Sharing Adventure, Food and Tradition in Tokelau

Elena Pasilio, who is the Radio New Zealand Pacific Correspondent in Tokelau, recently wrote an article about how in the remote Tokelau atolls, where the culture is family oriented, everyone plays a role in looking after the community through traditions like Faiva Fakamua.

Faiva Fakamua is a Tokelauan fishing quest. Village fishermen set out together in search of a catch for their whole community to share. Any fish caught are distributed, via the unique inati system, amongst all the villagers.

The Faiva Fakamua tradition sees the men and boys of the island, the lima malohi o te fenua (strength of the land), combine their efforts to feed the village from their catch. This longstanding tradition has been preserved through generations by the elders, and is considered an important part of Tokelauan culture.

Lui Tumua, 31, who was raised in Nukunonu, will bring up his son with these traditions the same way he was. “Each family has their own fishing methods and traditional knowledge, passed down from their forefathers. In the Faiva Fakamua we combine our efforts to bring a catch enough for the community.”

large-political-map-of-tokelau

Where is Tokelau? Map from http://www.mapsland.com

“I will pass all I know to my son and family members, just as any man on the island,” Lui said.

Faiva Fakamua is not confined to special events or days – they can occur at random times and for random reasons, depending on the situation in the community. For example, on Good Friday this year, just as the sun made its slow descent into the horizon, engines were heard grumbling against the seas. The fishing boats all assembled at the wharf, aiming to leave by 6pm and return 6am the next morning.

Because Tokelau is a group of remote atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the moana is the hunting ground of its people. Tokelauan fishermen respect its generosity and its dangers. They know that the moana can take as easily as it gives. “These are characteristics of the traditional knowledge passed down from our fathers and forefathers – knowing the safe spots to fish depending on the tide and current,” Lui commented.

After 12 hours on the moana boats began coming down the channel at about 6am, into the wharf’s docking area. Men began unloading chilly bins and buckets, each filled with part of their catch. The fish are amassed in one big pile which are then divided into smaller piles. These are laid out on the malae inati for distribution.

Girls walk down the wharf with breakfast, plates of sausages, sandwiches and tea, all for the fishermen on boats dropping off their catches and the men preparing the inati.

Pafelio Tumua, 46, has lived in Nukunonu most of his life. He said that in his experience the Faiva Fakamua is a communal event that brings the island together and everyone has a job to do. “Every last fish on the boat is unloaded for inati, that’s the tradition of Faiva Fakamua. We share every fish that was caught out in the moana.”

“When I was younger – and it was canoes back then – we were limited to about one canoe per extended family,” Tumua added. “But these days its aluminium boats and there are probably two or more boats per extended families now so there are more of us at these events.”

A truck drives around the island with the town crier, calling for children to come collect their inati. “Tamaiti omamai ki na inati!” the crier hollers into the morning air.

Screen Shot 2021-04-22 at 8.47.29 PM-0-850-0-0

Tokelau Faiva Fakamua. Photo from http://www.thecoconet.tv.

Siopili Perez, Nukunonu’s Faipule (Head of State), said that such traditions make for a closer community which is strengthened by the ways of the ancestors. It is tradition to look after each other and make sure that everyone has food for the celebration of Easter. “This is part of our culture and it has always been this way,” Perez said.

Children sit and watch while the inati is still being prepared – men and boys who were on the Faiva Fakamua adding fish to piles that lay waiting to be distributed.

“Their family names are called, and one by one they come forward to collect their household share,” said Lui Tumua. “The inati system is fair and the shares vary to suit the household depending on how many people live in that house.”

Pafelio Tumua said, “This is also for the households who do not have an able man to fish for them – the children without their fathers on island, it’s for the tamā manu (foreigners) who does not go fishing.”

Lino Isaia, Nukunonu’s Pulenuku (Mayor) said that these fishing quests are for the community as a whole, to make sure that everyone has a share of the catch, no matter how big or small. “The Faiva Fakamua was great and the ration was five fish for every individual on the island, that is our Easter meals sorted,” Isaia said triumphantly.

