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‘Strengthen our culture … Not cut and paste from New Zealand’

Tuesday 11 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art, Culture, Education, Features, National

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‘Strengthen our culture … Not cut and paste from New Zealand’
Cook Islander Nicolea Mateariki speaking at the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) Young Pacific Leaders sessions in Honolulu, Hawai’i. FESTPAC COOK ISLANDS /24061016

“Strengthen our culture” was the message of the 19-year-old Cook Islander Nicolea Mateariki at the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) Young Pacific Leaders sessions in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Mateariki was joined by Christian Tereora at the Young Pacific Leaders sessions which offers a youth perspective on contemporary issues and concerns. Scheduled in parallel with onstage performances celebrating Pacific cultural heritage, the sessions focus on cultural leadership and youth empowerment, connecting young leaders across the Pacific to share experiences and solutions.

Mateariki said strengthening culture in the Cook Islands could be achieved by fully immersing students in Te Reo Māori and Peu Māori by teaching them the indigenous language from a primary school level.

“This is how we preserve who we are … Not cut and paste from New Zealand,” the Cook Islands television sports journalist said.

Mateariki used Hawai’i and Aotearoa New Zealand as examples of places where people have lost “almost completely” who they are because they adopted ways that are not theirs.

“We can see that around the world, where indigenous people struggle to maintain who they are because they’re being taught to embrace something else that did not belong to them,” she said.

“If we go back to what our Tupuna knew, and what they taught us, and we embrace that completely or as completely as we can, being mindful that we are a modern society, we have to find the right balance, and if our leaders can empower us to do this, we will be better citizens for it, today, tomorrow and for the future ahead.”

The theme for the Young Pacific Leaders sessions is inspiring actions that enrich homelands and communities.