‘Te rake tupun o toku matakeinanga – the costumes of our communities and tribes’ is the theme for the 49th constitution celebrations, where eight island and village teams will take to the stage for cultural performances celebrating the Cook Islands culture and independence as a nation.
The weeklong celebrations will open with a float parade through Avarua and will also culminate in the official opening of the self-governance celebrations.
The parade, a colourful affair full of singing and dancing and the display of island creativity will start from the western harbour in Avatiu and move through town to Avarua for the official opening.
The float parade is also an opportunity for cultural teams to showcase some of what they will be performing on the Are Kareoi stage.
Trade Day markets organised by the Business Trade and Investment Board will feature again at the Maire Nui Park.
Nightly cultural performances will begin at the national auditorium on Tuesday July 29 and end with the drumming competition on Saturday, August 2.
Constitution Day on August 4 will see an official address by the leaders of the nation and followed by the awards ceremony for the culture shows and closing ceremony.
Outer islands teams taking part in this year’s celebrations will mostly be represented by their iti tangata residing here on Rarotonga.
The cultural teams taking part in this year’s celebrations include Aitutaki enua, Mauke enua, Mitiaro enua, vaka Puaikura, Atiu enua, oire Nikao, Mangaia enua and Vaka Takitumu.
Although there is no international night in this year’s programme where in the past regional and international groups living on the island have performed – kapa haka groups namely Taoroa Kapa Haka Roopu and WhakataneTriden High School Kapa Haka group will be joining this year’s celebrations and representing Aotearoa.
Tickets to the nightly shows are now on sale at the Ministry of Cultural Development in Tupapa or at the national auditorium entrance nightly.
Secretary of Culture Sonny Williams says this year’s celebrations will still be vibrant but on a smaller scale that previous years.
This is due to next year’s 50th independence celebrations where the whole of the Cook Islands will be involved in a yearlong plan of activities and celebrations.
Adding to this years cultural extravaganza will be the scheduled arrival of double hulled voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia.
Joining the two sister sailing vessels from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands will be Tahiti’s Faafaite vaka.
On board vaka Hikianalia is the Cook Islands’ very own master traditional navigator Tua Pittman who will help guide the crew through the Cook Islands waters voyaging past the Nga Pu Toru islands of Mauke, Atiu and Mitiaro on their way to Rarotonga.
Currently the voyagers are island hoping across French Polynesia where crews have visited some of the most significant Polynesian historic sites – including Hōkūleʻa’s ‘Tahiti home’ the village of Tautira.
When Hōkūleʻa reaches Rarotonga at the end of the month – it will be her first visit since 1995.
Cook Islands’ own Vaka Marumaru Atua is expect to greet the voyaging fleet of Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia and Tahiti vaka Faafaite in the Nga Pu Toru waters and escort them to Rarotonga.
The voyagers are expected to depart Rarotonga around August 8 and sail to Aitutaki and Suwarrow.
Tua Pittman will continue on the voyage from the Cook Islands to American Samoa and fellow Cook Islands master traditional navigator Peia Patai will jump on board the voyage as captain of Hikianalia from Rarotonga to Pago Pago while Pittman will switch to vaka Hōkūleʻa from Rarotonga to Samoa.