It’s for the community as a whole,” he said.

Down by the catch a man stands with a paper and pen. He reads out household names while an elder and other men count the fish and divide them by the number of people on the island.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Preserving History and Culture in Cook Islands

About a month ago the Cook Islands News ran an article about how Te Fuinga o Niva Manihiki on Rarotonga launched their “na mea o te fare” history and cultural event by observing “tanu purapura” – a planting ceremony – at the Constitution Park.

The project was initiated by Pastor Ngarima George and Daniel Apii with families of the Manihiki community and committee members also joining in to support of the occasion.

The event was conducted officially to start off a set of quarterly events that will continue throughout the year.

George said, “The purpose is to celebrate the restoration and preservation of our island … to share and document our genealogy, history, language, dancing, singing, cooking, planting, cooking, fishing, medicine – culture – na mea o te fare.”

“Many of our forefathers have gone and took their knowledge with them. So while some of us Pa Metua are still alive, we want to do something that will be documented and distributed to the schools in Manihiki.”

Three young coconuts were planted to signify the first quarter of the year, accompanied by new storyboards to mark important events of Manihiki and Rakahanga.

Cook-Islands-Map

map from offshorecorporation.com

The ‘tanu purapura’ for ‘Te Huru-Avatea’ was carried out by the families of Tamata Manuela, Tuteru Hagai and the Manihiki and Rakahanga Community; the plaque was unveiled by the Australian High Commissioner Dr. Christopher Watkins and acting New Zealand High Commissioner Helena Cook.

‘Te Papa i Hamore’ planting ceremony was done by Faimau George Robati, Pastor Teina Tuarau, Pastor Ben Tuakana, Pastor Ioane Ruarepo, Reverend Peri Daniel and Reverend Takaikura Marsters’ families. Pastor Tuakana revealed the plaque.

‘Te Kainga’ was planted by family representatives from Dr Pupuke Robati and Temu Hagai; the sign board was unveiled by the Rakahanga community.

The celebrations also commemorated 171 years of the return of the “Tumotu’ – the crossing between Rakahanga and Manihiki – to Rakahanga on March 27, 1850.

Guests enjoyed tasty Manihiki dishes, including faraoa karo, uveke, faraoa pitete and pana uto. “We also ask that if anyone who knows anything of the history of Manihiki to please come and see us,” George said.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pacific Language Weeks for 2021

Radio New Zealand posted an article regarding the 2021 Pacific Language Weeks and this year’s language ceremonies in New Zealand will see the introduction of Language Champion Honors.

Pasifika-Language-week-890x445

Banner from my.christchurchcitylibraries.com

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples [MPP] carried out the Pacific Language Weeks Tivaivai Review, which highligted the changes community groups wanted to see in the annual celebrations of the nine Pacific languages.

2021 signalled a year of transition for the Pacific Language Weeks series, MPP would be assessing a themed approach, increase in funding and announcing Language Champion Honors.

Although officially termed “Language Weeks”, many Pacific communities extended activities throughout the year with language funding support provided by MPP to enable year-long language learning initiatives.

Aupito William Sio said he wanted the Language Champions to be part and parcel of the Pacific Communities response. “This began when The Pacific Aotearoa Lalanga Fou Report captured community voices. They affirmed that Pacific languages and cultures provide a strong foundation for their sense of wellbeing, and the importance of promoting Pacific role models. Pacific Language Weeks provides an opportunity to value and give status to Pacific languages in Aotearoa,” he said.

The inclusion of Language Champion Honors as part of the Pacific Language Weeks closing ceremonies was one of three key transitional changes that would be introduced and implemented this year.

Pacific communities expressed, through engagement with the ministry, the need to acknowledge the significant contribution, service and leadership, made by Pacific pioneers, past and present, who had championed languages in Aotearoa.

