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Saturday 27 January 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Features, In Depth, Memory Lane, Weekend


Papa Spoila keeps ‘Kūkis’ connected
Rahui Tautape Samson is passionate about Cook Islands culture and a pillar of the Cook Islands community in Aotearoa. CANDICE LUKE/ 24012370

Multi-talented Cook Islander Tautape Samson wears many hats. Samson is known worldwide as a comedian, a dance tutor, costume designer, and a music artist alongside his siblings in Samson Squad. Candice Luke reports.

Recapping 2023, the south Auckland local, also known as Papa Spoila, is proud to enter his 21st year serving Cook Islands culture. 

Returning to the islands with his partner for the holiday season, he reflected on his work over the last year, and looked forward to tapping into a new path of service this year. 

“We spent a week in Aitutaki enjoying time with friends and family. We got to be part of the koni raoni. And there was a group from the Tokoroa Cook Islands community that we went around with.”

Samson enjoyed being home in the heat and taking the time to slow down and un-wind. 

The rest was welcome as it has been a hectic 2023 for the social media star, amassing 401,000 followers on his Instagram dance platform, Hupahupa with Tautape (HWT). He stays true to the Samson Squad motto: “Cook Islands to the world”, starting online classes last year. 

“I had to get used to teaching an online audience, not just here but internationally. There are people from all over the world wanting to learn our Cook Islands culture and dance. But I really love connecting our people, especially our kids, back to their roots.” 

Samson has taught dance to young Cook Islanders in New Zealand since 2008. He has done this work voluntarily from his love for preserving the culture. In November his HWT Tamariki Tamaine Class of 2023 held their first showcase. 

“I wanted to give them a feeling of what the adults go through with Te Maeva Nui.”

An all-rounder in the culture, Samson is also a skilled costume designer with 20 years of experience in Cook Islands and Pacific culture. He wanted students to get a taste of what the adults experience in competitions. 

“We had the lights, the stage, full costumes from top to bottom. It prepared them for what they can expect when they get older.”

Samson invests his talents and teachings into young people as “they are the future”. 

“They hold a lot of power and wisdom. Whenever we can teach them our culture it’s a blessing. If you’re given a talent, don’t hold it. Teach those who are eager to learn.” 

He uses comedy to teach te reo Māori Kūki ‘Airani to Māori raised overseas, through his page Katakata with Me.

“The comedy helps me to connect to them. I try to keep the language open using Māori and English because people are still learning.” 

When Cook Islanders away from the ipukarea watch his videos, they see their family in the characters that Samson portrays, from the gossiping mama to the serious papa. 

“I’ve had so many Kūkis, especially overseas, that are trying to reconnect to their families. It’s been such a blessing to have a platform where I can make people laugh but at the same time those who are not connected to the reo can learn a little bit more.” 

Papa Spoila has a long list of goals to achieve this year: “I want to give more time to help our community. I do my things, Katakata and dancing, but I feel like it’s not enough. There’s more that I can do.”

He says there are parts of the Cook Islands community that need more attention for the health and wellbeing of the people. 

“A big one for me is mental health. I want to just try and go out in support of as many people as I can. Do good deeds, not to please myself, but to do the best that I can for our community.”

Hupahupa with Tautape children’s dance classes are run without financial support. To help the cause, head to Samson’s Instagram page to connect: @hupahupawithtautape.