New Museum Opens on Rarotonga

A new museum has recently opened in Muri on the island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Te Ara Museum is quite an eye-catching, one-of-kind tourist attraction. It is a huge building that is painted white with massive, colourful frangipanis covering its outer walls.

The museum is modern, industrial and promises to wow tourists. There is also a shop that only stocks items made locally from Rarotongan ingredients and a café that sells food and drinks made from local produce. If that is not enough, the center will be a business incubator that will help drive economic development for Pasifika. A conference room is on the second storey of the building.


Te Ara Museum is the brainchild of partners Stan Wolfgramm and Julie Smith and they are excited that their vision became a reality. Within its walls the museum features the story of the Cook Islands from pre-colonial times through to the present day and then on to the future. “It’s about capacity building in Pasifika, – that is giving people skills for economic development, business development, using culture as a driver of economic development and Pasifika as a driver for economic development,” Wolfgramm says.

He and Smith say they have worked in that sector for 30 years. “We’ve seen there is something missing on the island and that is the historical story from vaka migration to the modern day,” said Wolfgramm. “Te Ara Museum offers that and is an attraction that will bring buyers in, the tourists in.”

Wolfgramm added, “There’s nothing on the island like this. It tells the story of the Cook Islands. The final piece at the end is that the future lies in the people, the ocean and the land. This is an asset important to this country. We’ve sat with Tourism and had meetings. They think it will be an amazing asset and they say there’s nothing else like it in the region.”

If you plan to visit the Cook Islands in the near future, make sure to add the Te Ara Museum to your itinerary.

You can get more information about the museum from their Facebook page. Simply type: Cook Islands Museum of Cultural Enterprise -TE ARA.





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Hina and Her Lover Eel

Today’s legend comes from the Cook Islands. It is about how the coconut first came to the island of Mangaia, Cook Islands. You will notice how this story is somewhat similar to the Tongan one titled Legend of the Coconut that was posted a couple of weeks ago. Both are Polynesian stories with an eel and a lovely maiden by the name- Hina.

I hope you enjoy the story. It’s romantic in a “legendy” sort of way…

Hina and Her Lover Eel

Hina-Moe-Aitu was the name of a girl who lived on Mangaia. Every day she went to a private pool to bathe in its warm, sweet-smelling water. The pool was the home of many eels, some of them massive in size. They loved the dark, quiet bottom of Hina’s pool.

One day when Hina had slipped into the caressing water of her pool, a giant eel rose up beneath her. It rubbed itself back and forth against her nakedness. Many days passed as Hina continued to bathe and let the eel visit her.  Early one morning the eel changed into a handsome young man. He said to her, “I am Tuna, the god of the eels. You are so lovely that I have left my watery home to come stay with you.”


“Hina and Her Lover Eel,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

And so they left the pool where they had met. Together they went to Hina’s house. They were devoted to each other. Always, Tuna became an eel once again after visiting Hina. In this way they kept their love a secret. One day in the season of the breadfruit, Tuna told Hina that he must leave her. Already the tears began to flow from her eyes.“Shhh,” said Tuna softly. “Keep your tears, for there will be water everywhere soon. Tomorrow the heavens will split open and the rains will come. The sky will pour rivers onto the land. The waters of the rivers will become like the pool where we met, but it will not be glassy and calm.”

Hina stared at Tuna with round, frightened eyes. He continued, “The water will flood the taro patches. It will lick the floor of your parents’ house. It will rise and rise, washing away mats and sucking things toward the sea. Do not run away! You must wait for me to come. I will lay my head in the doorway. You must grab the adze of your great-grandfather and cut off my head. Then you must push against the rising water until you reach high ground. Bury my head there. Visit that place every day and see what is there. Do not fail me in this, Hina.”

Hina did as Tuna told her she must. Rain began to fall that night. Down, down it fell until she thought it was filling up her throat. By morning the land was covered with the sea. Water slap-slapped against the walls of her parents’ house.

A great eel came to the house. As it crossed the threshold, she took the adze and cut off its head. Then she waded up to the highest cliff and buried the eel’s head. Once the head had been planted, the rain ceased. The floods slid slowly back into the sea.

Each day Hina visited the place where her lover’s head was buried. Finally, a strong green shoot thrust up through the soil. Hina knew that such a shoot had never been seen on Mangaia before. The next day it was joined by another shoot. Slowly the green shoots grew into strong trees. They grew taller and taller until their fronds brushed against the sky. By then, Hina had children. They grew taller and taller too, until they were able to climb the trees and gather their round, heavy fruit.

These were the first coconuts. From these trees and their branches and fruits, the people made their houses, thatched their roofs, filled their stomachs and pressed fragrant oils that made their skin glisten. They ate from bowls made of coconut shells, and even used the tree to make sturdy paddles for their outrigger canoes.

These were the gifts of the Eel God to his lover Hina.