Aupito said the new honour was an opportunity to recognise these community leaders. Each community will co-design with the Ministry, the selection criteria and process to honor language champions as part of their language week programs.

Language Week Dates 2021:

– Rotuman Language Week: Sunday 9 May – Saturday 15 May

– Samoa Language Week: Sunday 30 May – Saturday 05 June

– Kiribati Language Week: Sunday 11 July – Saturday 17 July

– Cook Islands Language Week: Sunday 01 August – Saturday 07 August

– Tonga Language Week: Sunday 05 September – Saturday 11 September

– Tuvalu Language Week: Sunday 26 September – Saturday 02 October

– Fijian Language Week: Sunday 03 October – Saturday 09 October

– Niue Language Week: Sunday 17 October – Saturday 23 October

– Tokelau Language Week: Sunday 24 October – Saturday 30 October

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Te Maeva Nui Festival Returns to New Zealand

Radio New Zealand recently reported that the Cook Islands biggest cultural festival, Te Maeva Nui, is returning to Auckland after it was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2019, the event was held in Aotearoa for the first time in its more than 50-year history. Organiser Kim Marsters said her team was optimistic the two-day festival would go ahead as scheduled in July.

Marsters said this year’s theme was ‘Resilience’ and was fitting as “Cook Islanders stand in unity to show their strength and withstand adversity”. For the first time, seven Enua and Vaka were set to perform at Auckland’s Barfoot & Thompson Stadium on 23-24 July.

Marsters said over 1000 performers would represent their vaka, enua and village at the festival. “There will be an array of beautiful vibrant costumes, jaw-dropping dancing, phenomenal traditional drumming, the marketplace, Cook Islands culinary treats and much more is on offer,” she said. “We are very blessed and privileged to have the Te Maeva Nui Festival in Aotearoa New Zealand for the second time.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity to bring family, friends, villages and the community together to embrace and uplift our culture through our language, song, dance performance, arts and crafts, fellowship and of course food,” Marsters continued.

The festival’s director, Duane Wichman-Evans, said thousands of Cook Islanders were looking forward to the event. Wichman-Evans said the theme highlighted how the country had stood in unity and showed strength during adversity. “We encourage building bridges to link our Cook Islands community in Aotearoa back to their homeland. For all our performers it is a place to stand proud and shine, and be part of their Vaka, Enua and villages.”

He said Te Maeva Nui was an opportunity for Cook Islanders and Pasifika in New Zealand to stand strong and reflect on their heritage, while paving the way for a better future. “Many New Zealand-born Cook Islanders haven’t been to their motherland and don’t speak Cook Islands Maori. Now in rehearsals, the groups are learning the traditional art of costume designing, weaving costumes, drumming, composing, singing and song writing – language and culture at the forefront.”

Marsters said tickets for the event will be available online from 10 April and at the Pasifika Festival in Western Springs, Auckland.

For more information click here.

Screenshot_26

Te Maeva Nui, photo from http://www.culture.gov.ck

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Largest Pacific Dance Festival is Back: Polyfest 2021

Radio New Zealand reported that the world’s largest Pacific dance festival kicked off in Auckland this week after two years of disruptions. Covid-19 caused the cancellation of Polyfest last year, while the year before it was cut short by the Christchurch terror attacks.

Polyfest is the annual Māori and Pasifika cultural highlight for Auckland secondary schools and it started with a flag raising of Pasifika and Mana Whenua colors before a pōwhiri of welcome to guests and performers. Hundreds gathered at the Manukau sports bowl, the ground which will host the event for next few days of competition.

d4b1f184a0227070e3925635007ad83e1285bb69

Polyfest director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu said they were really excited to have the festival under way after last year’s Covid-19 cancellation. “There’s still a lot of uncertainties and a lot of anxiety out there but at the same time it’s kind of overcome by the resilience of these kids and the resilience of the community that comes around this.” said Seiuli. “Everyone wants this to happen but we’re wanting to do this safely and, as soon as possible, get those kids back on that stage.”

