Central Otago Fijians showcase culture to celebrate independence
Eight years ago Kalisi Tiko was only one of two Fijian families in Cromwell.
The Fijian community across the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes is slowly growing and is starting to make their presence known.
On Saturday, Cromwell hosted about 400 people from Otago and Southland to celebrate Fiji Day - an annual event recognising the anniversary of Fiji's independence from British colonial rule in 1970.
Tiko said it was Cromwell's first time hosting Fiji Day - an event recognised by Fijians around the world.
"It was a great opportunity to show the younger generation what their culture is about. We involve children in the day because they are our next story tellers."
The wider non-Fijian community was also invited and showed support in strong numbers, she said.
"We are really glad we hosted it because it was showcasing part of our culture to our friends who were there. When we first came to Cromwell it was a new experience. The weather was very cold for a start. The Cromwell community has been welcoming and we have made lots of friends which shows by the number of non-Fijians who came to celebrate with us. "
Former manager of The Gate and former Cromwell Community Board member, Glen Christiansen, was the "chief guest".
"He employed most of the Fijians, including myself and my husband . . . We have a long history with Glen. We have worked for him and he has been our friend and mentor to most of the Fijians. We look up to him with a lot of respect."
As chief guest, Christiansen was given the first taste of kava at the kava ceremony. which was followed by several cultural performances.
"The dances are a huge part of our culture, not just Fijians, but the Pacific Island culture. Before we had the written word our stories were handed down through our meke (dances)."
A feast, created by chef Kasiano Naivaluvea, included the traditional dish kokoda - raw fish cured in lemon juice and coconut milk, palusami - taro leaves cooked with meat and coconut milk and a lovo (similar to a hangi).
By JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN