Black-streaked faces ‘fake’ history?

Monday September 03, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor
A letter writer has questioned the used of black streaked or painted faces in the Te Maeva Nui performances. Pictured is the Mauke group. 18090209 A letter writer has questioned the used of black streaked or painted faces in the Te Maeva Nui performances. Pictured is the Mauke group. 18090209

Dear Editor,

Are reo tupuna/pe'e performances at Te Maeva Nui the Cook Islands version of the Black & White Minstrel show?

 

I know Te Maeva Nui has been over for some time but this image keeps bothering me - the black streaked/painted faces of the performers in the reo-tupuna /pe'e section during the performances.

Growing up in Rarotonga, I don't remember ever seeing Cook Islanders with painted faces during a cultural show, nor have I read or heard of such a thing. So can a cultural expert at the Ministry of Cultural Development confirm for us if there was such a thing anywhere in the ancient history of the Cook Islands?

If not, I hope the judges were told, or knew already to take points off teams for copying someone else's culture, namely 21st century US/Hollywood, such as the Joker in the Batman movies, or the performers in the rock band “Kiss.”

Reo tupuna is the one item where accuracy in the culture should be observed, yet we saw large numbers of performers in many teams appear with bad face paint jobs, which one assumes were supposed to be tattoos. If that is the case, then are they trying to be New Zealand Maori? Why? Are we not in the Cook Islands performing at the major cultural event of our nation?

Were the dancers trying to look more fierce because fierceness gains more points? To me they looked absurd and the performers were unrecognisable. Maybe that was the intent?

Reo tupuna is supposed about the culture of our ancestors so unless Gene Simmons or the Joker have some blood connection to the Cook Islands that I don't know about, can someone please explain what the black painted faces are about?

Why we are copycatting modern US culture or New Zealand Maori culture and trying to pass it off as our own?

Choreographers and dancers of pe'e should be ashamed of themselves for belittling the memory of their tupuna and for accepting the stereotypes people overseas had (and some still have) that their ancestors were ugly and ignorant etene/savages.

            Ie-ko-ko

            (Name and address supplied)

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