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Manihiki, Rakahanga combine forces

Friday 28 July 2023 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features


Manihiki, Rakahanga combine forces
Team Te Fuinga O Niva comprising Manihiki and Rakahanga members are ready to rock the stage at this year’s Te Maeva Nui festival. Picture: SUPPLIED/ 23072714

Northern group islands Manihiki and Rakahanga are combining forces for this year’s Te Maeva Nui festival which starts on Monday at the National Auditorium.

The neighbouring islands, combining under the banner of Te Fuinga O Niva, are ready to set the stage on fire in the weeklong annual cultural festival.

Manihiki last took part in the Maeva Nui festival in 2018 and were set to make a return this year when they were approached by Rakahanga to combine forces.

Maiti Samson, one of the team leaders, said the two neighbouring islands coming together to represent their people will be the major highlight for them at this year’s event.

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Samson, who is supported by Toka Toka and Steven Iro, paid tribute to the elder members of their communities for allowing them to take charge of the preparations and performances.

“We were preparing to go in as Manihiki when the family from Rakahanga came across and asked if they could join us. So we’re putting a combined team, this is the first time in a while we are coming together as one team under Te Fuinga O Niva. We have close to 100 people in our team,” Samson said.

“The last time Manihiki took part in Te Maeva Nui festival was in 2018 so it has been a while. We are excited to get back on the stage especially alongside Rakahanga which is the highlight for us.”

Team Te Fuinga O Niva has been preparing for about two months with two-to-three-day sessions per week before intensifying it to daily two weeks ago.

Samson said that each session would last two hours.

“The turnout has been good but challenging at the same time with people having work commitments and busy with 200 years (Gospel Bicentennial) celebrations but we managed to work our way around it.

“We have a wide range of age groups in our team with the youngest being a 13-year-old and oldest in their 40s in the dance team. We got a lot of young dancers who will be experiencing Te Maeva Nui for the first time and they are learning a lot from the experienced dancers.

“Everyone is trying to soak in as much as they can but they are a bit nervous. The good thing is we have some experienced members in the group to guide these new ones and give them the confidence they need ahead of the event.”

Costume preparation is well underway with female members of the group busy at nights stitching them together.

Samson said they had a bit of a challenge sourcing materials for costumes “but it’s coming along well now”.

“Majority of the materials are from New Zealand and some from Samoa and here. We had to bring in things like kikau skirts.”

Meanwhile Te Fuinga O Niva will be doing a runathon fundraiser through town this Saturday from 9am to 12 noon.

According to Samson the runathon will give people a glimpse of what is expected from them at the festival whilst raising funds for their Te Maeva Nui campaign. It will feature drumming, singing and dancing from their members.

Samson said that they have also received support from the island with pork and other food items being freighted over to feed their dancers during the preparation and next week.

“Our aim is to pass our cultural knowledge to our younger generation,” he said.

“We wish all other teams the very best. At the end of the day, we hope culture is the winner.”