To the secretary of Culture: Thanks, but no thanks!

Monday August 07, 2017 Published in Letters to the Editor

Thanks but no thanks, Anthony Turua.


I won’t be visiting you anytime soon with that attitude. 

Once again a senior public servant who cannot take criticism has to insult the letter writer instead of answering to the issues raised.

I believe I have more passion for my culture in my little finger than you have in your entire body and I have been promoting and marketing our culture since before you got out of your nappies. I wouldn’t be writing to this paper if I wasn’t passionate about my culture.

There is nothing I can teach Turua that he seemingly doesn’t know already, but I will say this, he and all the other heads of the Ministry of Cultural Development since about the early 1990s have it wrong believing that the theme they produce each year, which is “One size fits all”, works for all our islands. It doesn’t. The theme is too restricting. Why not open it up and let Cook Islanders celebrate what they want in any given year?

What matters to a group of Rarotongans may not matter the same to a group on Manihiki. Our stories are different because our histories and topography are different. The lives of people living on a mountainous island are different from those living on atolls.

The theme is causing us to neglect the real differences that used to make our dances and songs interesting. Now, the outer-islands teams all look and sound like they are from Rarotonga.

Turua won’t be old enough to remember this, but Cook Islanders knew more of their own stories when there was no theme for the Te Maeva Nui/Constitution celebrations. How many children today know the stories of Wiwiuri and Wiwitea, Kotekamatua, Paraka, Toi, Atonga, Ngauta, Teerui, Matareka, Varokura, Varopana and Mariri? Few if any.

It’s been said that the reason the theme was adopted by MOCD was to stop dance groups politicising their songs. Surely, if we want to sing about, or praise a current PM, or any person living or dead, politician or warrior, witch or cannibal, we should be allowed to. Culture should grow naturally, not be pruned and forced to grow in a particular direction by a group of cultural fascists of a government ministry.

Every culture in the world since ancient times generally likes to celebrate its people (supernatural or real) and its nation’s achievements, not its taro and bananas. Fruit, vegetables and dead fish are lifeless things which lend themselves to lifeless songs.

If MOCD’s method of delivery of our culture is so good, then explain why the younger generation of today, which Turua mentions in his letter, have absolutely no idea of their traditional customs and legends and the Maori Cook Islanders that made their country great in the recent past, let alone in their ancient past?


            (Name and address supplied)

1 comment

  • Comment Link Lesley Vardanega Saturday, 12 August 2017 16:04 posted by Lesley Vardanega

    As an outsider who read the letter and response referred to here, it seems to me that your beautiful islands will gain a great reward when both parties who have much to contribute - Anthony Turua and the writer - get it together together. Each of you can 'be the hero' by cutting the other some slack, employing some diplomacy to bring the real issue of the preservation of your unique and awesome culture back to front and centre. It does take a big person to do this ;-) Do this and you may just look back at the rocky start to your beautiful relationship and laugh about it.

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