A deputy principal at Māngere College, Mele Galenu’u Ah Sam is one of Polyfest’s Samoa-stage co-ordinator and said numbers had taken a bit of a hit this year with Covid-19 but there was still much to look forward to. “The Ministry for Pacific Peoples, who are the sponsor for our Tautalaga, for our speeches, and they have provided us with some challenging topics so it will be interesting to see or hear what the kids have to say, and also performances as usual.”

For her Tonga-stage counterpart, James Cook High School’s Fane Fusipongi Ketu’u, it was exciting but meant more to juggle. “Today we’re starting with our speech competition and we’re holding that on the Samoan stage because the Cook Islands is using our Tongan stage today and tomorrow,” she said. “It’s a different feeling altogether after two years but we are hoping for the best and we know that it will be a great day today.”

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said it was exciting to be back at Polyfest after a challenging time and sobering period for young Pasifika. Numbers had approached 100,000 in previous years with 10,000 performers from 60 schools.

Aupito said Polyfest was founded on helping Māori and Pacific cultures survive and thrive. “Recognising that more than 60 percent of our Pacific population are New Zealand born but they themselves told me in 2018 that despite them being New Zealand born and despite them not being well versed in our languages, that languages and cultures were still important.”

Without them, mused Aupito, ties would be lost to the land, seas and environment, putting Pacific identity at risk.

Last year’s pandemic-appropriate theme of “Healing the body, mind, spirit and soul with the strength of culture” continues.  This year will see a revised format to allow for more space and social distancing.

On its 45th anniversary the festival this year has one less stage, but students will not miss any performance time with a revised format.

For more information and to watch some live events click here.

Polyfest culminates in its biggest day on Saturday.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2021 Canoe Festival in Vanuatu Gets Backing from Tourism Office

The Vanuatu Daily Post ran an article about how the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) is sponsoring ten sails for this year’s Maskelyne Canoe Festival to be held from the 26–28 July. The sails will be branded with the VTO logo and VTO’s domestic tourism marketing slogan ‘Sapotem Lokol Turisim.’

The handing over of the official letter of sponsorship to the President of the Maskelyne Tourism Association, Mr. Kalo Nathaniel, took place at the Vanuatu Tourism Office.

The Maskelynes are a group of low lying islands with extensive reefs and mangroves off the southeast tip of Malekula, Vanuatu.

mask_map

Map from maskelynetourism.blogspot.com

The Maskelyne Canoe Festival highlights some of the best things Vanuatu has to offer, including village feasts, kastom dances, traditional craft and canoe making, and the main event –– the outrigger canoe race. VTO would like to thank the Maskelyne Canoe Association for the opportunity to be a part of this exciting annual event.

Events and festivals such as the Maskelyne Canoe Festival are an important part of Vanuatu’s tourism industry. Research shows that these events, showcasing our unique traditions and culture, are a huge attraction for both the domestic and international tourism markets, as they set Vanuatu apart from competitor destinations.

“Our cultural traditions are part of our Melanesian heritage, and keeping them alive is the best way to preserve them. Our visitors tell us that Vanuatu’s kastom and cultures are the main reason they come to Vanuatu, so we would like to commend you and your fellow association members for your efforts in putting together another festival event this year,” said VTO’s CEO, Adela Issachar Aru at the handover ceremony.

According to the CEO, the Maskelyne Canoe Festival demonstrates the meaning of VTO’s domestic tourism campaign, Sapotem Lokol Turisim, as domestic tourists attending the Festival will bring direct benefits to the communities of Maskelyne and nearby islands, with visitors spending their money on accommodation, restaurants, transport and other businesses in the area during their stay. VTO encourages everyone to show their support for local tourism by attending this years’ event Maskelyne Canoe Festival, and events like it around the country.

