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Keeping Cook Islands culture alive in Aotearoa

Saturday 13 August 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Culture, National

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Keeping Cook Islands  culture alive in Aotearoa
The Ivanui Performing Arts Group are the champions of the 2022 Kapa Nui cultural festival competition in New Zealand.

In a blaze of pride, the spirit of Cook Islands cultural performing arts in Aotearoa New Zealand sprung to life as pulsating drums, heartfelt songs, mesmerising dances moves and vibrant colours took centre stage at the inaugural Kapa Nui festival last week.

In true Cook Islands fashion, along came the families and supporters – a heaving 2000 people – proudly cheering on the seven dance teams who performed at Auckland’s Vodafone Events Centre on Saturday last week.
Amongst the invited guests were New Zealand Government Ministers, the former Cook Islands Prime Minister and current Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna and valued sponsors.

The inaugural Kapa Nui Aotearoa Festival was proudly presented by Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa Charitable Trust which was established to display professional Cook Islands performing arts entertainment groups in Aotearoa.

Organiser of the event. Kim Marsters said: “Te Maeva Nui New Zealand brings Cook Islands cultural practices to Cook Islanders living in New Zealand – an avenue for the preservation of the language, heritage and culture of the Cook Islands.”

“The organisation strives to create an event as a building capacity sub-event, to keep the Cook Islands community connected for the lead up of the Kapa Nui cultural competition and close off the Cook Islands Language Week as the finale,” Marsters said.

Seven Cook Islands cultural groups based in Auckland participated in the Kapa Rima (action song) and Ura Pa’u (drum dance) categories.

The performing dance groups on the night were: AUE Dance Company, Te Riri O Te O Dance Group, Tama’aru Dance Group, Anuanua Performing Arts, Ivanui Performing Arts Group, Anuanua Dance Troupe and Pacific Tamure.

Cook Islands singer Teuira Williams (Tzar) performs at the Kapa Nui festival in Auckland New Zealand. Picture: Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa Charitable Trust/22081220

In the lead up to the event, Kapa Nui Festival director Duane Wichman-Evans told Tagata Pasifika that these groups would usually perform at events every week, but this type of competition will be a new experience for them.

“The great thing about these groups is that they’re not all from one enua or one vaka, they’re from many, so they’ve come together to compete against each other which is a new experience for them.”

Aside from bragging rights, there was also a huge prize pool up for grabs

“There are over thirty-five thousand dollars worth ($35,000) of prizes to win, this is fantastic,” added Wichman-Evans a week before the event.

The Ivanui Performing Arts Group led by cultural masters Raemaki Karati and Ngaire Karati was crowned the overall winner of the Kapa Nui 2022. In the Kapa Rima category, Ivanui Performing Arts Group finished on top followed by Tama’aru Dance Group and Anuanua Dance Troupe finished in third place. In the Ura Pa’u section, Pacific Tamure finished on top while Anuanua Dance Troupe and AUE Dance Company finished second and third respectively.

The Kapa Nui 2022 judging panel made up of experienced and talented performers comprised Niva Tuteru-Maroroa, Uirangi Bishop and Rahui Tautape Samson.

A team performs at the Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa Charitable Trust 2022 Kapa Nui Festival. Picture: Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa Charitable Trust/22081209

Bishop is the reigning Cook Islands Te Mire Ura 2022 Expert Dance Champion and hails from Aitutaki Enua.

A woman of many talents, she has expertise in choreography, costume making and the traditional arts. Bishop has also led the Aitutaki Enua team in the Cook Islands Te Maeva Nui events.

Tuteru-Maroroa is from the Northern Group of the Cook Islands. She has a range of expertise and her achievements spreads across pageants, choreography, and to holding the “Miss Thunderhips” title in New Zealand.

Since a very young age, Samson grew up in an environment steeped in Cook Islands culture and has strong family ties to members to Dancer of the Year champions and Te Maeva Nui performers. He also has a passion for costume designing and choreography.

Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa Charitable Trust 2022 would like to thank the following sponsors – Creative New Zealand, Pacifica Arts Centre, Pasifika Futures, PMN & Niu FM, Heimana Music, CIDANZ (Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand), CIC and CITAT.