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Cook Islands Language Week opens with new digital hub for kōrero Kūki ‘Āirani

Monday 1 August 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Culture, National

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Cook Islands Language Week opens with new digital hub for kōrero Kūki ‘Āirani
The Cook Islands drumming workshop at Rowandale in South Auckland in 2020. Photo: Pacific Media Network/22073146

New Zealand Government is opening an online hub for young Cook Islanders to tuatua (talk) about their culture, in honour of Cook Islands Language Week.

Koanga Māpū Youth Digital Hub was developed with youth in mind, as a central platform for them to capture their elders’ stories and knowledge – kōrero – for their peers and generations to come.

Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week began on Sunday (NZ time).

The theme for the week is ‘Ātuitui’ia au ki te Oneone o tōku ‘Ui Tupuna’, meaning “connect me to the soil of my ancestors”.

It was intentionally the same theme as 2021, Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said.

“Focusing on this theme for a second year allows us to “iriiri manako” or think hard on it and deeply examine what this means in terms of the retention of Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Airani language and Pe’u Māori culture.”

Only 9 per cent of Cook Islands people speak the language and it is classified as vulnerable by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“In some ways, it serves as both as a warning; elders with the institutional and historical and deep understanding of the language and culture are passing away and that knowledge is being lost,” Sio said.

“At the same time, it provides an opportunity to capture their stories for perpetuity, so future generations can benefit and celebrate this indigenous knowledge.”

Tauraki Rongo, the Cook Islands Language Week lead from the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand, said too few people in New Zealand spoke Cook Islands Māori.

He suspected barely half of those still in the Cook Islands did either – even Parliamentary business was conducted in English.

“It starts from the top, it starts from our leaders,” he said.

“If our language really means something to us, it will have to start from home, in the Cook Islands.”

Here in Aotearoa, there weren’t enough spaces for young people to learn their reo, Rongo said. Families were too busy to teach their children at home and community group numbers were dwindling.

He said elders in the community needed to urgently pass the torch to their young relatives and keep the reo alive.

“Every language week I feel sorry we’re going to keep celebrating and it’s slowly going to keep fading away,” he said.

There are events all over the country celebrating Cook Islands Language Week – check them out.

To wrap up the week, there will be a Kapa Nui’ Festival at the Vodafone Centre in Manukau, hosted by Te Maeva Nui Trust.

  • Reporting by Sapeer Mayron/Stuff