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Highland Paradise Competition fights to keep traditions alive

Saturday 25 May 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art, Culture, Education, Features, Food, Go Local, National


Highland Paradise Competition fights to keep traditions alive
Apii Te Uki Ou students show their weaving skills. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 24052455

Apii Arorangi was crowned the overall winners of the 2024 Highland Paradise Cultural Competition held on Thursday.

The competition featured three Rarotonga schools, Apii Te Uki Ou, Apii Takitumu and Apii Arorangi, who took part in the umu preparation – the traditional way, weaving, and taking part in coconut husking.

While Apii Arorangi was crowned the overall winner, Apii Te Uki Ou walked away with first place prize in ukulele and umu making (earth oven) competitions.

Ministry of Cultural Development Reo Maori advisor Raemaki Karati said the competition began with the umu preparation, lighting of the umu, preparation of the food, wrapping of the food “the traditional way” and covering the umu.

Apii Arorangi students in coconut husking competition. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 24052451 / 24052454

Karati said some students took part in the weaving, showing good craftsmanship and some took part in a fun coconut husking exercising.

“We had the coconut husking, and we had to put a little bit of fun in it, the kids enjoyed it.”

Karati said it was his first time to be at the competition since returning from New Zealand. He was happy to see the students involved and taking part in the cultural activities.

Apii Takitumu teacher Anjima Ruarau said the school’s years 5 and 6 students, who were around nine and ten years old, joined the competition.

Ruarau said she was proud of her students, who were there to show their support and competing against Year 7 and 8 students from the other schools.

She said the students completed their tasks in the competition with little help from their teachers.

Ministry for Cultural Development director for identity Ngatuaine Maui says it is very important for young people to learn their culture and preserve it.

Maui adds preserving the ways of umu making is a dying act because they feel they don’t have the time to make it, as it requires a lot of work.

Apii Takitumu students show their weaving products. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 24052458

“They prefer the conventional oven.”

Maui says the Highland Paradise programme encourages students to learn and preserve their culture.

“We are thankful that Highland Paradise is organising this activity so we’re here to support them in this venture and we’d like to encourage a lot more schools to join.”

Looking at the competition, Maui said they could tell who is taught in their homes on umu preparations and who needed more supervision.

This was the competition’s 10th year, having missed out on some years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teuira (Tutu) Piragi, managing director of Highland Paradise, said they were very happy to host the competition this year and hoped to have this cultural competition included in the education curriculum and become a regular part of their programme.

The prizes (trophies) were sponsored by the Australian High Commission in the Cook Islands. Around 100 students, teachers and parents were at the competition.