Students wowed by lantern
festival performers

It’s not often a Mongolian throat singer, a Chinese hat juggler and a trio of traditional folk musicians turn up at Timaru Girls’ High School, so when they do, the students sit up and take notice.

Watch the lantern festival performers entertaining the students of Burnside College in Christchurch

The performers, who came from across China, were in New Zealand for this year’s Auckland and South Island lantern festivals and the Foundation took them to schools in Auckland, Christchurch and Timaru to expose students to Chinese culture.

The performers were:

  • Li Haitao, who plays a traditional Mongolian instrument called the morinhuur and is a master of the khoomei style of throat singing
  • saxophonist Hua Jun
  • Chinese drummer Ning Xiangnan, who performed during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
  • acrobat and martial arts exponent Zheng Yongqiang, who had the students on their feet with his hat juggling, mask swapping and tea pouring routines.
A young boy throwing a hat into the air watched on by a performer

Watching one of their fellow students give juggling a try was a highlight for the kids of Southern Cross School in Mangere

The lantern festival schools roadshow is a long-running component of the Foundation's lantern festival programme. At most schools it is a two-way cultural experience with students singing waiata or performing haka for the visitors.

“This reciprocal teaching and learning sits nicely with the concept of ‘ako’ where the educator is also learning from the student – there is a shared learning experience," says the Foundation's education director Sean O'Connor.

The performers first stop on the South island leg of the school tour was Timaru Girls High School. Deputy principal Joanna Dockrill says having the performers at the school was a fantastic opportunity for students to engage with other cultures and cultural practices.

“It is really important to learn and witness these things as we live in an inclusive and multicultural environment, and it's great to promote different cultural experiences in such a positive way, she says.”

“It also gives our students a better understanding of the different cultures that some of our own students belong to.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Burnside High School’s (Christchurch) Second Principal Andrea Griffin: “This type of performance is important to immerse our students into different cultures. It ensures that they appreciate and celebrate differences.

“For our school, with a large Asian community, it highlights the cultural aspects of many of our students. It shows them that we value their identity and customs."

A drummer on stage drumming in front of a hall full of students

Ning Xiangnan drumming for the kids of Southern Cross School in Mangere East

The school visits are part of the wider work the Asia New Zealand Foundation does to help build Asia-equipped schools in New Zealand.

“The purpose of taking the performers to schools is to enable students to have a close-up experience of Chinese culture and language to increase their knowledge and understanding – and confidence – regarding China – as part of our mission to equip young New Zealanders to thrive in Asia,” O’Connor says.

The Foundation took the performers to:

  • Puhunini School (Papatotoe)
  • Southern Cross School (Mangere East)
  • Papatoetoe Intermediate
  • Timaru Girls High School
  • Burnside High School (Christchurch).