Mangaia here for a good, special time

Thursday July 23, 2015 Written by Florence-Syme Buchanan Published in Outer Islands

Six times Papa Metu Ruatoe has led the Mangaia team to Rarotonga to compete in Te Maeva Nui celebrations – he’s back again for the big 50 and wishes rules could’ve been changed a bit to allow greater onstage participation.

Each TMN sees friendly but fierce competition amongst teams to take out top places. Papa Ruatoe says because it’s the 50th anniversary of self-governance he would’ve liked to have seen everyone purely rejoicing rather than competing for placings.

“Then the old people, the mamas, the papas, the special needs could’ve all taken part on stage and made the spirit of our 50th that much richer.”

Despite that sentiment, Papa Ruatoe says when the time comes, Mangaia will be ready with performances that will be better than last year. Seventy-four performers in Mangaia have been focusing on the ute and pe’e. They will then join their Rarotonga relatives who have been practicing for several weeks and together fine tune their performances in all sections of the dance competition. These are the ute, pe’e, action song, drum dance, imene tuki and choir. Interestingly, a group of young Mangaian girls from the Mino family in Melbourne are here have been brought to Rarotonga by Pherina Mino to join relatives and friends in the team and represent their island of descent.

“Many times they’ve seen Te Maeva Nui on video, so being here and being part of it is really big for them. They’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,”explained Mino. She said one of the Melbourne dancers, Petronilla, travelled here to join the Mangaia team last year. “She had such a good time she wanted to come back and the other girls wanted to come too…they’re so excited about it all.”

Over the next couple of weeks the team of over 100 dancers, singers, actors, drummers and musicians will be practicing at Auau Enua Hostel in Tupapa perfecting their performances for Te Are Karioi stage.

The team from Mangaia has brought beautifully made craftwork and food to sell at the BTIB organised Market Day. Their wares include the rarely seen (ti) root of the green rauti plant from the cordyline fructicosa species. 

Mangaian supporter Torotoro reckons the giant ti roots would be between 30 to 40 years old. They flourish well in Mangaia because when harvested, branches of the rauti are immediately replanted. Ti is baked in a traditional oven for two to three days, turning dark reddish brown and is very sweet. It was a common food taken on lengthy voyages by early Polynesian seafarers as it remained edible for a long period of time. 

Free range pork, goat and the famous Mangaian tiromi made of taro and coconut cream will also be on sale. As Papa Ruatoe says; “ this is a good time and a special time for all of us to come together.”

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