GL00-VANUATU-Maskelyne-6-1500x900

Maskelyne Canoe Festival, photo from http://www.getlostmagazine.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Raising Climate Justice with Kava Ceremony

Last month a Pasifika community group hosted a kava ceremony raising the flag on climate change following New Zealand’s America’s Cup victory. The Pacific Cooperation Foundation collaborated with other Pacific groups to host the dawn ceremony at the Maritime Museum in Auckland.

Kava o Aotearoa custodian Pakilau Manase Lua says the event serves to raise awareness about climate justice through a connected Pacific ancestral way using kava, the vaka, sailing and voyaging.

Lua said they scheduled the event to coincide with the America’s Cup race serving as a reminder that this significant sporting event is taking place on the Pacific Ocean. “Just to remind Aotearoa that they’re racing on our Moana and that Moana is imperilled by climate change and the fact that Tuvalu, one of the most at risk countries from climate change in terms of the rising sea water and the Tuvalu overstayers should be treated as climate change refugees.”

Lua said Kava O Aotearoa ceremonies have been running for the last three years, targeting significant events to raise awareness and amplify the voices of Māori and Pacific communities on particular issues.

“The first time we ran it was in 2019 and that was to stand in solidarity for our Muslim brothers and sisters who were slain in Christchurch. We also held one last year for all our the whānau impacted by Covid-19 at the Auckland Museum when they launched the new Te Ao Mārama space, which has the largest kava bowl in the world,” said Lua.

There was twenty people participating aboard Haunui waka while another fifty participated on the balcony overlooking Haunui.

PCF board member Rachel Petero said they are honoured to be partnering in this important event as a platform for highlighting the effects of climate change in the Pacific.

“We acknowledge Kava O Aotearoa ceremony, which is the only Pacific ceremony that is inclusive of Māori and Pacific representation, positions women in key roles in the ceremony, and we come together to celebrate Pacific cultures and protocols safely in Aotearoa,” she said.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Turtle and the Shark”- Samoan Legend

Our next Pacific legend comes from Samoa. Samoans tell the story of an old blind woman, named Fonueau, of Salega, Savaii (Western Samoa). She had one child, a dear girl named Salofa. Enjoy…

The Turtle and the Shark

A long time ago villages near Fonueau’s home suffered the effects of a great famine. Because of her blindness Fonueau was not able to find food. After many days of intense hunger, she and her daughter smelled the wonderful aroma of soi as it baked in the ground ovens of the village. Foneau and Salofa waited for food to be brought by villagers, but it never arrived. 

The woman and her daughter were so desperate, they decided to cast their fate upon the sea. The mother took her child by the hand and together they jumped off the cliff into the surf below. 

As they swam to the surface, their bodies transformed. One became a turtle and the other a shark. They swam away from the villagers who did not care for them. When they arrived in Vaitogi, a village in American Samoa, they resumed their human forms. They were welcomed with food and clothing by Chief Letuli and his people. 

The two women were so appreciative of the chief’s tender care that they vowed to return to the ocean to live just beyond the cliffs, returning when called upon to dance and entertain the villagers. They left a beautiful song with the Samoans that could be used when the shark or turtle were needed.

Today, when villagers gather along the shore of that legendary site and sing the sweet melody, it is said that a turtle and a shark appear. 

The Shark and the Turtle (Samoa)
“The Shark and the Turtle,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2021.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The People and the Land in Guam

The Pacific Daily News released a fascinating article earlier this month written by Artemia Perez, Juan San Nicolas, Lazaro Quinata and Manuel Cruz and commissioned by Kumision Estoria-ta about how the relationship that CHamoru people have with the land is one of interconnectedness and respect. Their ancestors were not taught to see land as a commodity. Instead, they coexisted with nature and saw themselves as givers just as much as they were takers, protecting and witnessing it as an invaluable force.

