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Te Maeva Nui brings out the best in cultural performances

Saturday 5 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features


Te Maeva Nui brings out the  best in cultural performances
The girls only Pukapuka Nassau dance team in the kapa rima. MELINA ETCHES/23080310

The thrilling and absolutely spectacular ura pau (drum dance) by Te Fuinga o Niva, the combined Manihiki and Rakahanga team, demonstrated that Te Maeva Nui brings out the best and biggest cultural performances.

The unique drum beats from Te Fuinga o Niva opened their thrilling fast beat performance which received a screaming response from the packed 2000 strong crowd at the Are Karioi Nui National Auditorium on Wednesday night.

Choreographer Tamaiti (Maiti) Samson and his young son presented a stunning synchronised opening number, which was followed by an intense fast and furious ura pau.

The men and women dazzled the appreciative audience with their skilful “as low as you can go” dancing techniques.

The ura pau was composed by Samson, assisted by Steven Hiro, and supported by Te Fuinga o Niva team based on Te Maeva Nui theme “Te Au Manu Puapinga O Toku Matakeinanga/Enua – The important animals and birds of our tribe/island”.

A significant bird, the “upo” found only in Manihiki and Rakahanga, was chosen to be represented in their dance.

The upo bird is known to bring warning signs of imminent sadness and tragedy.

It is an ocean bird and is only seen and heard on land in the night, and when the upo is heard crying, the people know this is a sign that something bad is about to happen.

Te Fuinga o Niva community strongly believe in the upo and what it represents, so much so that when they hear this bird cry they become filled with dread and fear.

Their maidens wore black dark costumes – the colour of the upo (black) – and the warriors were dressed in red and black to depict the signs of bad news and danger.

Despite the tragic events that unfold when the upo cries, the people of Te Fuinga o Niva have faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, as depicted in their dance.

Atiu Enaumanu’s stunning kapa rima (action song) was based on their unique bird – te manu “kura”. 

Before the arrival of the Gospel on Enuamanu, Rongomatane Ariki used the red feathers of the “kura” in his traditional chiefly uniform. 

Many years later, the kura bird disappeared from Enuamanu.

In 2007, Rongomatane Aida Ariki travelled to Rimatara, Tahiti, returning with 27 kura birds to her home island.

The kura is a colourful bird and feeds on flowers and the nectar of fruits.

Enuamanu’s costume featured all the colours of the kura.

Their kapa rima celebrated the beauty, uniqueness and return of the kura.

The first part of the song was composed by Aneru Tautu, and the second portion of the song by the Taunga Korero of Atiu Enuamanu.

Vaka Tereora’s ute was based on one of the flying birds – the kukupa.

The kukupa is likened to a “message of life”, like the tu’oe (paddle) representing the teachers of Vaka Tereora/Tereora College. It instils a strong determination in the teachers, a guiding principle in fostering their students.

This, in turn, rouses their spirits to remain focussed and loyal in empowering the students to achieve wisdom and knowledge. 

The second part of the ute was based on the hatchlings, the young kukupa birds, representing the students who are the “kiato” of Vaka Tereora.

“Tereora College teachers hope that their students will remain steadfast in their love and values for the school and the Cook Islands,” Vaka Tereora’s performance script said.

“The students are the chosen generation, the future successors that must carry forward the values instilled in them. 

“The students are like the kukupa which fly in from the horizon, bringing optimism, determination, pride and humility.”

Vaka Tereora wore light blue in their ute performance resembling the colour of the horizon. The ute was composed and arranged by Unuka Vaine and supported by the teachers of the Maori faculty of Tereora College.

On Wednesday the performances were led by: Vaka Tereora - kapa rima and ute, Mangaia Enua - ute, Pukapuka Nassau wenua - kapa rima, Vaka Puaikura - pe’e, Vaka Tereora - ute, Atiu Enua - kapa rima, Te Fuinga o Niva - ura pau, and the guest artist for the evening was Te Hekenga A Rangi kapa haka group from Aotearoa New Zealand.

The 2023 Te Maeva Nui cultural festival ended yesterday with the Constitution Day celebrations, prize money and the closing ceremony.