rooted into the Tongan people.
The Tongan Friendship Society has planned an amazing event and let’s not forget the live special performances from the internationally acclaimed Polynesian dance group Nonosina and Reggae music group Kontiki. It’s going down starting this evening and will continue until tomorrow night. So if you’re looking for something exciting to do, this is what it do.
-Article Written By: Elizabeth Lavulo
*article photo courtesy of Tongan Friendship Society