Preparations are underway to celebrate Fiji Day in Bundaberg with Natalie Toms sharing her culture by teaching children the national dance.
Fiji Day is celebrated in October each year to mark the anniversary of both Fiji's cession to the United Kingdom in 1874 and its attainment of independence in 1970.
Born in Fiji, Natalie has fond memories of celebrating Fiji Day with family and friends, and she wants to share the connection with young locals from the pacific islands here in Bundaberg.
“It was always such a celebrated day for us as a melting pot of cultures and what it means to all of us ethnicities to come together as Fijians,” Natalie said.
“Being able to celebrate your country, our music, food, and of course dance. It also gives me the sense of pride to show my son his culture and teach him – that is what brings me the most joy.
“Fiji Day is so important for many reasons. It's our connection to country and culture.
“Our connection to the Fijian community here in Bundaberg and surrounding areas. We all get homesick and it's a great way to all be together and feel like we are home.”
Natalie said dancing was an essential part of Fijian life, and she was excited to share this with the next generation through the dance classes.
“Dance is a massively important part of our culture and heritage. Meke, our traditional style of dance, is a mix of dance and storytelling,” she said.
“These dances can be used for different reasons: war dance, fan dance and for celebration and welcoming.
“I have been dancing the Meke from a very young age and I'm hoping that through these classes the next generation of kids will fall in love with Fijian dancing and our traditions to carry that on.
“To practice our traditions together, like singing, dancing, preparation and cooking of food – lovo, similar to Aotearoa New Zealand's version of a hangi.
“It's such a warming feeling for all of us and especially the kids to grow up together and have that connection to their culture.”
She said celebrating the diversity of cultures also helped to connect the local community.
“We are also people that love sharing our culture with others, so for us here in Australia coming together and putting on these events are special in that we get to share what we love about being Fijian,” Natalie said.
“We usually share these events with other pacific islanders in the community and invite them to come along and be a part of the day as well.
“This collaboration is of such a huge importance for all of us, getting together and just kind of having the chance to really enjoy who we are and where we come from.”
To find out more about the Fiji Day dance classes phone Natalie on 0422 866 695 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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