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Chipping away at perfection: Cook Islands carvers captivate crowds at FestPAC

Thursday 13 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features

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Chipping away at perfection: Cook Islands carvers captivate crowds at FestPAC
Carvers Moeroa “Tupuna Tane” Moeara (left) and Terence Tereapii Tangapoto are carving tu ‘oe (steering oar for the vaka) at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. MELINA ETCHES/24061225

Amidst the vibrant cultural performances and artistic demonstrations at the 13th Pacific Arts Festival in Honolulu, skilled carvers from the Cook Islands have set up their workspace under the shade of a large, fruit-bearing mango tree at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Although they may be a few days behind the schedules of the other Pacific Island delegations, their infectious enthusiasm and optimism have captivated the attention of visitors at the event.

Noo Ngametua is leading the team of carvers comprising Papa William Powell, and Moeroa “Tupuna Tane” Moeara.

Moeara said Hawai’i had kindly requested that the participants carve an ‘oe of their own designs.

The tu ‘oe (steering oar for the Vaka) the carvers are shaping measures about 4.5 metres long, made from Tamanu and other Hawaiian wood.

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“We are proud to be here representing our nation carving this tu ‘oe,” says Moeara, “and we appreciate the effort Hawai’i has done in getting our wood.”

“Te tarai nei on behalf of our people of the Cook Islands, te tu ‘oe.”

The motif design on the handle of the ‘oe is the “mata varu”, signifying the ‘eke (octopus).

“Te ‘eke, e akairo katoa aia i te tuatau mua o te ai metua. Te vaiara rae ia kopu e apaina ratou i te akairo o te ‘eke.”

Moeara said the design on the rudder piece will represent “nga rua magtangi o Raka (navigation system), i runga i te upoko o te oe”.

The carvers are in good spirits and are confident that the ‘oe will be completed by today.