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‘We heard the call, we came’: Cook Islands delegation electrifies audience at FestPAC

Saturday 8 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features

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‘We heard the call, we came’: Cook Islands delegation electrifies audience at FestPAC
The Cook Islands National Arts Theatre team performing at the Sister City signing ceremony yesterday. MELINA ETCHES 24060748

A spirit of unity and deep emotional pride in celebrating the unique cultures of the Pacific permeated the air at the opening ceremony of the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday night. Melina Etches reports from Honolulu.

“Genealogy and your identity is not negotiable,” proclaimed the Samoan spokesman during their presentation at the event, receiving a rousing applause.

The spectacular display and celebration of unity and cultural diversity of the Pacific nations thrilled the near 10,000 strong audience at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawai’i at Mᾱnoa.

More than 2200 delegates from 27 nations across the Pacific are participating in FestPAC, celebrating the rich tapestry of Pacific arts and traditions.


Cook Islands dancer Reihana Wiki-Koteka during the opening ceremony. MELINA ETCHES/ 24060743

FestPAC is dedicated to the preservation, revitalisation, and celebration of cultural and artistic representations from across Oceania.

The theme of the festival is “Ho’oulu Lāhui – Regenerating Oceania”.

Governor of Hawai’i Josh Green and his wife First Lady Jaime Kanani Green, leaders of Pacific nations including Prime Minister Mark Brown, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Princess of Tonga, government and traditional leaders attended the event.

Each delegation was welcomed by a chanter from Hawai’i before they offered a gift to the hosts and received a gift in return.


CINAT dancers Teremoana Macquarie (left), Tiare Anguna, Tamaiva Mateariki and Daniel Daniel with members from Guam. MELINA ETCHES/ 24060741

Every Pacific nation, including the Cook Islands, expressed their gratitude to Hawai’i for their hospitality, followed by their presentations performed with pride and heartfelt joy.

The Cook Islands National Arts Theatre (CINAT) team of dancers, drummers and musicians electrified the audience with their outstanding performances.

Prime Minister Brown led the Cook Islands delegation along with Kaumaiti Nui Tou Travel Ariki onto the stage during the opening ceremony.


Prime Minister Mark Brown at the opening ceremony. FestPAC/ 24060712

In his speech, Brown said: “We heard the call, we came; we sent our Vaka Marumaru Atua” acknowledging traditional master navigator Peia Patai and his crew who were present. They sailed 3000 miles in 23 days to arrive in Hawai’i last week.

“We’ve brought our taunga, our kahuna, and our masters in their craft. We’ve also brought the flower of this generation, because it is them that will hold on to our traditional knowledge and build on what came before them. And they will add their own to the knowledge that we treasure – our traditional culture, and our traditional arts.”

Yesterday, Brown said he was “very proud” of the Cook Islands team at the opening ceremony.

“It was a real humbling experience, and one that I’ll treasure for a long time.

“The performance of our dancers, musicians, the whole team, was absolutely stunning for an opening show that they put on and to see their absolutely outstanding costumes as well, really brought great pride for us and our country and the performance by the team.”

Brown said he is looking forward to the rest of the week and is confident the team will have a great time in wowing the audiences in Hawai’i.


Members of the Cook Islands delegation at the opening ceremony. FestPAC/ 24060711

Kaumaiti Nui Tou Travel Ariki said he was immensely proud of the Cook Islands delegation.

“Maringi te roimata o te au metua ti aru i te angaanga manea o te Kuki Airani… koia tikai te au reo…

“Kua maranga te upoko o to tatou Ui Ariki, kua maranga te upoko o te tama u’a a te Ui Ariki, kua maranga katou the upoko o te mata o te Ariki tane o Paratane e te Kavamani, to tatou Prime Minita e te Minita o te Are Ariki (Minister George Angene) te aru mai, matou katoatoa.”

“Kua maringi teia roimata, teia roimata rekareka, roimata mataora i te kite anga i to tatou peu.”


Waiting to enter the stadium for the FestPAC opening ceremony. From left: Zoe Hoff - Te Mire Ura Senior Female Champion, Mrs Travel Tou, Kaumaiti Nui Tou Travel Ariki, Emile Kairua - Secretary of Tauranga Vananga, Minister of Culture George Angene, and Tamaiva-Ariki Mateariki - Te Mire Ura Male Champion dancer. MELINA ETCHES/24060747

CINAT dancer Nikola Christian from Aitutaki, making her debut at FestPAC, said she wasn’t nervous at all on stage.

“Performing for CINAT, representing who we are was such a great experience. It was overwhelming dancing in front of thousands of people for the first time, it was so much fun,” said Christian.

Another dancer Tiree Haworth said: “It was exciting on such a bigger stage. Showcasing the Cook Islands culture was really a privilege for myself and dancing alongside the other dancers was just amazing.”

“And having the Prime Minister, the Kaumaiti Nui, the Minister and Head of Ministry of Culture was amazing.”

A specially made tivaivai piece, hand-carved gifts, and a pare rito woven by the women of Penrhyn were presented to Governor Josh Green and First Lady Jaime Kanani Green.

Emile Kairua, Secretary of Tauranga Vananga, and staff also assisted with the formalities of the event.

Hundreds of Hawaiian dancers brought the curtain down on the event, captivating the audience with a performance that showcased the sheer scale and magnificent power of their culture.

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