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Sister-Cities Hawkes Bay & Guilin 30th Anniversary Celebrations March 2011

Guilin Performing Group - The Osmanthus Dance
Guilin Performing Group - The Osmanthus Dance

Hawkes Bay folk got a chance to experience a cultural extravaganza last week when 13 members of the Guilin Performing Group from China visited the region.  They were here to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of their Sister-City connection with Hastings (the first in New Zealand) as part of delegations from the Guilin Municipal Government.


The delegations, comprising Mr Huang Junhua, executive vice-mayor of Guilin and officials from the Guilin Foreign Affairs Office, Civil Servants Bureau, Finance Bureau and other departments, were here to discuss ways in which the two communities could focus on developing their relationship, such as enhanced exchanges in education and city government personnel as well as increased activity in business and tourism.  The Guilin Municipal Government also wish to establish a New Zealand garden in the Guilin Botanical Gardens.

Deputy leader of the Guangxi Institute of Botany, Mr Li Xiankun and other members were also here to exchange ideas on joint research including phytochemistry, exchange of fruit varieties and collaboration over wetland conservation projects.  The Guangxi Institute of Botany have had a close association with Hastings since 1978 and technicians from the GIB have worked in Hastings since then on agricultural/horticultural ideas and projects. The Osmanthus Garden in Cornwall Park was designed by the GIB landscape designer, Zhao Jian, who spent 6 months in Hastings in 1996 co-ordinating the construction of the garden.  During the celebrations, commemorative Osmanthus trees were planted in the Osmanthus Garden by each delegation.   Everyone was captivated by the garden, especially in the evenings of the celebration, with many stunning multi-coloured lights and the reflection of the rows of Chinese lanterns in the lake.

Osmanthus Gardens at night

The dance group performed at several events starting with an Extravaganza on Thursday in the Hastings Art Deco Opera House.  Their silk costumes in vibrant colours and the graceful dances and playing of the traditional pipa were fascinating to watch, as was the singing.  One of the singers sang ‘Pokarekare Ana’ which was received with loud applause. The male singer,  well-known throughout China, sang a song made famous after the Sichuan Earthquake which moved the whole nation during that sad time.  In contrast, a Maori item from the St Joseph’s High School Maori group charmed the audience with several beautifully-executed poi dances which were also received with great enthusiasm.

The Guilin dancers then performed at a Mayoral reception on Friday at the Assembly Rooms in the Opera House for several hundred people including invited officials from the Municipal Government of Guilin, led by Executive Vice Mayor Mr Huang Junhua, other Chinese officials, as well as New Zealand China Friendship Society and Sister-Cities officials.  The dinner opened with speeches by Mayor Lawrence Yule and Executive Vice Mayor Mr Huang Junhua,

Mr Huang, vice-mayor of Guilin presents $5000 to Mayor Lawrence Yule for the Christchurch Relief Fund

who reiterated the valuable work done in bringing the two communities together. Bill Woods, President, Sister Cities NZ , highlighted the significant role of Rewi Alley and NZCFS in the early friendly relations, followed by the sister-cities movement between NZ and China, which began with Hastings and Guilin.  Mr Huang Junhua presented Mr Yule with a cheque for US$5000 in aid of the Christchurch Earthquake Fund and it was gratefully accepted by Mr Yule.


The colourful costumes and the graceful dancing enthralled the audience and the dancers demonstrated folk dances from their home state of Guilin, as well as cultural pieces from minority groups (Zhuang, Yao, Miao and others) of the Guilin area.

After the dinner many of the guests were enthralled by the beautifully lit Osmanthus Gardens, especially by the reflections of the Chinese lanterns in the pool.

Guilin performers with Pacific Islanders

On Saturday, at the International Cultures Fair, which was initiated by then Hastings Mayor Jeremy Dwyer and NZCFS in 1999, the hard-working Guilin Group once again performed to the public in Cornwall Park and, with their colourful and unusual costumes, delighted the multi-cultural audience.

Members of the NZCFS, HB Chinese Association and Hastings District Council  saw the group off at the airport on Sunday and brought tears to the eyes of their newly-found friends with a rendition of Pokarekare Ana and Now is the Hour.


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