Knowledge of the land as both a resource and a connection to life beyond us is seen across many indigenous cultures. Their ancestors, for example, looked to the trongkon niyok (coconut tree) as the tree of life and skillfully utilized every part of it. Additionally, the trongkon nunu (banyan trees) were respected as ancestral homes to the taotaomo’na (the people of before). It was natural for CHamorus to be raised knowing the function and vitality of their land.

History tells us that Spanish expansionism came with the naming and thus claiming of land.

While our ancestors referred to themselves as I taotao tåno, or the people of the land, Spaniards who sought to either conquer land for economic gain or evangelize its people first took to naming it as a means of procuring ownership. In these times of early encounters, European cartographers placed our island on a world map that painted us first as remarkable seafarers, then thieves, and finally an archipelago that honored a queen (Mariana) who had only heard about us in written letters.

From 1565 to 1815, Guåhan was a critical juncture for the Crown of Castille’s Manila Galleon Trade Route, as ships leaving Manila would depart for Mexico loaded with spices, porcelain, silk, ivory and other goods from China. On their return, the ships are said to have carried at least one-third of the silver extracted from Peru, as well as other parts of the Americas. The route was so prosperous and expansive that it is referred to by historians as “The Dawn of the Global Economy,” and “The Birth of Globalization.”

Although the trade route was lucrative, the voyages were treacherous.

With a mortality rate of approximately 50%, the likelihood of malnutrition, starvation, and infection was also a persistent threat to the 400-person crews living in cramped quarters. However, Guahan was much more than a strategic location. The responsibility that CHamorus felt to tend to the land was interwoven into the fabric of their society.

The land and its people, believed to be formed through the love and sacrifice of siblings Fo’na and Pontan, was also managed by clans overseen by siblings — a Maga’lahi and a Maga’håga. CHamoru society was comprised of two classes: The CHamorri and the Manåchang.

The CHamorri were divided into an upper class referred to as Matao and a middle class called Acha’ot. They lived along the coastline and were skilled fishermen. The Manåchang caste lived inland and were skilled agriculturalists. Furthermore, as a matrilineal society, land was passed down through a mother’s bloodline and as a result, much of CHamoru culture was reflective of this high regard for both women and land: providers of life.

The act of taking from or venturing through the land was and continues to be a sacred exchange; usually involving asking permission from either those who tend to the land, or the spirits of the land in the absence of a clear caretaker.

eb190cb28a4bbef02f307c02127f3433

Ancient Chamorro, picture from http://www.pinterest.com.au

I Kumision Estoria-ta

In preparation for Guam’s participation in the 500th anniversary of the Circumnavigation of the World in 1521, Guam Public Law 35-23 established the Estoria-ta: Inetnon Estudion Umali’e’ yan Umafana’ I Taotao Hiyong yan i Taotao Tano’ — I Kumision Estoria-ta.

Its members are appointed by public officials and organizations which are collaborative partners in telling the Guam story from the CHamoru point of view in 2021.

Mission statement

I Kumision Estoria-ta will serve as the primary vehicle through which the government of Guam and the people of Guam represent the perspective of the CHamoru people of Guam as they encountered the circumnavigation voyage of Magellan and Elcano in 1521. 

It will coordinate heritage and cultural programs, the production of educational materials and establish relationships with international and national partners in order to ensure a rich, vibrant and respected CHamoru perspective on the encounter and the subsequent historical changes to Guam, the Marianas and the Pacific Islands.

As the first Pacific islanders to encounter Europeans, it is a special responsibility of the CHamoru people of Guam to provide our island point of view of the original encounter which is historically accurate and serves as a source of pride for this and succeeding generations.

Platform

The Guam Pacific Daily News in cooperation with the Estoria-ta Kumision, the Guam Preservation Trust, MARC/UOG and Humanities Guåhan is using the media as an alternative platform to provide this historic document, “I Hinanao-ta: Our Journey,” written by our young scholars to portray our history, Guam’s history with our local narrative through the power of perspectives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Traditional Games Thriving in the Cook Islands

Earlier this month Radio New Zealand reported that plans are already afoot to expand the traditional sports program at the next Cook Islands Games.

