The Mataiapos of the marae organised a special unveiling of the storyboard last week, and invited many traditional leaders and tourism representatives to share in their heritage.
Reverend Vaka Ngaro blessed the event and officially unveiled the board, emphasising that the story told on the board isn’t just that of the marae.
“Nature speaks and expresses everything. Looking around at this beautiful marae and environment, nature speaks louder than words, especially of our history.”
He said it was the story of their ancestors, the Mataiapos, the people of the Cook Islands and ultimately, it was God’s story.
Ngaro went on to say that the storyboard would not only educate tourists about the history of the land, the marae, and the people, but also the community.
Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Halatoa Fua, said Tourism were proud to be part of this memorable journey, and to be part of the community project.
He said the storyboard idea was initially a way to enhance the visitor experience in the Cook Islands.
But, he said what they’ve come to realise, is that it’s not about the beautifully designed storyboard before them, but appreciation for the people of the Cook Islands and their story.
“It’s about visitors and locals standing for a moment, and appreciating the value of this very important site.”
Established by Tangiia Nui, a great founding ancestor of Rarotonga, Arai-te-Tonga became the principal Koutu of Makea Nui Ariki, paramount chief of the district Te-au-o-Tonga.
It is said to be one of the first three Koutu built when Tangiia Nui first settled on Rarotonga around 1350 AD.
Arai-te-Tonga is the name of the Koutu, royal court, of the Makea Tribe of Te-au-o-Tonga and the name is also used to describe the area surrounding the marae.
The Koutu and nearby maraes are sacred places which served mainly ceremonial and religious events.
A well preserved feature of Arai-te-Tonga is the rectangular platform, Taumakeva.
Its main purpose was for the investiture of the Ariki, who was lifted onto the pillar by the Ui Mataiapo.
Visitors to the site are reminded that the maraes and land are ancient ancestral places still considered tapu, sacred, by the families who own them and therefore it is important not to take anything from the land, or disturb the rock formations.