“It was a great honour and privilege for us to be the first Cook Islands cultural team to perform at the Hawaiian Pacific Cultural Centre,” says team manager Anthony Turua. “Previous Cook Islands cultural teams were invited by the PCC management to perform for the stage cast or performers only, but on this occasion they invited us to perform in front of a crowd of over 4000 people from all around the world.”
Turua says the team performance started on a high note with a few nerves among the dancers.
“It has fulfilled our dream and vision that one day Cook Islands would perform on this prestigious stage with other Polynesian countries – the likes of New Zealand Maori, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii,” says team leader Vaitoti Tupa.
“The atmosphere was electrifying and our performers and musicians gave it their best to lift the Cook Islands culture up among the best in the Pacific or the world.
“What a way to celebrate our 50th anniversary – and we also extended a request to the PCC to include the Cook Islands as part of the PCC village.”
It was also an honour for the touring group to meet Cook Islanders currently studying at BYU University and those working at PCC in different Pacific cultural villages to assist funding their university studies.
Turua says that the next phase is to sit down with government and articulate how to formally submit a request for membership of the PCC village and to elevate the nation’s status in the Polynesian Centre.
“Credit must go to Bob Worthington and Jon Jonassen who has been instrumental in setting some of the ground for the Cook Islands community in Hawaii,” says Tupa.
“Our team will continue to liaise with management in Hawaii to promote our culture and in return invite them to come to the Cook Islands on a cultural exchange or tourism experience.”
That team say that although they were disappointed with the lack of support for them from Cook Islands Tourism, they are still determined to showcase and promote the Cook Islands through the group’s passion for culture.