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Remembering an advocate of culture

Saturday 18 June 2011 | Published in Regional


Te Tika Mataiapo was a long-time supporter of the University of the South Pacific, and recently became a member of the USP Cook Islands Campus advisory committee. Committee chairman Tevai Matapo remembers her here:

My work is inspired by my dedication to ensuring the preservation of our traditional knowledge and practices, which is based on our spiritual connection to the environment - Te Tika Mataiapo, 2009.

Te Tika Mataiapos strong and tireless advocacy of Cook Islands culture, creativity and scholarship was reflected in countless lectures, conference presentations and publications, both regionally and internationally.

Most recently she led the working group on cultural and creative industries which sought to combine the preservation of culture with innovative uses of new media.

Te Tika was strongly rooted in Cook Islands culture and environment. She recognised that part of the conservation and preservation of culture and natural environment, lay in its valuation by the tourism industry and worked long and hard towards this end.

She led efforts by the Koutu Nui to re-establish traditional cultural authority over resource management focusing on the raui of lagoons. The success of the raui system, she noted in 2009, has created a new awareness, understanding and change in the attitude of the community towards the environment and our resources. The lagoons are teeming with colourful fish and shops have increased their business in areas where tourists visit.

In recent years Te Tika was prominent in campaigns to declare the island of Suwarrow a sanctuary for birdlife and played a leading role with the Koutu Nui in action to prevent transgenic experimentation in the Cook Islands.

She was always personally courageous - battling illness, taking to the high seas in the vaka Te Au O Tonga, advocating causes that were sometimes unpopular or in advance of their time. In the midst of storms, she was always serene. She saw both sides of any argument and assisted others to a consensus. She was endlessly courteous but always determined.

In her own words, Like the ant who is industrious and respectfully greets every ant he meets, we must respect each other. We must work together in peace and harmony, to protect our planet for our future generations and all of its inhabitants. The responsible action that each one of us takes will make a difference.

Te Tika Mataiapo truly made a difference. She inspires us all to do the same and fill the great void that she now leaves behind. Farewell and God speed Te Tika Mataiapo.