Show of unity in diversity heralds Year of the Dragon in Wellington


Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau (fifth from left) along with dignitaries at the Chinese New Year celebration at Te Papa in Wellington on Saturday, February 10,2024 . Indian High Commission Second Secretary Durga Dass (eighth from left) is also seen (Photo: Eva Kaprinay)

Venu Menon
Wellington, February 11,2024

Multicultural New Zealand came together amid splashes of colour, flowing goodwill and infectious good cheer to usher in the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese Lunar New Year which fell on February 10.

Wellingtonians packed the Te Papa auditorium in the city’s iconic waterfront to celebrate the auspicious day on the Chinese lunar calendar  with a display of unity in diversity.

The Multicultural Council of Wellington co-hosted the event along with the China Heritage Cultural Centre. The Wellington City Council and Te Papa National Museum supported the celebration.

A variety of performances drawn from a range of cultures that included China, India, the Middle East, the Philippines and Thailand, to name  a few, reflected the diversity of Aotearoa, and specifically that of Wellington, in a show of “unity, fellowship and understanding.”

Rachel Qi, president  of the Multicultural Council of Wellington, and Senior Sergeant Phil Raben of the New Zealand Police were the hosts on the occasion.

A bevy of local dignitaries lined up onstage for a collective New Year greeting in Chinese following a spirited Kapa haka performance by a  Maori group, with the little ones leading the adults in the chorus.

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau, who addressed the gathering first, said it was a matter of great pride that Wellington City was hosting so many different cultures which made her “heart feel full.” The mayor referenced her visit to China last year and how she was struck by “the similarities between our cities.” Despite the differences, there was much in common, she noted, adding, “Let’s use it to find unity, celebrate, enjoy and respect each other’s cultures.”

Former Governor General of New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand, who spoke next, observed that  the multicultural communities of New Zealand “enrich our national way of life.” The celebration of the Chinese New Year was special “because this year is the Year of the Dragon which is the symbol of wisdom, good luck and strength.”

Member of Parliament and ex-Mayor of Wellington Celia Margaret Wade-Brown said she valued the diversity of Wellington City. “Our peaceful coexistence and appreciation of each other’s cultures was a beacon of hope in these tough times,” she noted. It was important to uphold the rights of everyone “to be themselves.” She pledged, “as the newest Green MP,” to stand up for the rights of Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas.

The last dignitary to speak was Ye Su, Minister-Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand. He said the Chinese New Year was one of the most important festivals in China, which was also celebrated worldwide. “Last December, the United Nations adopted a resolution designating the Chinese Lunar New Year as a United Nations holiday, which means Chinese New Year is now officially a New Year for the whole world.”

He noted the cultural bonds between New Zealand and China “are growing stronger day by day, apart from their economic ties and people-to-people contacts.”

The variety entertainment kicked off with an ancient Chinese dance, which was followed by the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam performed by students of the Natraj School of Dance, run by noted Hutt-based dance director and choreographer Prabha Ravi. A traditional dance from Thailand was up next, which was followed by an exhilarating Middle Eastern dance performance by the students of the Dandarah Belly Dance School.

Sergeant Johny Zhou displayed his “hidden talents” that were unbeknownst to his colleagues and delivered a consummate performance on the harmonica.

The programme wrapped up with a quiz show and more song and dance routines that captured the multicultural ethos of Wellington.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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