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Cook Islanders celebrate culture, heritage and identity in Aotearoa

Saturday 30 September 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Features


Cook Islanders celebrate culture, heritage and identity in Aotearoa
Minister of Cultural Development George “Maggie” Angene (third from left) and Noo Vaevae Pare (fourth from left) with other guests at Te Maeva Nui New Zealand. TE MAEVA NUI NZ/23092941

Cook Islands culture thundered throughout the Trust Arena, Waitakere in Auckland, New Zealand, this week as Te Maeva Nui ō Aotearoa New Zealand Charitable Trust proudly presented the third biennial Te Maeva Nui NZ performing arts festival of music and dance, arts and crafts of the Cook Islands.

The three-day event began with the Tu Rangatira Awards, which recognise the achievements of Cook Islanders in Business, International, Sports, Youth, Health, Community, Education, and Creative.

On Thursday (Cook Islands time), the 5000-strong crowd witnessed spectacular song and dance performances by the 10 groups: Aitutaki Enua, Akatatokamanava Mauke, Atiu Enua, A’ua’u Mangaia Enua, Manihiki Te Fuinga O Niva, Nukuroa Mitiaro Enua, Oire Tokoroa, Oire Vaipae, Te Vaka Puaikura, Vaka Takitumu.

Stunning performances were witnessed at Te Maeva Nui NZ in Auckland this week. TE MAEVA NUI NZ/23092939

Yesterday was also a sell-out day, with thousands packed into the arena to watch the second day of stunning performances.

“It was so packed so many people were waiting outside for spare tickets,” a spectator said.

“The performances are of such a high standard, just awesome.”

Tauranga Vananga Ministry of Culture Minister George “Maggie” Angene, who attended the festival, was “grateful” to witness Te Maeva Nui NZ and to see how Cook Islands culture has improved rapidly in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I am happy that our people our pa metua are keeping our culture alive,” Angene said. “I am also happy to see young Cook Islanders living in Aotearoa participating in Cook Islands performing arts and engaging in cultural values, proud of their heritage and identity.”

Te Maeva Nui NZ dancers perform at Te Maeva Nui NZ. TE MAEVA NUI NZ/23092931

Each performing group was limited to 100 performers on stage for the: Imene Tuki, Ute, Pe’e, Kapa Rima and Ura Pau items.

Among the judges for Te Maeva Nui NZ were Piritau Nga, Peka George, Henry Ahfoo Taripo and Jane Rubena from Rarotonga, and Tai Paitai, June Teara, and Tepaeru French from Aotearoa. The convenor was Kura Taruia and the audit scrutineer was Sholan Ivaiti.

Former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna, who is now the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, also attended the event on Saturday, having arrived in Aotearoa from New York after meeting with US President Joe Biden and the Pacific leaders.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was also expected to join the celebrations yesterday.

Ina Bishop, tivaivai expert, at her stall at Te Maeva Nui NZ. TE MAEVA NUI NZ/23092935

Food vendors were also doing extremely well selling their meals, and arts and crafts vendors from Rarotonga – Ricky Adamu’s ukelele, Mii Upu Crafts, Piltz and Tarani Napa – proved popular with customers.

Kim Marsters-Pare, the event coordinator and administration of Te Maeva Nui o Aotearoa NZ, has been working diligently on preparations leading up to and during the event.

Many sponsors have supported the event, with Creative New Zealand being the major sponsor, led by Cook Islander Caren Rangi, the current chairperson.

Creative director Duane Wichman-Evans earlier stated: “Te Maeva Nui NZ has grown from strength to strength with over 1500 performers ranging from 13 years to 70 years of age, and well over 10,000 people visiting the festival over the three days.”