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A gateway to the past: New digitising kit to preserve Cook Islands’ recent voyaging history

Thursday 19 October 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National, Technology


A gateway to the past: New digitising kit to preserve Cook Islands’ recent voyaging history
Cook Islands Voyaging Society members were “honoured” to receive a Rokirokitia Digitising Kit by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. From Left: Tetini Pekepo - vice president, Ian Karika - president, Aotearoa New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes, Deon Wong - captain of Vaka Marumaru Atua and John Tierney - coordinator. MELINA ETCHES/23101810

The Cook Islands Voyaging Society as well as Tauranga Vananga were gifted a Rokirokitia Digitising Kit by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the New Zealand’s audiovisual archive.

The digitising kits are designed to digitise old tapes, film, photos and audio recordings so that generations can relive recorded cultural and historical moments.

Tetini Pekepo, speaking on behalf of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society (CIVS) at the presentation on Tuesday, expressed a sense of sadness that there are many cherished memories and visions of past voyages that the younger generation has not seen.

Pekepo said they felt honoured in accepting the digitising kit from Ngā Taonga, as they now have the resources to digitise old videos and recordings to preserve the experiences of the Cook Islands’ recent voyaging history.

On behalf of the Society, Vaka Marumaru Atua captain Deon Wong and the entire team, Pekepo conveyed heartfelt thanks, acknowledging that this support will help maintain and preserve their treasured memories.

“It has been a great honour for our voyaging team to try to walk in the footsteps of our tupuna, sailing out to new lands, and sharing stories around an open fire, a tradition that continues to this day,” said Pekepo.

He said that there are many people who are passionate about keeping this dream alive, “trying to discover who we are, where we come from, and where we are going in this modern world”.

Pekepo also expressed gratitude towards the late Sir Tom Davis, a founder of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, the late Sir Geoffrey Henry, local businessman John Tierney, who is a member of the Society, the government, and everyone for their support in turning their dream into a reality.

Tierney said: “Sir Tom inspired all of us to do lots of things.”

“What we need to digitalise today with this equipment is for tomorrow, for the next generation to see those things and to understand.”

Speaking at the presentation, Tui Tupa from the Tauranga Vananga Ministry of Cultural Development archives unit said she was “honoured” to be given the opportunity to attend training on this kit in Wellington, which has “truly deepened my appreciation of Cook Islands cultural heritage and its preservation”.

Tupa says this is an invaluable resource designed to successfully digitise and store information from magnetic media material such as VHS tapes, cassette tapes, DVD and CD to an accessible format “for people to view and listen to their historical images and songs”.

The digitising kit is “essential” to the preservation of Cook Islands culture which is the core of what identifies its people – “the gatekeepers of our history and designers of our future”.

Emile Kairua, acting Secretary for Tauranga Vananga, said the digitising kit will “capture all the memories that people have and gather into evidence all the things that we have done over the history of our lives, into safe keeping … so that we are able to look back and celebrate where we come from”.

Speaking on behalf of George “Maggie” Angene, the Minister for Tauranga Vananga, former secretary Anthony Turua explained that the digitising project was initiated around 2020/2021 when an agreement was signed with Ngā Taonga. Ngā Taonga holds Cook Islands national audio-visual heritage in safe keeping and make them widely accessible.

In November 2022, Turua and Angene attended the “emotional” launch of the digital preservation audio visual at the National Library in Wellington.

Turua said there are many historical records, including videos, sitting in homes on Rarotonga and in the Pa Enua, and the job is to retrieve those and get them digitised.

“Once it is all digitised our future generation will have access to it,” Turua said.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, is the audio-visual archive of Aotearoa New Zealand that developed the Rokirokitia Digitising Kit supported by Manatu Taonga, the Ministry of Culture & Heritage of Aotearoa.