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Kiwi-Samoan Film Premier at Berlin Film Festival

Films from the Pacific Island or about the Pacific Islands have been making headlines the past few months. Moana has been a big international hit. The Vanuatu film, Tanna, with its indigenous cast was recently nominated for an Academy Award in the Foreign Language Category. Now, there is a third movie that is grabbing attention in Europe.

The Berlin Film Festival  (Feb. 9-19) will be showcasing a Samoan film titled One Thousand Ropes. The new film from director Tusi Tamasese is set to premiere at the prestigious Panorama section of film festival. “It is a great honor to be selected in Panorama Special for the world premiere of our film, and thrilling to be returning to Berlin, where I attended the Talent Campus in 2010, and where The Orator screened in 2013,” Tamasese said in a statement. “A world premiere in such a prestigious selection is a great tribute to the extraordinary work of our generous cast and crew.”


Berlin Film Festival, February 9-19, 2017

The movie stars Frankie Adams and Tuiasau Uelese Petaia and is about a father who wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter. He struggles to balance his desire to form a relationship with his daughter and the want to seek revenge against the man who beat her.

It is a deeply moving film about connections, redemption and new beginnings. It is about a father reconnecting with his youngest daughter and together putting to rest the ghosts that haunt them. She arrives vulnerable: badly beaten and heavily pregnant. He struggles with the inner temptation and the encouragement from the men in his life, to take revenge in the way he knows best on one hand, and on the other, to build the new family and companionship so desperately missing from his life.

The trailer teases a dark and personal drama, with intense dialogue and dream sequences. It is a bilingual movie, with both English and Samoan dialogue.

Michael Eldred, General Manager of Transmission Films New Zealand comments: “Transmission Films are proud to continue our association with Tusi and Catherine following the wonderful experience of The Orator in 2011. The Berlin Film Festival Panorama selection of One Thousand Ropes confirms our conviction that Tusi is one of the most innovative & exciting voices in NZ film making today.”

Click here to check out the Berlin Film Festival site.

One Thousand Ropes will be released in New Zealand on March 23.

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Why There Is a Volcano on Tanna

I found the following legend in the book, Tales of the South Pacific, and thought it would be a really cool one to share. It comes from Vanuatu where ICAS has had many projects over the years.

I hope you enjoy it:

Why There Is a Volcano on Tanna

In the long ago days there was a man who was also a volcano. His name was Iahuei, and he was looking for a place to live. On Tanna Island there was a place called Memtahui. Should he settle there? No, it was too near the salt water. It would not do for a volcano.

Iahuei journeyed on. He crossed the sea to Aniwa, which was too flat. So he crossed the sea again to Futuna, and climbed up two thousand feet. Would this do? No, the top of the island seemed to be too flat for a volcano because there was a broad plateau there. So Iahuei went back by sea to Tanna.

As he walked on across this flat sandy place, Iahuei suddenly saw two women making puddings. They had pounded taro and mixed it with coconut. They had spread it on a big flat leaf and placed it in an earth oven to cook. Soon the puddings were steaming and tender on the hot stones of the earth oven. The women served portions of the pudding on banana leaves for plates. They asked Iahuei if he would like some, and he said he would. The pudding smelled delicious.

Iahuei sat down in the sand. He was tired after all his long journeying. He sat in the sand, working himself in a deep hole. It was very comfortable, so he eased his back two feet into the sand. He cried, “Bring me more pudding!” The women brought him more, which he ate sitting at his ease, leaning on the sand at his back. Again, he called out, “Bring me more pudding!” The women brought him some more pudding, and he ate it. “Bring me more pudding!” he yelled a third time.


“Why There Is a Volcano on Tanna,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

At this the women lost their tempers. One of them picked up a pointed digging stick. She raised it above her head and brought it down with all her strength. The pointed stick went right through Iahuei’s stomach and pinned him to the sand. But Iahuei was a volcano. Out spurted hot ashes, molten lava, steam and jets of boiling water. As this continued, the volcano rumbled and shook the ground.

And there to this day stands Iahuei, half god-man, half volcano.

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Traditional Knowledge Copyright Rules in Cook Islands

The Cook Island News reported last week that two acts were enacted by the government to protect Cook Islands artists, authors, musicians, performers and producers of creative works. The Prime Minister, Henry Puna, claimed that the protection incorporated in the Cook Islands Traditional Knowledge Act and the Copyright Act passed in 2013, means the Cook Islands people can rightly claim and protect their traditional works and knowledge, using them as a foundation for being creative either in the social or economic arena.

Puna made the observation at the opening of a sub-regional workshop on copyright at the National Auditorium this week. “The impact of this legislation is that our people are able to enjoy the benefits of their cultural knowledge and works,” Puna said. Cook Islands became a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) last year and Puna said the fruits of that membership were now being realized through information sharing and technical assistance coming into the country. The main focus of the three-day workshop was to provide for a deeper understanding of how copyright could facilitate and contribute to the economic development of Pacific nations.


Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Puna added, “I am aware that there are more steps to take and I would like to assure you that we will take them after considering the many issues and implications for our small nation. We would like to thank in advance the World Intellectual Property Organisation for your commitment to ensuring we have a robust intellectual system in place so our works can be recognized and protected not just within our country, but also outside our shores.”

WIPO director, Gao Hang, responsible for the Copyright Development Division, Copyright and Creative Industries Sector, commended the Cook Islands for the work it had already undertaken, and the leadership it had shown. In his reply, Puna said that late last year the government of the Cook Islands had ratified the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention under the auspices of UNESCO and that this convention strengthened the related rights of Cook Islands artists.

In other WIPO News…

As part of its outreach and awareness raising work, the WIPO Secretariat has been working on a Practical Guide on Intellectual Property for IPLCs (Practical Guide).  The Practical Guide sets out the basic elements of intellectual property with examples of cases from different regions.

For all your WIPO information needs, please click here to advance to their portal. The Practical Guide could be found here as well.

You can also find presentations highlighting indigenous and local community experiences on the WIPO Website. These presentations are a rich source of information on the experiences, concerns and aspirations of indigenous and local communities concerning the protection, promotion and preservation of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources.

Some of the presentations from the Pacific Islands include:

“A South Pacific Perspective: the Case of Bindeku/Kameneku Tribes of the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea,” by Mr. Alphonse Kambu, Director, Ishikawa International Cooperation Research Centre, 2005.

“The Role of the Public Domain Concept,” by Mr. Francis Waleanisia, Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Solomon Islands), 2010.

“Experiences from Vanuatu,” by Ralph Regenvanu, Director, Vanuatu Cultural Centre, 2006.

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“Tanna” Nominated for an Academy Award

The Pacific Islands region was abuzz last week with the news that an Australian film titled, Tanna, which was set in Tanna, Vanuatu was nominated for an Academy Award. A Romeo and Juliet-style film, it is Australia’s first ever nomination for Best Foreign Language Film category at the prestigious American award ceremony.


Tanna was co-directed by Australian filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler and shot on location in Yakel village near Lenakel on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. The film used a local tribe (one of the region’s last traditional communities), untrained cast of actors, and most of the dialogue is in the south-west Tannese dialect, Navhal. “We are just looking forward to hitting the red carpet with as many people as we can get from the movie over there and just celebrating like crazy — it’s a dream come true,” said Dean.

Based on real events on the island of Tanna, the film is about two villagers whose romance sparks a war between tribes. It is the first feature to be shot in Vanuatu.”The natural performances that people gave, it’s quite amazing,” Dean said.”Some of the characters are actually playing themselves. In a sense they’ve been rehearsing their whole lives.” It was also a first-time effort for the filmmakers, who had never directed a feature film before.”We were sort of in a similar boat, and so to get to the point where we’re nominated for an Oscar is a bit ridiculous, frankly,” Dean said.

It is not the first international accolade for the film, which has been making waves on the international film festival circuit. Tanna was screened at the Venice International Film Festival in 2015, where it picked up the Audience Award, Pietro Barzisa. It also won an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) award for Best Original Music Score last month.


While the Yakel tribe live a wholly traditional life, they are not wholly isolated from the outside world. The nearest township on the tiny island of Tanna, which was devastated by Cyclone Pam in March 2015, is only half-an-hour away. However, up until the directors arrived on the island to discuss their idea for the project, most of the cast had never even seen a feature film before.”People are still wearing nambas [traditional penis shifts] … and women wear grass skirts, hunt with bows and arrows,” Dean said.

But the people of Yakel are not worried about what their new-found fame could mean for their tiny community, an issue the directors had discussed with the village chiefs. “Essentially the chiefs said ‘listen, this is something we welcome, we want people to come and learn, and if it simply gets too much we just shut down the roads,'” Dean said.”They’re proud of the fact that it’s their film, made in their language, and it’s been acknowledged in this way — they can’t wait to share it with more people.”

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Introducing: The New Palau National Archives


The new Palau National Archives

Breaking news! 

I have been informed that the construction of the new Palau National Archives building has been completed and a ribbon-cutting ceremony has recently taken place. In fact, I was so excited to hear this news that I forgot to ask the exact date that the ceremony took place. Nonetheless, I have heard that the power lines were connected before the ribbon cutting ceremony, and as soon as the telephone lines are installed, the staff will be moving into the building.

The building has been desperately needed to safeguard their unique and growing collection. Plans to build a new archives building has been in the works for well over a decade. And now here it is! A glorious day for the Republic of Palau.

The Archives Director, Naomi Ngirakamerang, has graciously given me permission to share some photographs of the opening ceremony as she has been very busy with formal obligations to pass the word of this momentous occasion.


Hopefully within the near future we will get more information regarding the new building and pictures of the interior. Can’t wait!


The ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Palau National Archives (Naomi is in the orange outfit)


The crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Palau National Archives


Ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Palau National Archives


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