The revival of traditional games like stilt races and coconut husking were among of the highlights of last year’s multi-sport event in Rarotonga, in which one fifth of the Cook Islands’ population competed across 24 sports.

It was the first time the traditional games were not just an exhibition event and while the competition did not contribute to the overall points tally, the island of Atiu did come away with a trophy.

The coordinator for the traditional sports event, George Paniani, told Champions of the Pacific the disciplines double as social events, celebrating and helping preserve the Cook Island culture. “People started knowing themselves, knowing their relatives, knowing their bloodlines, knowing which island they come from,” he said. 

“Knowing these things, in respect of the history and where you come from – each island – that it’s one big happy family and being not as physically competitive as one would have in contact sport but more in the family, social and recognising each other’s relationship very closely, being appreciative of each other and most of all having fun.”

The Ministry of Cultural Development is in charge of all cultural events in the Cook Islands and has a national strategy to strengthen their language. Anthony Turia heads the committee which helped design last year’s traditional games program and said community support is crucial, with northern and southern group all having their own unique traditional sports which come with different versions and rules.

Only five disciplines were included in the 2020 program: stilts, weaving, juggling, coconut relay and coconut husking, with organizers favoring events that had a high degree of safety.

eight_col_stilts_1

Stilts competition, Photo: Supplied/CISNOC Media

The stilt games, which date back to tribal challenges from early settlers to the Cook Islands 700-800 years ago, featured 50 metre relay races, combat challenges on two stilts and balancing on one stilt.

Juggling was introduced by missionaries to the Cook Islands who used candlenut or stones, although limes proved more practical in the 21st century.  The competition was targeted at young men and women between 14-16 and included people juggling two ‘marbles’ with one hand or three with two hands.

Each competitor in the coconut relay had to carry at least 12 coconuts for 25 metres after which other members of their team would then husk the coconuts clean, while weavers created a range of items including baskets, clothing and hats.

The traditional games proved such a success that within a couple of weeks two secondary schools in Rarotonga had initiated the same program. “Our kids will be able to see how our older generations survived during the time there was no western influences and how they lived during those olden days using some of these traditional sports to survive,” explained Anthony Turia from the Cook Islands Ministry of Cultural Development. 

“It also can fit in now because with the Covid-19 it actually worked out because instead or relying on tourists and all the fishing boats going you can actually do it yourself.”

Plans are already well advanced to expand the traditional sports program when the Cook Islands Games return in 2022.  “We wanted to test the interest and in fact it was just so high the demand and pressure for us to introduce all the other traditional games have come aboard.”

eight_col_coco_relay_2

Coconut relay, Photo: Supplied/CISNOC Media

Coconut tree climbing was among the disciplines considered last year but was deemed a bit of a health and safety nightmare, Turia said. “I think it’s like any other sport – you can’t just go and play rugby and you’re not physically fit and you meet the fitness criteria. It’s the same with climbing a coconut tree. “In the olden days you don’t use a rope, you actually use the bark of a tree so you get the bark of a tree and you strengthen it then you tie it up and you put it around your legs and then you climb up the coconut tree.”

Also on the shortlist is ‘throwing discs’, in which grapefruits are hurled down the road as far and fast as possible. That was also ruled out last year over concerns a wayward chuck might end up hurting an unlucky spectator. 

Another contender is ‘stone-lifting’, although Ngatuaine Maui from the Ministry of Cultural Development said a number of factors must be considered. “We needed to look into what’s a safe size of stone for a person to lift and all those other criteria because we can’t expect them to come and lift it straight away, they need to prepare for it, otherwise there will be injuries…the other one was the water sports (such as spear finish and free diving) because that’s very prevalent in the north because they have larger lagoons and they do the canoeing.”

The Ministry said the plan is to retain the five sports that featured last year and hopefully add another two or three in time for the 2022 Cook Islands Games.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment