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Reunion celebrates matriarch

Monday January 07, 2019 Written by Published in Local

The Molingi Reunion held over the last two weeks brought around 200 people together and is the largest Pukapukan family reunion to date. The reunion celebrated Rarotonga resident Romani Katoa’s grandmother on his Pukapukan side.


 “Our mama’s name which is ‘Te Kuti Molingi ote Wakalua’, or the ‘The Good Morning of the Wakalua Wind’, is also on one of the columns at the shelter hut at Avatiu Harbour,” Katoa wrote in a letter to CINews.

Katoa says that with nearly 200 reunion members from Australia, New Zealand, Pukapuka and Rarotonga staying at the Pukapuka, Manihiki and Mitiaro hostels, the scene was set for a great family event.

She is also descended from Ngati Tutara of Rapa in the Australs, French Polynesia and Raiatea. She was one of the key informants for anthropologists Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole’s book, “'Ethnology of Pukapuka”, especially in the matters of women.  In 1934 Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) arranged for Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole to go to remote Pukapuka as part of his comprehensive Pacific island ethnographic survey. According to Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand website, the project sought to provide a baseline ethnography for every Pacific culture.

The Beagleholes completed their research in 1935 and returned to Honolulu to write their notes, still the most comprehensive of any Bernice P. Bishop Museum expedition, and published in 1938 as “Ethnology of Pukapuka.”

“On our reunion shirt designs, there was a wawa mawolawola (taro) which is our mama’s own taro which she found and nurtured in Pukapuka and survives to this day and is passed on to family members within the clan. The design of the shark on the back of our shirts represented the shark tribe from which her line comes from in Pukapuka.”

Katoa says the family took part in many activities including genealogy sessions, cross-island walks, a lagoon cruise, mini-golf, harbour activities and a fishing competition, church services and weaving. Members also joined in the Pukapuka Sports Day on Rarotonga with Tawa Lalo and Tawa Ngake.

And they were certainly well fed, says Katoa.

“Food was all sorts of reef fish from the north including parrot fish, ature, crayfish and grated utu.”

“Our reunion closed on New Year’s Eve and everyone is now staying with other family members and at hotels.”

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