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Pacific Underground returns to Christchurch for light festival.

After a three-year absence, Pacific Underground is returning to Christchurch for this month’s Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA).

The Pacific group formed the backbone of Pacific art, song and dance in Canterbury, and launched the careers of Oscar Kightley, Ladi6 and Scribe on the grassy lawns of the Arts Centre.

It will kick off FESTA’s Canterbury Tales procession by being the first stop on the central city walk.

Pacific Underground’s Tanya Muagututi’a said the lack of acknowledgement of Christchurch’s lost churches in the rebuild blueprint had inspired the design for its Under the Fale installation.

While stuck in a traffic jam on Colombo St in 2011, Muagututi’a watched the Sydenham Heritage Church being pulled down by mistake.

“That was quite significant for Pacific people. It was one of the city’s first churches for the Samoan congregation,” she said. “A lot of these churches were started by community members who are old now and there doesn’t seem to be any recognition of their work in the new city plans.”

Free Theatre and FESTA project coordinator George Parker said starting the procession with Pacific Underground was really important for acknowledging New Zealand’s place in the Pacific.

“It begins and ends in the Pacific. We start with Pacific Underground and at the end of the procession there will be a karanga into the square with Ngai Tahu,” he said. “What’s wonderful about Pacific Underground is that they’re fiercely loyal to Christchurch.”

FESTA follows on from the previous year’s Lux City event, for which architects filled the central city with laser beams, projected images and fabric structures to fill empty spaces.

Parker said the Canterbury Tales procession was about re-engaging with the empty spaces in the central city and the rituals that bring communities together.

“We offer in some ways a counter balance to the proposals like the blueprint that is designed around buildings and large infrastructure. What we bring is an examination and exploration of the rituals that bring people together in the city.”

For Under the Fale, Pacific Underground has incorporated the Polynesian ritual of White Sunday (a community celebration of childhood where children run the church for the day) into its performance and the design of its structure.

“We’re going to use white light to show White Sunday and hopefully include some local kids in the performance,” Muagututi’a said.

FESTA runs from October 25 to 28. Processions start at 8:30pm on the Bridge of Remembrance.