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Bataillard shares gift of traditional massage at Festival of Pacific Arts

Tuesday 11 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features

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Bataillard shares gift of traditional massage at Festival of Pacific Arts
Cook Islander Tekura Nancy Bataillard, a traditional massage therapist, at the FestPAC Hawai’i 2024. MELINA ETCHES/24061022

When her daughter Tepaeru was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Tekura Nancy Bataillard found herself searching for and discovering through her own personal journey the healing mana of natural remedies and traditional massage.

Bataillard is one of Cook Islands’ talented artisans who is featured in the Cook Islands Festival Village at the Hawai’i Convention Center during the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) in Honolulu.

She has been overwhelmed by the aroa and kindness of the people of Hawai’i and its Cook Islands community, who have generously assisted her with essentials to enhance her massage hut in the Festival Village.

“It’s been great, you come to a new place and you realise that there are people who care, who share the same spirit – the Pacific Blue Ocean spirit,” says Bataillard.

While setting up her massage space last week, she encountered some people she felt comfortable enough to ask for help. They generously provided her with coconuts, a grater, and a slow cooker, all essential items to enhance her services.

“Don’t be too akama (shy) to ask, ask and it shall be received…”

And receive she did.

Bataillard is grateful to the Numanga family for providing her with a massage table, Miimetua Mazel Unga for the slow cooker, and Hawaiian, Paumarū Cassiday for coconuts as well as others for their support.


Hawaiian Paumarū Cassiday kindly provides Tekura Nancy Bataillard with coconuts for her massage hut. MELINA ETCHES/ 24061021

On the first day of the Festival Village, Bataillard met Cassiday, who was eager to learn about traditional art. She then asked him if he could provide some coconuts.

“He showed up the next day super early with coconuts, a grater and a bush knife – just what I needed,” she shares. “How amazing is that, without these things I don’t think I would have been able to showcase properly what I came here to do.”

Bataillard explains there is a “big difference” between a hot stone traditional massage using fresh grated coconut and the usual pressure point massage.

“I’m just so blessed to be here; I have made new friends who are no longer strangers.”

Born and raised on Mangaia, Bataillard learned the traditional art of massage from a young age. Around five years old, she began observing her grandfather, Revake Tetonga, who was a taunga in healing, and her Aunty.

When their daughter Tepaeru was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Bataillard and her husband John Bataillard determined to find help, leading them to leave Rarotonga for Aotearoa New Zealand. After several years there, their search for more support took them to Australia.

“In Australia, I was looking for something that could help my daughter – she was confined to a wheelchair. She was on all this medication given to us by doctors but these didn’t appear to be helping her, I felt like she was getting worse…”

Determined to learn more natural options to help her daughter, she went back to school and studied natural remedies, acupuncture, and massage.

“It was the best thing,” she says.

While she was learning, she was practicing on her daughter, massaging her every day.

“She started sleeping well, when before that she was in so much pain. And we were able to go places, before that we couldn’t go anywhere because she was always in pain, she was always crying and everybody was looking at us.”

When her daughter was about 16, Bataillard threw out all her medication.

“She became a happier person, I massaged her every day, and we could go camping and do things.”

Decades later in 2021, she returned home to the Cook Islands from Australia.

Sadly, Tepaeru passed away in January 2023 in Rarotonga, at the age of 28.

Bataillard continues massage therapy at home in Rarotonga with the help of her sons.

“We love our daughter and she was happy. I kept trying to find something to help her to help ease her pain without me realising that we have been gifted. Gifted through the power of the Mana of mauro (massage). Our ancestors knew it all, they had the skills and the knowledge.”

Bataillard believes everyone has been blessed with a gift to help others and that this gift should be shared.

“In our ways kare e tu’a te kite, te marama… me mate koe, kua ngaro ria te kite (we tend to not share our traditional knowledge).”

Participating as an artisan at FestPAC Hawai’i 2024 has been a truly eye-opening experience for Bataillard. It has given her a new perspective on her gift and how she can contribute to the body of traditional healing knowledge (mauro) in the Pacific.

“Massage is something sacred, it’s not just about putting oil on the body… it’s also knowing where to release those points.”

Bataillard is open to sharing her knowledge.

“We are all Pacific people, we are connected and I believe we should be helping each other – we are all God’s children and he is the one who has given us the gift.

“I believe that the more you give, the more you shall receive.”

  • Melina Etches in Honolulu

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